Health & Wellness

How to lose weight in your 30s: 6 habits to start now

Turning 30 can be the beginning of weight-loss woes.

After leaving our 20s, when it wasn't such a challenge to lose five pounds in less than 10 days, the 30s are the decade when metabolism slows and our schedules and eating habits may be dictated by the stress of a career, marriage or family. Even the best laid plans to maintain and lose weight can be difficult to manage. Difficult — but not impossible.

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Here are some tips to help you drop the pounds during your 30s:

1. Space out your protein.

If metabolism in our 20s is like a raging inferno, metabolism in our 30s is more like a comfortable campfire. It’s still burning, but it’s in serious need of wood to keep it going. That wood is protein.

We lose muscle throughout every decade of life. However, the third decade is when it really starts to creep in. Weight-bearing exercises are vitally important, but keeping and building muscle also consists of consuming protein. How we split up our daily food sources could make a difference.

A 2009 study from the University of Texas found when individuals in their mid-30s spaced out protein consumption to slightly less than 30 grams per meal, they built more muscle than when they clumped all their protein needs at the end of the day.

The study’s authors suggested most Americans eat the majority of their protein at dinner and consume less at lunch. Therefore, they suggested this excess amount of protein at night get shifted to our other meals. Daily intake could include:

  • protein shake for breakfast
  • salad greens with 4 ounces of grilled, wild salmon for lunch
  • a ½ cup of bean-based pasta with a ½ cup of baked tofu for dinner
Salmon Rice Bowl
Salmon rice bowl
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2. Step away from the chicken nugget

The journey into motherhood may start in your 30s. If it does, you can expect an abundance of joy, laughter ... And chicken nuggets.

I speak from experience. When I was 39 I realized my weight was creeping up due to my 2 year old's foods creeping into my mouth —frequently. Toddlers preference for nuggets, pizza, goldfish-shaped crackers and chocolate milk often prevail over your desires for them to eat broccoli. These foods are also very tempting to the busy, and often exhausted, mom.

It wasn’t easy, but once I put habits in place to avoid eating off my child’s plate, I noticed my weight began to drop.

For yourself, make sure you have nutrient-dense meals ready when your child dives into his macaroni and cheese. Or pop some gum in when you put your baby’s plate down.

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3. Make your bedroom an oasis.

If you’re serious about losing weight, sleep is just as important as diet and exercise. The 30s are not the most restful time: Work, kids, cleaning the house and stress may all play a role.

Studies have found lack of sleep is associated with weight gain, increased appetite, decreased metabolism, and less motivation to exercise. Make sleep a priority by altering things you can control like your bedroom sleep basics.

  • Keep the room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees.
  • Use low lighting, and avoid bright lights an hour before hitting the sack, including your mobile phone or pad.

4. Get your friends moving.

Obesity and inactivity are contagious.

In a 2007 landmark study, the New England Journal of Medicine found a direct relationship between your friends who were obese and your own weight. In fact, if your friend is obese, your chances of becoming obese increased by 57 percent. Additionally, having mutual friends who are obese puts your chances at 171 percent. Those aren’t good odds if you’re trying to lose weight.

While I’m not suggesting dropping friends who don’t fit into a certain size pair of jeans, I am urging you to be aware of how powerful and influential your friends may be on your weight. If you’re trying to lose weight, I would suggest buddying up with someone else in their 30s with similar weight-loss goals. Perhaps you can even spend more time with friends who are considered a normal weight.

Thinness is contagious, too.

5. Fast but don’t starve

A 2017 animal study found when the body sensed food was scarce it protected itself by inhibiting calories and burning fat.

So, if you’re 30-something and you think starving your way around bad eating habits will help you drop pounds, you should think again. Instead, focus on shifting how you look at starting and stopping your meals and snacks. The secret — eat until you’re no longer hungry, not until you’re full.

I tell my patients they should never have fullness and should embrace a little hunger right before bed. You can also consider a fasting plan, which is different from “starving” every day. Fasting has been shown to help with weight loss and prevent some of the diseases that may be lurking around the corner in a few decades.

6. Ditch the diet soda

By 30, you’ve most likely realized that sugar won’t do you any favors, and perhaps because of this, you’ve remained steadfast to your 20 something habit of diet cola.

No calories = no calories, right? Wrong.

Several studies show potential problems with artificial sweeteners, prevalent in the most favorite diet cola’s — from weight gain, to loss of sensitivity to sweet, to even increasing your risk for diabetes. And, recent research links diet soda to an increased risk of stroke and dementia. The study didn't find a direct cause-and-effect, but it's one more scientific clue that people who drink a lot of diet soda have poorer health.

If you want to prep for your 40’s, now is the time to buckle down on any sweeteners made in a lab.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, R.D., is the manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, and the author of "Skinny Liver." Follow her on Twitter @KristinKirkpat.

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