Why Losing Belly Fat Gets Harder After 40 — and What to Do About It

Originally Published on August 4, 2020 Body Fat | By Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN

If you’re over the age of 40, you may have noticed that losing weight in your mid-section is a bit harder than it used to be. That’s not just in your head — a combination of many different factors, including hormone changes and a decrease in metabolism, make losing belly fat more difficult as you get older.

Here’s precisely what’s to blame for some of the weight gain you may be seeing in your belly — and how you can fight it.

There are two types of fat in the body: the softer kind right beneath the surface, called subcutaneous fat, and visceral fat, which is harder and stored deeper in your abdomen and wrapped around organs, explains Sherry Ross, MD, an ob-gyn and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.

Visceral fat is a concern because it’s linked to a slew of health issues, such as insulin resistance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of cancer, Dr. Ross says. Belly fat is often comprised of visceral fat, and it’s the kind that can be increasingly difficult to lose as you age.

So, why is belly fat harder to lose after 40? There are a few factors:

1. Age

Age alone doesn’t necessarily change where visceral fat is stored, Dr. Ross says. But for many people, the proportion of visceral fat starts to increase as they age. This is because of a combination of factors, including the fact that our diets usually change, we burn less calories as we age and we tend to exercise less, all of which contribute to weight gain and ultimately, gaining fat in the abdominal area, Dr. Ross says.

2. Hormones

Fat gain and loss is hormone-driven, explains Kristi Veltkamp, RDN, a Spectrum Health outpatient dietitian. Storage-wise, women tend to store more subcutaneous (soft) fat in the abdominal and thigh area and men store more visceral (hard) fat in the abdominal area.

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