Fat loss: Fight to keep fit in your 30s

What to do in your 30s…

In your 20s, then read this…

During this decade, our lifestyles change substantially. As our careers progress, we are exposed to greater levels of stress. We also work longer hours, with less time to exercise or prepare healthful meals. Then we start a family, and pregnancy wreaks havoc with our hormones once again. And then we have even less time to dedicate to looking after ourselves, and, yes, don’t forget about all the additional stress that comes with motherhood!

Combine these factors with poor eating habits and we create a hormonal cascade that tends to send our weight spiralling out of control in our 30s. Many of us are therefore often left trying to pick up the pieces in our forties to regain some semblance of health and vitality in our 40s.

In your 30s

It’s not uncommon to see the number on the scale start to creep up once you hit your 30s as the changes to your body and lifestyle become more pronounced.

Usually, in our late 20s and early 30s, our hormonal profile shifts, making it harder to hold on to, or even build muscle. This effectively lowers our metabolism as we lose this important metabolically-active tissue.

It is also around this time that many women today decide to start a family. It can often be a struggle to lose the baby weight gained during pregnancy, especially amidst this metabolic slowdown and hormonal shift.

However, it’s by no means impossible, especially if you remain within the healthy recommended weight ranges during your pregnancy by eating properly and remaining as active as possible. By the age of 35, fertility levels also starts to naturally decrease and you may even begin entering early-stage peri-menopause, which can cause mood swings, sleep disturbances, or even anxiety.

Managing stress

Managing stress also becomes more important. You have more commitments in life, be it at work or at home, and when stress levels spin out of control, powerful hormones that impact our health and waistline start to dominate our endocrine system.

When these hormones, such as cortisol and adrenalin are released in excess, our body reacts by entering survival mode. This generally leads to excess fat storage and rampant cravings, and, eventually, lethargy, chronic tiredness and mood swings as our metabolism slows. Eventually, in severe cases, we start to experience adrenal fatigue, which can then lead to thyroid dysfunction – a condition that is becoming increasingly more prominent among 30-something females these days.


  • evolve from the cardio queen of your 20s into a lean, mean weight-lifting diva in your 30s to build more muscle.

  • add more protein to your diet to help increase the anabolic effect of your weight training and build more muscle tissue. Whey protein is always a great addition to any diet!

  • become a carb connoisseur. There is still no reason to go no-carb, but eat the right type and amount of complex, natural carbohydrates to aid your metabolism and maintain optimal hormonal function.

  • plan and prep your meals. Life is hectic in your 30s, so don’t get caught out by being unprepared. Batch cook and freeze healthful meal ingredients, do bulk shopping to keep your fridge and pantry stocked with the right foods, and schedule time to shop each week for fresh produce.

  • become calorie conscious. Your metabolism is far less forgiving of your dietary indiscretions, particularly after the age of 35, so watch those portions!

  • de-stress, however you can. Exercise is a great stress reliever, and also helps to shift the hormonal balance back to normal by releasing more feel-good hormones and reducing stress hormones.

  • get your hormonal function checked, at least every few years, especially after the age of 35. Prevention will always be easier, and better than trying to treat hormonal dysfunction.


  • be too hard on yourself. Realise and understand that your body is starting to change and, as such, so should your approach.

  • swing from one extreme to the other, be it with regard to your diet or your exercise routines. Consistency is the key to a healthy, balanced lifestyle in your 30s.

  • restrict yourself – it can be unhealthy, both mentally and physically. Understand the implications of your actions. like what happens when you eat too much ice-cream, but know that a small indulgence can be just as beneficial as months of abstinence from your vices. Just keep it controlled and measured.

  • consume processed foods, man-made hydrogenated and trans fats, refined carbs and sugar (it’s a point worth repeating).

  • treat your training time as expendable when things get busy. Your gym session needs to be as important as your work meetings or family commitments, so keep it in your diary as a recurring appointment.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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