Did you go on a diet but didn’t get the results you expected? Normal age-related changes to your body can sabotage your efforts. Here’s how to find or keep the line after 40 years.
Never had a problem losing or maintaining your weight before, but now the scale won’t move? There’s a scientific reason for this: As we age, our bodies react differently to weight loss efforts. In fact, as we age, we tend to put on 2-4 pounds a year. It may not seem like much, but over time it can lead to significant weight gain and, in some cases, obesity, a condition marked by a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.
The incidence of obesity begins to increase in the twenties and peaks between ages 40 and 59, then declines slightly after age 60. Not everyone will become overweight as they age, as body weight is heavily influenced by your genetic make-up, physical activity level, and food choices. It is sometimes said that genetics loads the gun and lifestyle pulls the trigger. But in general, everyone will find it harder and harder to maintain or lose weight each year.
- 1 Weight gain and age: what’s going on?
- 2 7 winning actions to lose weight or avoid gaining pounds
Weight gain and age: what’s going on?
The amount of lean muscle we naturally have begins to decline 3-8% per decade after age 30, a process called sarcopenia. You can also lose muscle if you’re less active due to age-related health issues, such as arthritis, or if you’re inactive due to injury or surgery. All of these factors taken individually do not cause a significant decline, but cumulatively they do.
Why is this loss of muscle important? Because lean muscle consumes a lot of calories. So unless you regularly do strength training with weights to maintain and build muscle, your body will need fewer calories each day. This makes weight gain likely if you continue to consume the same number of calories as when you were younger.
2. You go through normal hormonal changes
Both men and women experience hormonal changes as they age, which is why middle age is the perfect time to gain weight.
For women, menopause, which most often occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, causes a significant drop in estrogen which encourages the extra pounds to settle on the belly. This change in fat storage can make weight gain more noticeable and increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and type 1 diabetes.
Additionally, fluctuating estrogen levels during perimenopause, the years leading up to menopause, can cause mood swings that make it harder to stick to a healthy diet and exercise program. As a result, the average weight gain during the transition to menopause is around 5kg.
Men, on the other hand, experience a significant drop in testosterone as they age, which begins to gradually decline around age 40 at a rate of around 1-2% per year. Testosterone is responsible, among other things, for regulating fat distribution and muscle strength and mass. In other words, its decline can make the body less efficient at burning calories.
The production of growth hormone (HC) by the pituitary also decreases from middle age. One of the many functions of (HC) is to build and maintain muscle mass. So when HC goes down, it’s harder for your body to build and maintain muscle, which in turn affects the number of calories you burn.
It’s a snowball effect. You start accumulating more fat, less lean body mass, you burn fewer calories, and it just keeps piling up over time.
3. Your metabolism is slower than before
This decrease in muscle mass is likely to slow down your metabolism. A complex process that converts calories into energy. Having more fat and less muscle reduces calorie burning. Additionally, many people become less active as they age, which also slows down your metabolism. But age isn’t the only thing that determines your metabolism: your height and gender also play a role. The same goes for certain health conditions, such as hypothyroidism.
4. You are more sedentary and more stressed
By the time you hit your 40s and 50s, your career will likely be in full swing, which, while great, can cause some weight loss issues. For one thing, you’ll probably move less. You can commute from home to work for an hour or so, sit at a desk for eight or more hours a day, and have so much to do that you don’t have time for a walk or exercise during the working day.
You may also be too busy to break for lunch, increasing your chances of getting something from the vending machine or ordering high-calorie takeout. And you might be more stressed at work, which can increase levels of the hormone ghrelin, which makes you hungrier.
5. You are going through major lifestyle changes
Some of the reasons for weight gain in middle age have nothing to do with what’s going on in your body and everything to do with how life changes when people enter their 30s. One of the biggest changes happens when you start a family.
Suddenly, the hour you spend at the gym after work has passed with your toddler at home. And later, your child’s after-school time is filled with games, homework, and other activities that require your attention. You don’t seem to have time for yourself anymore. As a result, your diet and exercise intentions can go off the rails, causing you to gain a few pounds.
7 winning actions to lose weight or avoid gaining pounds
Focus on healthy foods
In general, increase your fruit and vegetable intake and decrease the amount of fast food, sugar, and other processed foods you eat. You should also focus on whole foods, vegetables, beans, nuts and fruits that are full of fiber. It will be easier to control the calories because they are high volume foods, they take up more space in the stomach, while contributing fewer calories to your daily consumption.
Reduce your portions
Learning to adapt your diet to your body’s reduced caloric needs is a gradual process. Start by reducing your daily diet by 100 to 200 calories and adapt it as needed. You’d be surprised at the difference such a small change can make.
Stay well hydrated
It is easy to confuse the feeling of thirst with hunger. Staying hydrated with water (rather than high-calorie drinks, like sodas and fruit juices) also speeds up metabolism, increasing fat breakdown.
For many people, stress leads to a high-sugar, high-fat compensatory diet. Do what you need to do to relax, whether it’s a twice-weekly yoga class or short five-minute meditations throughout the day.
Work your major muscle groups
Respond to muscle loss by adding strength training to your exercise routine. With more muscles used, you burn calories more efficiently and you will be more active because you have better balance and you have more endurance.
Try to incorporate half an hour of aerobic exercise each day. That is, anything that gets your heart rate up, like jogging, walking, biking, or swimming. Can’t find time to get fit in 30 minutes all at once? Put an end to it by doing, for example, three brisk 10-minute walks throughout the day. Short bursts of activity have a cumulative effect and count towards a daily exercise goal.
Have a good night’s sleep
If you don’t wake up refreshed, you’ll be less active during the day and you’ll burn fewer calories. You should try to sleep between seven and nine hours a night.