Why Losing Weight Gets Harder as You Age (And What You Can Do About It)

older-adult-fitnessThe saying “youth is wasted on the young” might just hold the most meaning when talking about weight loss. In our early years, we rarely give a second thought to the consequences of splurging on late night milkshake and fries. It may create temporary uncomfortable feelings, but we can bounce back the next day with fairly little effort. And then we do it again and again, because our young, energy-efficient bodies give us the runway to do so. How wonderful, right?!

But then life plays a cruel joke on us as we creep up in age. At first the changes are subtle. Recovery time from splurges lengthens and we notice that it’s not as easy as it used to be to shed unwanted pounds. Then before we know it, we feel stuck in a place we really don’t want to be. The weight either won’t come off (or stay off) and the cycle of discouragement sets in. Should we just surrender to the ravages of time and suffer the consequences of the natural aging process?

No! And we’ll tell you why and how.

In order to beat Father Time at his aging game, we need to take a look at the main culprits that make it harder to lose weight as we move on in years.

Muscle Loss – You may not realize it, but your body begins to lose muscle mass after the age of 30. Muscle is the body’s best calorie burner, and the more muscle your body has, the higher your metabolism will be. Losing muscle tissue lowers your metabolism, so even though you may be eating the same amount as when you were younger, you will begin to store excess calories in the form of body fat.

Calorie Needs – As you age and naturally lose muscle mass, your body requires fewer calories in order to maintain your current weight. If your calorie intake stays the same as your metabolic rate slows, and you don’t increase your physical activity, weight gain becomes unavoidable.

Stress– As we age, we often take on new life responsibilities, such as building a career, raising a family, and keeping up with mortgage payments. All of these responsibilities can create high levels of stress, which has a very real impact on health and well-being. What you may not know is that the stress you’re dealing with may be a contributor to overeating and weight gain. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is associated with fat accumulation along the midsection of the body. The more cortisol produced, the more stubborn belly fat to battle. Even more discouraging, higher cortisol levels also result in increased calorie consumption. In a British study, researchers found that people with high cortisol levels were more likely to snack in order to cope with the daily hassles in their lives than low-cortisol producers.

Now, let’s talk about how we can turn back the hands of time, at least physically:

Build Lean Muscle Mass – A proven way to build and maintain lean muscle mass is to eat greater amounts of protein-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts, and seeds. Protein provides the building blocks for healthy muscle and generally increases satiety levels, which results in less hunger and therefore less calorie consumption. If you don’t consume the excess calories, they have no chance for your body to store them as fat.  But remember, don’t overdo it on the protein. Too much protein can backfire on you in the form of unwanted stress on your organs’ ability to successfully metabolize it. Balance it with foods with high fiber and healthy fats.

Exercise is another important tool in fighting muscle loss that comes with age. According to a study published in The American Journal of Medicine, after an average of 18 to 20 weeks of progressive resistance training, adults can gain over two pounds of lean muscle mass, and increase their overall strength by over 25 percent. To ensure safety and success, speak with your medical provider before starting any exercise program.

Reduce Calorie Consumption– This always sounds like a major downer, but many people confuse cutting back on calories with having to eat less. The best thing to do is choose foods that have high nutrient density. This means you can eat more, but without all the extra calories your body doesn’t need. Next time you’re at the market, choose high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water to help you feel full.

Reduce Stress– The path to stress reduction might not be as clear as that for building muscle mass or cutting back on calories, but it is critical to reduce stress if you are trying to lose weight. There are actually many different proven ways to do this. One popular way is through increasing activity levels.. A simple 20-minute workout can reduce stress, clear your mind, and burn extra calories. Many people today are also enjoying the stress-busting effects of meditation. There are several different forms of meditation, so explore them to see which might suit your preferences and lifestyle. And if you are unsure about which action to take to reduce stress, at a minimum, just talk to someone. Let them know about your pressures and desire to more effectively manage them. The process of revealing your thoughts to an empathetic supporter provides stress relief on its own.!

If you can identify the specific weight loss challenges in your life, you can take the necessary actions to achieve healthy weight loss, which has the high probability of reviving some of that same energy you felt when you were younger. The end result of effective weight loss could mean that we can live with the wisdom and grace that only age can give us, but in a younger-feeling, healthier body. Now that sounds pretty wonderful to us.

rfosterWhy Losing Weight Gets Harder as You Age (And What You Can Do About It)