Is it possible to not gain weight as you grow older? Are you doomed to frustration when no matter how much you diet and exercise you just can’t stop gaining weight with each birthday? Is it inevitable that as you age your belly, butt and thighs will just get keep getting bigger and bigger?
Well, the answer is yes and no. Yes age-related weight gain (ARWG) is inescapable and no you can keep it under control. You may not be able to keep your youthful figure forever, but you can maintain a healthy weight and look and feel your best.
Basal Metabolic Rate
Granted, some people may burn calories faster than others because of differences in metabolic rate, but everyone faces the same fate as they age. Metabolic rates gradually decrease, making it more challenging over time to stay trim and fit. Many people, however, manage to stay relatively thin as they grow older, so it is possible.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the minimum amount of calories needed to burn at rest in order to breathe, keep your heart pumping, generate body heat and do all the things your body needs to function. Based on your personal MBR, you may have to burn more or less calories than your neighbor to keep your organs and tissues working effectively, but you can learn to manage your weight no matter what your personal BMR may be.
What Happens When You Grow Older?
Age-related weight gain is based on the following five factors common to everyone.
One – Change in BMR. As you grow older, your body starts to slow down. It can’t be helped. Lowering of BMR happens for everyone, even those with a high metabolic rate.
Two – Change in Muscle/Fat Ratio. For most people ARWG starts around the age of 30, when the human body goes through one of its many changes, losing lean muscle mass and gaining fat mass. Since fat burns fewer calories than muscle, it becomes more difficult not to gain weight and then that weight mostly gets stored as body fat, which further escalates the problem of ARGW.
Three – Hormonal Change. It’s a fact men experience a steady decline in male testosterone as they age. One of the results is reduced muscle mass, which contributes to a decrease of BMR and an increase in the difficulty of maintaining an optimum weight. In animal studies, a decline of estrogen has firmly been shown to lead to weight gain in female subjects, so it’s believed, but not yet proven, postmenopausal women experience similar weight gain as a result of a loss of estrogen.
Four – Change in Physical Activity. Most people incline to be less physically active as they get older. Very few people lead as vigorous a life in their 40s or 50s as they did in their teens or 20s. Physical inactivity leads to muscle loss, fat gain and an ever decreasing MPR, which once again leads to an increase in weight gain and a greater difficulty in losing weight.
Five – Unchanged Appetite. When most people slack up on physical activity, they seldom make an effort to cut back on calories they consume. They often continue to eat like teenagers as if there were no tomorrow or any consequences of their actions. The unavoidable truth of a slowing BMR is if you don’t change your eating habits as you get older, you will gain weight. It is inevitable.
Managing Age-Related Weight Gain
After taking the above factors into consideration, it is still possible to win the ARWG battle of the bulge. Here are the best weight management tips for everyone past young adulthood.
One – Be Physically Active. The best thing you can do to effectively reduce the natural falling-off of BMR is to get off the couch and get moving. No matter what your age, it’s never too soon or too late to be physically active as often and as much as possible. Exercise burns calories, minimizes muscle loss and, depending on the length and intensity your workout, boosts BMR for a couple of hours to a couple of days.
Start slowly and build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily exercise. Include both cardio and muscle building strength training. One long term study, for example, showed Individuals who start walking on a regular basis in their 30s or 40s gained less weight and tended to maintain or lose weight as they aged. Weight training also increases muscle mass and the more muscle you have, the more effective your BMR will be.
Two – Watch What You Eat. Being conscious about eating to maintain a healthy weight despite ARWG involves more than just counting calories. There’s a lot involved. It also encompasses the quality of food you choose and the timing of your meals. It also requires a patient, persistent attitude and commitment. Maintaining a healthy weight is a lifelong do-it-yourself project. Quick fixes don’t work.
Let’s just start with counting calories. One of the best things you can do is stay away from fad crash diets. Extreme low calorie diets have been found to slow down BMR, making it more difficult to lose or maintain weight. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to consume no less than about 1,200 calories a day. Eating anything less than that will most likely put your health at risk.
On the way to your goal, you may still hit a “plateau” when nothing seems to work. That’s the time to adjust. By changing your exercise program in some way or maybe even eating a little bit more so your body’s fooled in to believing food scarcity is over and adjusts, you may create the breakthrough you’re looking for.
Studies have also shown eating breakfast, having five or six smaller meals that include a combination lean protein, complex carbohydrates and a small amount of fat during the day and skipping late night snacks also support weight loss.
And by all means, make healthy food choices. Choose foods low in fat, salt and sugar and high in fiber and nutrition, such as colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, lean meats, low-fat dairy, beans, nuts and seeds. A variety of these healthy foods will provide the taste, texture and healthy nutrition you want and need.
The key to maintaining a healthy weight is always an optimum balance of diet and exercise. So it’s also true for the prevention of age-related weight gain. Noticing the slow change in personal BMR over time is not easy. The best solution is to simply assume that ARWG is happening – because it is – and start now to do what needs to be done. Adopt the Boy Scout Motto and “Be Prepared.”