Your body goes through lots of changes as you age. This is why it’s of utmost importance to be mindful of your weight while you’re still young. Postponing your weight loss goals until you’re older can be more challenging because, by then, your body can respond much differently than it did while you’re younger. As you get older, your body’s metabolism lowers, leading to weight gain, particularly around the middle.
According to studies, aging individuals tend to gain weight for about 1 to 2 pounds each year. This is not quite alarming but can lead to potential obesity when left unmanaged. Individuals who have obesity tendency start to gain weight in their twenties and peaks around forties and fifties.
However, not everyone is destined to be obese. Thanks to good genes. Your genetic makeup is one of the factors that determine whether you’re deemed to get obese in later years or not.
When obesity runs in the family and is coupled with an unhealthy lifestyle, your chances of becoming obese are big. But when you’re conscious enough to be mindful of your diet and your physical activity, you can reduce the chances of getting obese despite those obese genes.
Yet, in later years, your body may no longer act as your faithful servant, instead, it can go haywire and continue to bulge despite your all-out efforts. No need to fuss over this, though. Science is here to give you clarity on why your weight loss efforts no longer work the way they used to.
1. Loss of muscles
Your body follows an evolutionary pattern. While younger, you have more muscle mass because it’s essential for hunter-gatherer survival. Older people who are no longer able to hunt have more fats to ward off starvation. This is how our genes have been wired.
Your muscle mass is at its peak when you’re around 20 to 30 years old. After that, it starts to decline by 3 to 8 percent every decade. And when you reach 50, muscle mass declines by 1 to 2 percent each year.
Aside from aging, muscle loss can be caused by other factors such as inactivity due to age-related conditions and injury. Health conditions like arthritis make it difficult for you to move and exercise your muscles while an injury prevents you from exercising, which will eventually lead to a slow decline in muscle mass.
The loss of muscle matters a lot because lean muscles burn calories than fat. If there are not enough lean muscles to burn the calories you continually consume, it will likely lead to weight gain since your body will store the extra calories as fats.
Eating food with fewer calories should be your goal when you’re aging and less active. This is how you can manage your body’s natural evolution in modern times when the hunter-gatherer survival tactics are no longer the norm.
2. Slower Metabolism
The decline of muscle mass combined with less physical activity leads to a slower metabolism. But other factors can also slow down your metabolism. Health conditions like hypothyroidism, your body size and sex also determine your metabolic rate.
There are ways to increase metabolism, burn more calories, lose weight, and keep it off. Increasing your activity level is one but can be more challenging when you’re stuck in a 9 to 5 job on your desk. You may come home too tired to do challenging physical activities that help build or strengthen muscles. If this seems impossible, you can try eating protein-rich foods. Studies show that proteins can boost your metabolism and help you burn more calories while making you feel full, which decreases food cravings in between meals. Drinking more pure water instead of sugary ones helps increase your metabolism as well.
3. Higher stress levels
Again, science has found a link between stress and increased weight gain. Hundreds of years ago, when food was scarce, the body responds well to survive and releases high amounts of cortisol that slow metabolism. This enables the body to store more fat.
But today, stress is no longer related to food scarcity. In fact, people resort to comfort foods when they’re under stress. Stress triggers the release of the hormone ghrelin, which makes you hungrier and eventually can lead to weight gain. Health experts say weight gain around the middle known as abdominal fats should be avoided since they’re likely to lead to chronic diseases.
4. Life Changes
This one can be life’s biggest irony. It’s when your muscle mass starts to decline that you start to give less attention to your body. Major life changes like starting a family occur around the 30s. You’ll then be too busy with work to support the family, juggling with two or more jobs to make both ends meet. You’d be busy with child rearing or helping your kids with their assignments and giving more of your extra time to bond with your family.
In this case, weight gain can creep in since managing your weight is no longer the priority at the moment.
5. Hormonal Changes
Hormonal changes in middle age can take its toll both in men and women. Women who are in their menopausal stage, between the ages of 45 and 55, gain extra pounds due to the drop in their estrogen hormone levels. The excess weight can settle around the belly, which can increase the risks of serious health conditions like heart diseases, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
On the other hand, men who are in their 40s start to experience a decline in their testosterone levels. A drop in this hormone can significantly decrease the body’s ability to burn calories since testosterone is essential in regulating the fat distribution and muscle mass and strength.
Growth hormone production also declines. These hormones work to build and maintain muscle mass. As their levels decrease, so is the body’s ability to burn extra calories. The fewer the lean muscles, the higher the body’s chance of storing extra calories as fats.
Life happens. But you can make it happen the way you want it too including your ability to maintain the numbers in the scale. You can start by eating small portions, taking brisk walks or chilling out when life seems suffocating. Losing or managing weight can be possible no matter your age.