Why is it that as you get older, you find it harder to lose weight (or easier to gain weight)? This normal process, which affects millions of people, has at least one explanation.
In today’s article we’ll explain the reasons why as you get older your food affects your weight more and more.
More years = more pounds?
Your body is evolving and changing all the time, throughout your life. Your muscles, bones, and metabolism continuously change.
The body of a 10-year-old child doesn’t work the same way as that of the same person at age 25, 40, or 65. During adulthood, you will have more or less muscle mass, depending on whether you’re younger or older.
Therefore it’s normal to see changes in your body weight and to notice that fat gets deposited in different areas where perhaps before it was easier to get rid of.
Your baseline energy expenditure also changes throughout each stage in your life. When you’re younger you expend more, which decreases over time. This is because your body becomes more efficient at using energy.
Your energy expenditure is reduced by two main factors:
1. Your body composition varies
When you get older you lose muscle and gain fat.
The body fat percentage of a male between 20 to 30 years old varies between 18 and 21%. Between the ages of 41 and 50 it reaches 25%, and above the age of 60, it’s higher than 26%.
For women, the same thing happens: they have between 22 to 24% body fat at 20 to 30 years old, reaching 27 to 30% between 41 and 50, and finally exceeding 31% after they turn 60.
Fat builds up naturally, while muscle mass is reduced – this is because your muscles use more energy.
2. Your hormones change
This not only applies to women who go through menopause, but also to adult men.
Your hormonal patterns have a lot to do with your weight because they affect whether you eat or sleep more, for example.
As you grow older your hormones work to save energy because you don’t have the same capabilities you had when you were younger. This means you’re more likely to build fat (especially around the waist).
This is how your body prepares itself for getting less physical activity.
It’s easier to gain weight after age 30
That doesn’t mean that you have free rein to eat whatever you want before your 30s. It’s just a reminder that the changes in your body don’t only appear during old age.
As you get older you’ll notice your middle section enlarging, your belly might bulge, and your clothes won’t fit like they used to.
The relationship between having more candles on your cake and gaining weight can seem like it’s unavoidable if you maintain the same eating habits as before.
The battle against obesity and being overweight gets harder as the years go by.
Poor diet, stress, genetic factors, and leading a sedentary lifestyle can influence the number of pounds you gain, as can the use of certain medications and hormonal imbalances.
The latter is one of the main causes of fat build up.
After the age of 30, the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and androgens don’t work the same way they used to. Because these are essential for maintaining body mass, it’s normal to see some shifts in your hips, abdomen, or thighs.
Those sources of energy that seemed inexhaustible at age 15 or 20 disappear, and you begin to lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
If you add in work and more relaxing activities (dining out, taking a cruise, going to the movies), it results in weight gain as you age. It’s a very simple equation.
Weight gain isn’t the only change as you grow older
What if you lead a healthy lifestyle, get exercise, and eat well? You’ll need to take into account the number of calories that you need.
- A 31-year-old woman who weighs 125 pounds, for example, will need to consume 2000 daily calories to maintain her weight.
- That same woman at age 45 will only need 1850 calories.
If you instead continue to eat 2000 calories a day, you’ll have a surplus of 150 that adds up to about 10 pounds over six months.
You don’t just need to think about those extra pounds that “appear” as you age, but also any diseases or conditions that begin to affect you as an adult.
This is the case of osteoporosis due to bone density loss, or osteoarthritis due to problems with the joints.
To avoid gaining weight over the years it’s important to adapt the habits you already have to this new reality. For example:
- Practice even more low impact exercises (yoga, pilates, swimming, etc.)
- Reduce your intake of fat, salt, and flour
- Avoid smoking or alcohol consumption
- Get plenty of sleep
Finally, you need to accept that at 50 you are not going to have the same body you did at 25. In addition to more than two decades going by, your habits are different and your body has changed accordingly.