Once we get older, it’s equally important to maintain a normal weight, just as we used to do during our early years. Obesity, combined with age-related transformations, can significantly increase susceptibility to disease and may even affect our longevity.
A decreased metabolic rate makes weight loss more difficult at a mature age, which is another reason why managing our pounds should be a primary concern in the second half of our life.
Difficulty in losing weight
There are several reasons why weight loss becomes more difficult once we start aging. If during our 20’s or 30’s, getting rid of the excess weight is not so challenging, things can change radically when we hit middle age.
There are several factors to blame:
With aging, the muscle tissue gets naturally thinner. That happens because the ability of muscle cells to regenerate decreases due to the overuse of muscles and the hormonal transformations. When the number of healthy muscle cells diminishes, unused calories turn into fat. Thus, weight loss becomes more difficult.
Here are some reasons why:
• Our muscles become stiff and less toned, even if we exercise regularly
• Our endurance and physical strength deteriorates
• Our motivation to lose weight decreases with age
Ageing involves multiple physiological changes caused by hormonal transformations (in particular those preceding menopause). Hormonal changes may be responsible for how our body changes its appearance and for the accumulation of that annoying abdominal fatty tissue.
This phenomenon, combined with the emotional effects induced by hormonal transformations, predisposes us to adopt drastic diets which make weight loss even more difficult over time.
Scientists believe that hormonal transformations associated with wiser age contribute to muscle loss, which slows the metabolic rate and inevitably lead to weight gain.
Aging comes with a lowered physical resistance, so certain activities (sports, swimming, hiking, mountain climbing, dancing, etc.) become more difficult to perform. Retirement can mean more time spent indoors, therefore a greater predisposition to inactivity.
How important is weight loss after middle age?
At this point of our lives, weight loss may be even more important than during our youth. As muscles begin being gradually replaced by fat, not only our body’s aesthetics and freedom of movement are affected, but we’re also dealing with increased risk of developing serious conditions, such as:
• Heart disease
• Type 2 diabetes
• Colon cancer
• Breast cancer
• Reduced mobility
A nutritionist can help you find out what is the ideal weight for your age. The body mass index (BMI) is an excellent indicator and can be easily determined by your height and current weight.
Maintaining a healthy weight later in life
Just because getting rid of the extra weight is more challenging later in life, does not mean that maintaining a healthy weight is impossible. On the contrary: carefully managing our lifestyle can do miracles.
In the first instance, it’s very important to know how many calories we need to eat daily. Women over 60, who don’t exercise regularly, don’t need more than 1600 calories a day. This number can grow up to 2000-2200 for active women or to 1800 for those who keep up with an average level of physical activity.
Men over the age of 60, who don’t exercise regularly, need about 2000 calories a day. Those who are moderately active need between 2200 and 2400, and those who are very active can consume between 2400 and 2800 calories each day, without the risk of gaining extra pounds.
Taking into account the necessary caloric intake, you can stick to a diet consisting of healthy foods that provide precious nutrients. If you’re looking to lose some weight, consider adding the following things to your menu:
• Products rich in fiber (particularly fruits, vegetables and whole grains)
• Lots and lots of water
• Foods low in salt and unhealthy (saturated) fats
• Lean meat (chicken, turkey and fish – no skin)
• Low fat dairy
Exercising as often as possible is equally important. Start with a low level of effort and increase it gradually – this will avoid overloading your musculoskeletal system.
Annual physical exams are important for maintaining a healthy weight after the middle age. Your doctor can correctly evaluate your body weight and the health risks associated to it. The specialist may recommend a diet suited to your needs and a safe exercising program for your age and health status.
In some cases, your doctor can guide you to other medical experts, specialized in areas like physiotherapy, chiropractic or cardiovascular health. With a balanced diet, an active lifestyle and a positive mental state, you can maintain an optimal weight and significantly increase the length and quality of your life.