…and what to do about it!
Like it or not, as we age we are going to go through some age related changes, especially physical ones. Though it doesn’t happen to everyone, most of us will go through some form of mid life weight gain. That isn’t to say its even a bad thing. No one should be judged by the size and shape of their body. We come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and that is a beautiful thing, but there is also no denying that obesity is a health concern and so understanding why we gain weight in the first place can help you decide whether it is just a natural stage in life or if there are some healthy habits you can adopt that may help you get to a healthier weight for you. (Again, for you…you should not compare yourself to your friend, or neighbour or spouse. Comparison is the thief of joy after all. And we all know that we can eat and exercise the same as the next person and we will both be a different shape.)
Natural weight gain as we age is a result of a number of factors, hormonal changes being a big one. For males their testosterone drops, causing them to lose muscle and gain fat. And for women, it is our estrogen that drops causing us to retain fat around our midsection.
We also tend to start taking more medication, some of which have a side effect of weight gain.
But changing hormones and medication aside, there are some lifestyle habits you may have developed that also contribute.
1) YOU’RE UNDEREATING
Chronic undereating causes your metabolism to slow down. Without enough calories and proteins you can’t maintain or build muscle. Muscle is your best metabolic currency in midlife.
PRO TIP: Focus on eating enough Protein, Fat & Fibre for your age, activity level and gender.
2) YOU’RE NOT LIFTING ENOUGH WEIGHT
Muscle mass is more metabolically active than fat, this means if two people are just sitting there, the one with more muscle will burn more calories. Remember, the natural loss of muscle mass with age is one of the major culprits of age-related weight creep.
PRO TIP: Build more muscle, and in turn burn more calories, by adopting a resistance training regimen.
3) YOU’RE SITTING TOO MUCH
There was a recent study out of Sweden that was published in Nature magazine that showed as we get older, lipid turnover in the fat tissue decreases during aging. Meaning we gain weight even if we don’t change our habits. But it also showed that you can increase your lipid turnover rate by exercising more.
And the sad truth is that as we age, our joints get a little creakier and we get a little less motivated to move than our younger counterparts. But that is all the more reason to keep moving. The more we move, the more lubricated our joints become, and the less pain we have…leading to us moving more.
PRO TIP: Find excuses to get up and more regularly. For example, rather than a coffee date, why not a walking one?
4) YOUR CORTISOL LEVELS ARE TOO HIGH
This will come as no surprise to you when I say stress and its best friend cortisol are direct contributors to weight gain. Not only is there a hormonal thing happening in the body, the extra stress often leads us to making bad decisions. Whether it is self medicating with food or simply eating mindlessly. And cortisol levels have been linked to increased abdominal fat, reduced insulin sensitivity, inflammation, indigestion and more.
PRO TIP: If you aren’t able to control the root cause of the stress then at least find ways to alleviate it. Breathing techniques, exercise and meditation are all great ones.
5) YOU’RE NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP
A good night sleep can do wonders for our mood and our health. Sadly, as we age, a good nights sleep gets harder to have. And this poor sleep is linked to reduced insulin sensitivity which can lead to hunger, overeating and weight gain.
PRO TIP: Try the super simple, 12, 3, 2, 1, 0 Bedtime Routine
So, while you can’t control aging, you can adjust your physical activity and lifestyle habits to help control how your body responds to it.