You're not imagining it. Losing weight becomes harder as you age.
At age 30, you started losing a half-pound of muscle each year. If not properly rebuilt or maintained, this natural muscle loss can effectively slow your metabolism.
Between ages 40 and 50, women go through menopause, which causes a litany of hormonal changes and an increased risk for weight gain.
Why Weight Sticks as You Age
"Menopause lowers the amount of estrogen in a woman's body," said Anna Mihelich, PA-C, a certified physician assistant for Franciscan Health Weight Loss Center in Indianapolis. "Because estrogen regulates hunger, body weight, glucose, metabolism and insulin sensitivity, lower estrogen levels tend to cause an increase in fat in the abdominal area."
Other possible reasons for age-related weight gain include:
- Late pregnancy - Women who have babies later in life may find it harder to lose pregnancy weight.
- Continuing unhealthy eating habits - At 16, you may have been able to eat a bowl of ice cream at 9 p.m., and maintain the same weight. At 45, eating habits like this can contribute to weight gain.
- Physical inactivity - The State of Obesity project reports that 80 percent of U.S. adults are not active enough for optimal health. Combining inactivity with unhealthy eating habits exacerbates weight gain.
- Habitual yo-yo dieting - Losing a lot of weight fast through crash dieting will more likely result in a loss of muscle than fat. When you stop the crash diet, the weight returns as fat. Repeating this process over many years causes more weight gain.
- Stress - Stress is common for young adults dealing with career and family-related responsibilities, and it can affect your weight. Stress releases a hormone called cortisol to start the body's fight-or-flight response. Because your stress is not typically life-threatening, the cortisol goes unused and is stored in the body as fat.
Focus on Muscles, Not Just Fat
Slow down age-related weight gain by protecting your muscles. Eat plenty of protein (eggs, salmon, lean meats, low-fat dairy). Strength-train two to three times per week. Exercise regularly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts.
Need additional support? Learn more about registered dietitians through Franciscan Health.
Exercise and the Older Adult
Maintaining Weight Loss