Why is losing weight perceived to be so much harder the older we get? I hear complaints like: “It’s just a few kilo’s, but I’ve been finding it difficult to even lose one! Why?” Let’s take a closer look at how age affects our weight as it is certainly not a myth that weight loss gets harder as we get older, it is a fact.
The four main factors for weight loss:
- Muscle Loss
As you age, your metabolism slows down due to a number of reasons. One reason is the loss of muscle Sarcopenia (you lose 1/2 kg of muscle every year after you reach 30). Muscle keeps your metabolism revved up, so as you lose it, you lose your ability to burn calories. The only way to prevent muscle loss, or regain lost muscle tissue, is to do regular weight training, once or twice a week.
- Fat Increase
If you’ve been yo-yo dieting your whole life, you have changed your body composition. When you crash diet, you’re more likely to lose muscle, rather than fat. When you go off the diet, you’re likely to regain the weight, but the weight will come back in the form of fat, not muscle. This results in you weighing the same, but with a higher percentage of fat. Fat is much harder to lose than muscle or water weight.
3. Calorie Intake
As you get older, your level of physical activity might decrease. Unless you change the amount of calories you consume to adjust to that, you might find yourself gaining weight, or at least having a hard time losing weight. According to registered dietician Bonnie Taub-Dix, from the American Dietetic Association, reducing just 100 calories could help you maintain your current weight.
The pressure is on in the society we live in! Experts such as Dr Libby believe that this added stress can make it harder to lose weight. When your body is under stress, it releases cortisol, a hormone meant to help increase your reaction time and keep you safe. Since most of the stress you experience in life is not the “life-or-death” kind, your body ends up not using that cortisol. The hormone is then stored as fat in your body. Find a way to control your stress and the numbers on the scale might start to budge.
So what do I do?
- Never skip breakfast, it starts up your metabolism.
- Exercise is very important. Strength training will increase your muscle mass and lean muscle burns more calories whilst increasing your metabolism.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol decreases your metabolism and stimulates your appetite.
- Snack between meals on healthy complex carbohydrates.
- Remember to relax and have some fun!