I know we like to think that 40 is the new 20, but weight increase is common, almost universal, as we reach middle age. However, while it may be almost inevitable it is not healthy. Many people continue to eat the same amount of calories as they did a decade ago, and without a few tweaks in calorie consumption, most of us will gain weight.
As we get older, we lose muscle tissue. Less muscle tissue means we need less calories. The most common reason why we need to eat fewer calories as we get older, is because our muscle mass tends to decrease. Between the ages of 30 and 70 years, muscle tissue shrinks on average by about 30 per cent in most people. The reason for this is simple lack of exercise. The problem is, muscle requires more energy to sustain, than fat, does. So the less muscle we have, the fewer calories we need, and any extra calories (energy) we take in will be stored as fat. Hormonal changes may also slow down our metabolic rate and cause a drop in calorie needs.
How much weight do we gain with age?
The age-related reduction in muscle tissue leads to an average weight increase of about 5 pounds per decade for men or 3.5 pounds per decade for women. When you look at those numbers, they do not seem too threatening, but if you do the math it adds up. I would also bet that those numbers are on the low side. Think about all the people you went to high school or college with. How many are overweight, obese?
I think that most people would be surprised that the average weight gain is 5 pounds per decade. I can’t tell you how many times I hear someone lament about gaining weight with age. I think that most people have heard that everyone gains weight as they get older, so it is used as an excuse. Since “everyone is doing it”, people are not concerned when they put on 20 or 30 extra pounds instead of just 5.
1. If you are close to your desired weight, it’s easy to reduce mid-life weight gain. To minimize the risk of age related weight increase, all we need to do is eat about 50-100 fewer calories per day, per decade, or increase our calorie burning by about 50-100 calories a day per decade. In the whole scheme of things, 50-100 calories is nothing. That is an easy change to make by cutting out one sugary drink per day, skip the butter every day, cut you portion to 2/3 cup instead of a whole cup. You will hardly miss those few extra calories.
2. If you are one of those people who has gone the way of 30+ pounds, you need to lose weight to get back on track, and ensure that you are not 50+ or 60+ pounds by the time you are in your 50’s. “Everybody’s doing it” was not okay when you were in high school, and it is not okay now. Stop the excuses and get moving. Check out THE TRICKS section of my blog for some great ideas on how to cut serious calories from your diet without feeling deprived.