We are frequently fed the line that it is more and more difficult to lose weight as we get older. Coupled with the fact that we are getting a bit fed-up with trying to keep the excess pounds at bay, and a feeling that it doesn’t matter so much any more, it may lead us to give up and give in to the middle-aged spread. But more and more science shows that keeping fit and well as we get older has huge benefits for mind as well as body. And we don’t just want to live longer – we want to be able to enjoy it! Keeping a healthy weight is actually really important – and the good news is that it is never too late to lose weight.
Getting older comes with a big positive – with age comes wisdom.
Years of yo-yo dieting may have left us disillusioned and feeling that we are forever doomed to being heavier than we would like. But with the passing years has come a lot of experience. Armed with the knowledge that crash diets don’t work, that willpower is over-rated and that faddy eating can harm our health we can start to make more sensible changes to our overall behaviour that will lead to sustained improvements in our health and weight – not just another dieting failure.
We are no longer at the mercy of the media pressure to achieve the bikini body ideal – we now realise that the health of our body and mind is as important as our image.
Getting older means we can change our approach to weight loss – no more rushed crash diets where the calorie count of the food we eat means more than the nutritional value. Instead we can concentrate on eating well to nourish mind and body…and healthy and sustainable weight loss will follow.
What else can we do?
Fizzy drinks may already be consigned to the dustbin of youth and we may be making healthier food choices already. But what about the other behaviour changes we can make? Getting older means we are less under pressure to party until the small hours and still be up for work the next day. We are no longer embarrassed to turn in for an early night – and science shows that a good night’s sleep makes healthier choices easier to make the next day. Poor sleep makes us more likely to reach for high fat, high sugar snacks to re-energise us – so getting a good 7-8 hours under the duvet is the easiest way to help our weight loss efforts!
We know that bodies with higher muscle composition burn more energy – which is why men seem to lose weight easier than women.
But, as we get older our muscle mass reduces (by about 8% per decade over the age of 40). If we can focus a bit more on building muscle with resistance exercises rather than just pounding the treadmill we may find it easier to lose weight. And resistance exercises may be easier to do as we get older than a 5 mile run. Studies show that people who engage in mixed forms of exercise, adding resistance training to aerobic, tend to lose more weight…especially around the waist where it is associated with more health problems.
So let’s aim for middle age trim rather than middle age spread.
By changing behaviour as well as our food choices, getting older doesn’t have to mean getting out-of-shape.
Prevalence of and interventions for sarcopenia in ageing adults: a systematic review. Report of the International Sarcopenia Initiative (EWGSOP and IWGS). 2014
Millward DJ, Truby H, Fox KR, Livingstone MB, Macdonald IA, Tothill P. Sex differences in the composition of weight gain and loss in overweight and obese adults. Br J Nutr. 2014 Mar. Williams RL, Wood LG, Collins CE, Callister R.
Effectiveness of weight loss interventions – is there a difference between men and women: a systematic review. Obes Rev. 2015 Feb