Getting older has its perks — being able to afford the car you couldn’t quite rationalize in your youth, not having to change diapers as your children grow up, and of course, gaining the wisdom of age.
There are a few other consequences of getting older that aren’t so great. As you age, losing weight becomes more difficult for a variety of reasons. What are some of the reasons it gets harder to shed those extra pounds as you get older?
Changing body composition
Your metabolism, or the rate at which your body processes food, is directly related to your body’s composition of fat and muscle. Muscle mass burns more calories than fat, but as you age past 30, your body starts losing muscle mass and therefore burns less calories. This effect, called sarcopenia, affects nearly everybody, although it is most detrimental to those who are inactive.
Increased fat gain
If you’re prone to crash dieting or to changing your exercise and eating habits frequently, your body is more likely to gain any lost weight back as fat instead of muscle over time. Because most dieters also exercise and realize that muscle burns more calories than fat, even the most successful dieters will be subject to this effect, and combined with all the other factors, the added fat does not bode well for an aging body.
Changing caloric needs
Hormone levels and organ health change over time, and both play a role in your body’s need for calories. As you age, your caloric needs lower due to those changes as well as changes in your metabolism. However, a lowered need for calories will not necessarily correlate with your appetite. Even though your body needs fewer calories to function, you may not realize the need to change your lifelong eating habits until the spare tire appears.
The reason children are often described as carefree is because adults are just the opposite. Having all those cares — career, family, maintaining that car you can finally afford — adds stress to the body, which releases a hormone called cortisol that’s stored as fat. The hormone and the stress stack up, and so do the pounds.
All of these things can add up to a few (or more) extra pounds each year, but with diligent exercise and a consistently healthy diet, you can navigate the golden years in the best health of your life. If you can’t lose weight on your own, you may want to consider the different types of weight loss surgery.