By Ann Sullivan
Let’s face it, most people experience that middle age bulge. Once it’s arrived, it can be difficult or impossible to lose. The difficult takes time. The impossible takes a little longer! There are physiological changes which are inevitable as we grow older. No one is exempt if you are in a human body. How to avoid or respond to the potential risks of being over-weight is a matter of changing habits, paying attention, and being informed. There are causes and body changes that make it easy to gain weight and harder to lose it as we grow older. Here are 9 of the most common reasons most people over 50 gain weight.
1) Slower Digestion
To get a good start to the day, it’s recommended that people over 50 eat breakfast within one hour of waking up. This gets the digestive system on track for the day. As the saying goes, you should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper. It’s always better to eat more earlier in the day and less at night. It’s further suggested that you take a short walk after dinner to burn off those calories. Also, not lying down for three hours after finishing a meal is important. When you do so, your digestive juices can back up into the esophagus and cause heartburn or acid reflux. It also causes the digestion to slow down and you run the risk of undigested food staying in your stomach longer. This can lead to bloating and even indigestion the next morning.
2) Hormone Imbalances
With age comes a decline in certain hormones which sets the stage for storing fat, rather than burning it. Thyroid, adrenal glands and other hormones can become imbalanced with age and cause weight gain as a result. Estrogen and testosterone loss are among common topics of discussion in the medical community. Research has revealed women who have balanced testosterone levels experience reduced blood glucose levels, which can decrease belly fat. Men and women can both be subject to hormone imbalances as we age. If you are experiencing weight gain, or have gained weight and just can’t seem to lose it, experts advise you to get your hormone levels checked. Then respond appropriately to bring them back into balance. There are a wide range of solutions on the market today, some of which are natural and don’t involve prescription medications, which can lead to side effects.
3) Slower Metabolism
The American Council on Exercise, according to a Prevention magazine report, states that a person over 50 has a resting metabolic rate which decreases by 1-2% each decade, and as much as 5-8% according to other reports. Decreased muscle mass, which burns calories faster, along with increased fat mass, causes the body to burn calories much slower. When our diets don’t change with our metabolic rate decreasing, it causes fat to be stored rather than burned. Weight may creep up slowly, but with every passing year, if we don’t adjust accordingly, it’s certain to add up. After age 50, our joints and muscles begin to wear down from years of movement. So, overall, we generally don’t move around as much or as quickly as we did in our 20’s and 30’s. Not adjusting diet and exercise to compensate is a surefire way to put on extra pounds.
As we age, our bodies require less calories. We burn them slower, especially if we lead a sedentary life. Eating foods which fuel the body, combined with moderate exercise, is the way to avoid that dreaded belly fat. With age comes lower energy expenditure. Beginning in our 30’s, everyone experiences losing approximately one pound of muscle annually. This results in fat and calories burning less efficiently. Staying active is the way to avoid that dreaded middle age spread, as it’s called. Cardiovascular exercises, for example, promote fat loss. When you increase your heart rate, your metabolism responds in burning calories more efficiently. This can be as easy as riding a stationary bike for 30 minutes several times a week, or taking brisk walks regularly. Dancing or a round of golf with also increase energy and burn calories. Anything that keeps you moving is beneficial.
It’s well known that stress can cause many problems with health and wellness. When a person is stressed, the hormone “cortisol” rises. This causes higher insulin levels which in turn makes the blood sugar drop. When this happens, you crave fatty and sugary foods. If you’re stressed, it’s best to wait until you are calmer before eating a meal. This will help you make better food choices, rather than grabbing that greasy cheeseburger or a huge piece of cake. Most people, when stressed, become overeaters. Web M.D. reports the reason this occurs is because when we feel pressured, our bodies go into survival mode. When this happens, your body reacts as though it’s already burned calories that it hasn’t. The cravings for “comfort foods” result because they aid in a calming effect. If this becomes a habit, it will certainly lead to weight gain.
6) Eating Habits
A person in their 50’s cannot eat as if they’re in their 20’s and not gain weight. After 30, the metabolism starts to gradually slow down. This means, if we don’t change our food choices, weight gain is inevitable. The body can no longer process empty calories from foods high in fat and sugar. Knowing what to eat and in which order is key to not gaining weight with age. It’s also important knowing what foods will help avoid high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and protection against type-2 diabetes. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in whole foods will aid in absorption of the proper nutrients. Leafy greens are one example. They offer a power house of vitamins and minerals to keep our bodies metabolically fit. Foods high in protein and low in fat also supply the needed fuel for a healthy lean body over 50.
7) Lack of Proper Hydration
It’s possible you’re not hungry, but rather you are thirsty. Many people mistake lack of hydration for hunger. As we age, our hydration requirements increase. If you’re not drinking enough water, your body may be sending the wrong signal to your brain. It’s a good general rule to drink a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Also, limiting caffeine, which can cause further dehydration, is also advised. This isn’t to say you should give up your morning coffee. But for every cup of your favorite java, you should drink an equal or greater amount of water in a day. Water also helps joints and muscles move better and can prevent stiffness. It’s not recommended to drink ice cold water with a meal however. Doing so can dilute the stomach acids that aid in digestion.
8) Showering or Bathing After a Meal
Frequently showering or bathing after breakfast or dinner can result in indigestion and weight gain. A hot shower or bath causes the body temperature to rise, and the blood to rise to the skin’s surface. When the blood heads towards the surface of your skin, feet, and hands, for example, it is being drawn away from the digestive juices in the stomach as well as vital organs. This causes slower, inefficient digestion which can lead to bloating and weight gain. It can also make a person not feel well throughout the day or night. The best course of action, if you’re in the routine of showering or bathing after a meal, is to switch it. If you reverse the order, you will more than likely have better digestion and overall feel better throughout the day and night. Proper digestion is less likely to lead to weight gain.
9) Inadequate Sleep
Not sleeping well or long enough will cause the body to store more fat. It will also affect your appetite. Research has found, people over 50 who get less than 5 hours of quality sleep are more prone to significant weight gain. Those who get an average of 7-8 hours of restful sleep tend to burn more fat. Being tired causes the body to crave all the wrong foods. When you’re tired, you are also more prone to feeling stressed. Stress releases the hormone cortisol, which can create excessive hunger and cravings. It causes the body to store more belly fat. Studies have found that those over 50 who add relaxation to their weekly routines, combined with adequate sleep, are more likely to lose and keep off those extra pounds. Yoga and meditation, for example, are ways to relax and unwind to promote better sleep.