As you approach the mid-century milestone, the body sends you plenty of reminders that things are … changing … and they won’t be the same again.
It may be your hearing. (I’m sorry, could you repeat that? ) Or your vision. ( Why do they make directions on labels for food/medicine/ everything else so small?!?)
For many, it’s the waistline that provides a visible and persistent reminder. When you turn 50, every calorie counts because it seems so easy to gain weight and so difficult to lose it.
But maintaining a healthy weight is key to living a long life. Keeping off extra pounds can help control chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
If you’ve struggled to slim down after hitting the big 5-0, it’s not your imagination. For many reasons, it becomes more difficult to make the scale budge as you grow older.
Why does losing weight get harder as you age?
- Your metabolism slows down. The number of calories you burn every day, known as basal metabolic rate, starts dropping around age 20 and continues to decline as you age.
- You lose muscle. After age 30, the average adult loses 3–8 percent of muscle each decade. Since older adults are less active, they have lower muscle mass and burn fat more slowly as a result.
- You may be more stressed and sleep deprived. Thirty-three percent of adults aged 50-54 experience sleep problems, according to polling by the National Sleep Foundation. Poor sleep quality can lead to obesity, studies find. People who don’t get enough rest tend to eat more fatty foods. Long-term stress is also linked to weight gain.
Five ways to manage your weight after age 50
Even though it’s more challenging to drop extra pounds during midlife, it’s worth trying. Managing your weight is one of the best ways to improve your long-term health. To help you get started, here are five ways to manage your weight after hitting 50.
- Focus on whole foods — Consuming plenty of nutrient-dense foods can help you shed weight and boost your energy. Focus on a diet rich in leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and lean meats. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store where foods are freshest. After age 50, you also need to add more protein to your diet to support healthy skin, bones and blood. Data analysis conducted by Abbot Labs and Ohio State University found that nearly 40 percent of adults in their fifth decade are protein deficient. Get your daily dose by eating foods like Greek yogurt, salmon or eggs.
- Add in strength training — Physical activity of any kind is a boon to your health, but weight-bearing exercises that force your body to work against gravity can be particularly helpful to build muscle and burn fat. Bonus: It’s great for strengthening your bones.
- Eat mindfully — Snacking can contribute to midlife weight gain. When you are stressed or crunched for time, you may find yourself grabbing for fast food or eating past the point of fullness. In these cases, practicing mindfulness can you help bring awareness to how you feel around food and help you lose weight, according to a study. Start by paying attention to your portion sizes, eating more slowly and chewing your food thoroughly. Experiment with cooking at home and appreciating just how fun creating your own meals from scratch can be.
- Get enough rest — Skimping on sleep can cause you to make poor food decisions or to skip exercise. Establish a sleep schedule (getting up and going to bed at a consistent time each day) to make sure you can rest at least seven hours each night.
- Surround yourself with the right people — Social support is shown to be good for your health, including helping you lose weight. Prioritize spending time with people who share an interest in having an active lifestyle. Connect with friends who will keep you accountable to your fitness and weight loss goals.
Most importantly, be kind and patient with yourself. Losing weight in midlife is a journey and every person is unique. Whatever you do, remember that it’s never too late to start changing your life for the better.