Sunday, October 1, 2023

How your body changes after 50; and what to do about it

Before we talk about ways to lose weight after 50, its important to know the how’s and why’s of this occurrence. There are multiple hurdles leading to this landmark stage of life, expanding east to west and diving into the plus sizes along with dealing with the hormonal changes can be frustrating.

Read on to know about factors that contribute to the occurrence and how to fix-it.

LOSS OF MUSCLE MASS —According to the American College of Sports Medicine by age 50 the body loses 10 percent of muscle mass. It is muscle mass that helps burn more calories than fat. Muscle mass loss comes from lack of strength training, prolonged sitting and inadequate protein intake.

Fix-it —To build muscle mass you need strength training (weight lifting) versus aerobic exercising. Hire a personal trainer to make sure you are lifting correctly, so as not to cause injury.

SLOWER METABOLISM — “Your resting metabolic rate — meaning the number of calories your body burns when you’re doing nothing, can decrease if your muscle mass decreases as you age, If we don’t adjust our eating and exercise habits to accommodate that metabolic change, the weight can creep up over the years. Metabolism actually holds steady from ages 20-60 (so long as your muscle mass does not deteriorate) and less than 1% after the age of 60.” Holly Lofton, M.D., director of the NYU Langone Medical Weight Management Program in New York City.

Fix-it — To burn calories you need to include aerobic exercises to your workout routine such as; walking, swimming, cycling, jogging all are good for you, alternate between low-intensity and high-intensity to boost your metabolism instead of one moderate pace.

LACK OF STAYING HYDRATED — Fluid intake is important for converting protein and carbohydrates into usable energy. When you drink water, your body goes through a process known as thermogenesis to bring the liquid to body temperature. This process requires energy; unknowingly you burn calories and get a metabolism boost just by drinking H20.

Fix-it — Get your daily intake of water 2-3 liters!

HORMONAL CHANGES — In women, declining levels of estrogen and testosterone set the body up for storing fat, depositing fat around the hips and more around the abdomen. In men, decreased testosterone leads to loss of muscle, which slows metabolism and increases fat especially around the belly area. It is hormones that regulate appetite and satiety, so fluctuating hormones (especially ghrelin from the gut and leptin from fat cells) cause us to feel hungrier and the stomach becomes a deep, deep well that never feels full.

Fix-it — Reduce your intake of refined sugars, refined carbohydrates and starches. Increase your protein and whole foods intake as well as healthy fats. This combined with exercise, 150 minutes/week will put you in a win-win situation.

A LESS-ACTIVE LIFESTYLE — We all do slow down with age in more than one way, consciously keeping yourself engaged with your mind and body is vital. Lack of energy, minor aches and pains, stiff joints are all major excuses for turning into a couch potato. Older adults do spend 60-80% of their day sedentary, leading to unwanted weight gain and very difficult to lose.

Fix-it — Get moving!

Hire a personal trainer to motivate you. Strength training and cardio will be balanced professionally to your body type, health situation and gradually increase the intensity of your workout to your advantage. You will stay accountable. Your metabolism will increase. You will lose stubborn weight.

Walk with friends it doubles up for a chatty evening and exercise.

Wear an accelerometer throughout the day, it motivates you to keep taking steps.

MEDICATION-THE DOWN SIDE — Beta-blockers and diabetes meds are known to cause weight gain in some people. Hormone therapy, antidepressants and steroid meds too. The longer you take these types of meds, the more the body can store larger, more stubborn fat cells.

Fix-it — consult your doctor for alternative meds, take the right high quality supplements to help decrease risk of deficiency. It is known that as we get older, the body’s’ ability to absorb nutrients from food declines, especially b12, and folate. Deficiency does hinder weight loss.

INCORRECT EATING HABITS — For me this is 80% of the battle won, a healthy gut keeps many a illness at bay, I always feel if you have not got it right up to now, seek professional help. A nutritionist or dietician will determine the best way forward for you, guide and support you, keeping in mind sustainability, so no over restrictions on diet. Mindful eating is key – work on your relationship with food, every morsel should be nutritious with a few cheat treats.

Fix-it —

Cook more at home, the oil you use at home is key make sure it is never recycled, every restaurant no matter how posh, recycles oil – that’s carcinogenic!

Eat more produce, organic if possible- fruit and veggies of all colours give you all the nutrients, and lower body fat and weight.

Stop the junk and convenience food

Eat less at night – it promotes weight loss.

There are no specific rules to mindful eating, but eating slowly, paying attention to the aroma and flavor of each bite of food, remember digestion begins in your mouth, so no gobbling. Keep track of your feelings during your meals with no other distractions. Introduce mindful eating to your life.

CHANGE IN SLEEP HABITS — There is definitely a link between sleep deprivation and weight gain. It’s the morning after, it leads you to high calorie eating due to the mood swings and the guilt cycle begins. Axe this it affects your metabolism!

Fix-it —

Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time- cultivate the habit.

Bedtime rituals should begin one hour before bedtime – warm bath, pj’s, all devices off, brushing teeth, no more eating or drinking.

END RESULT — Losing weight is never easy and it does get a lot harder as we age especially after the 50 mark.

But, it is not impossible!

Portion control, mindful eating, an exercise plan, a routine sleep pattern and supplements can take you a long way in your ‘weight loss after 50’ journey and before you know it, it can all seem like a breeze.

Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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