Many people older than the age of 35 or 40 like to warn their younger friends and family members about an impending weight gain once they hit their mid-30’s. This, they warn, is due to a slowing of their metabolism that will make it very easy to gain weight and nearly impossible to lose it.
While a lot of this is fear-mongering, similar to how we scare pregnant women with painful birth stories, there is something to be said for it. Many people complain about gaining weight as they get older. The research has actually shown that as we age, our metabolic rate declines, which can cause weight gain and difficulty losing weight. This occurs for several reasons.
Even though many of these changes are often associated with being much older than 35, they do begin as you move into adulthood. The good news is that making an effort at an early age to start living a healthier lifestyle can help to prevent many age-associated health and weight problems. Getting into shape after age 35 may be more difficult, but it is possible. It just may take more time and dedication than it did in your teens and early 20s.
No matter how old you are, whether that means you are 25, 35 or 45, losing weight means that you need to take in fewer calories than you use during the day. The calorie level that worked when you were younger may not be the most appropriate number of calories to eat as you get older. That is why it is important to periodically reassess your calorie needs when are losing weight. Age and weight are two big factors that go into determining your basal metabolic rate and calorie needs.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines, women over the age of 35 on average only require around 1,800 calories per day if they lead a sedentary lifestyle, or up to 2,200 calories if they are more active. Men would require around 2,400 to 2,800 calories per day, depending on their activity level.
It is important to realize that these numbers are estimates only, and are based on people with average height and weight. For woman, this means a height of 5’3” and weight of 126 pounds, and not pregnant or breastfeeding. For men, it means 5’10” and 154 pounds.
People of different heights, weights, body shapes, medical conditions and activity levels may have different calorie requirements, so it is important to speak with your doctor about your specific situation.
No matter how many calories you are eating, it is important that they come from healthy sources. Your diet should mostly consist of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low fat dairy, and healthy fats (avocado, olive oil and nuts) in moderation. Eating processed carbohydrates and simple sugars should be avoided, or at least minimized.
Physical activity can help maintain and increase lean muscle mass, which can improve your basal metabolic rate. For someone who is new to exercise, it is important to start slow and check in with your doctor if you have any health concerns. If any of the following apply to you, it is especially important to get in to see the doctor and have a physical exam.
In most cases, having these conditions does not mean that you can’t exercise; it just means that you may need some guidance from your doctor so that you can do it safely and effectively.
In general, however, it is best to start with a low-intensity activity, like walking, swimming or yoga. There are also many things you can do over the course of your day to increase the number of calories you burn:
Sometimes, just making a bunch of small changes throughout the day is enough to burn extra calories and trigger healthier behaviors. As time goes on and your body adjusts to the new activities, you can start thinking about increasing the intensity or adding in some strength training exercises as well.
Many smokers hesitate to quit smoking because they are afraid that quitting will make them gain weight. And while that is sometimes true, quitting smoking is crucial to staying healthy as you age. Quitting smoking is associated with many health benefits, including reduction of the risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Despite this, some research has also shown that quitting smoking is associated with slightly more weight gain with aging than non-smokers. The study found that around 75% of people who quit smoking will put on weight, with around 10% of people gaining close to 30 pounds. However, that doesn’t mean that you should continue smoking in order to keep the weight off. Smoking and using tobacco has been linked with many serious health complications.
Weight gain after quitting may minimize some of the health benefits that come along with stopping, so it is especially important to be diligent about preventing weight gain in the months after making the decision to quit smoking. Your doctor may be able to point you in the direction of some useful support groups or resources to help.
Who isn’t stressed out these days? Between taking care of children, helping parents, working and trying to find balance between all of this and taking care of yourself, it’s no wonder that many people report feeling very stressed out. Stress isn’t just feeling overwhelmed; if not managed well, it has the potential for serious health complications. Stress has been linked with sleep problems, overeating, alcohol abuse, tobacco use and not exercising. All of these can also worsen weight problems.
Managing stress is important when trying to lose weight. Light exercise, connecting with family or friends, working on hobbies and taking time for yourself are all healthy ways to help manage your stress.
It used to almost be a badge of honor to be able to get by without sleeping. Recently though, a lot of attention has been paid to the need for quality sleep and what happens to your body (and mental state) when you don’t get it. There have been numerous studies looking at the link between sleep and obesity, and several have found an association between people who sleep fewer hours at night and increased weight.
It is believed that sleep deprivation changes the hormones that control the hunger center in the brain. These hormones cause you to feel full and satisfied after eating. If that hormone isn’t working properly, such as with lack of sleep, people tend to eat more and make more unhealthy choices. In addition, feeling tired from lack of sleep makes it less likely that you’ll be physically active.
So, go ahead and prioritize sleep. In addition to feeling and functioning better, it may help you lose weight and stay healthier in the long-run.
Losing weight after 35, though it may be different than losing weight in your 20s, isn’t impossible. Here are some specific tips that you can use to help you lose weight:
People over the age of 35 have unique challenges when it comes to weight loss. From hormonal changes to high stress levels to a changing metabolism, losing weight as you get older is very different than losing weight as a teenager or young adult. Making ongoing positive lifestyle changes not only help you lose the weight, but helps you feel healthier and stronger.
Shimokata H. and Kuzuya F. Aging, basal metabolic rate, and nutrition. (July 1993). Nihon Ronen Igakkai Zasshi. 30 (7): 572-6.
Slowing metabolism when I hit 30? (January 24, 3014). Retrieved from http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/slowing-metabolism-when-i-hit-30
Estimated calorie needs by age, gender, and physical activity level. Retrieved from https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/usda_food_patterns/EstimatedCalorieNeedsPerDayTable.pdf
J Audrain-McGovern, and NL Benowitz. Cigarette smoking, nicotine and body weight. July 2011. Clinical Pharmacology Therapies. 90(1): 164-168.
Sleep. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/sleep-and-obesity/