Why weight loss is harder as we get older
Middle age pretty universally brings with it a change in body shape and an increased difficulty in losing weight. There are several main reasons for this, and the good news is that they can usually be overcome by some careful consideration and subsequent changes.
1) Insulin resistance
The older we become, the less responsive our body is to the hormone insulin. This affect is particularly marked in women once the protective effect of estrogen is reduced after menopause. Most post menopausal women will experience a change in fat deposition from their hips, thighs and bottom to around their abdomen. This change from pear to apple is because insulin, now the predominant fat storage hormone, directs fat to the belly. Men will notice the beginning (or exacerbation) of a belly as the body has to make more insulin than previously which encourages weight gain generally but most obviously to the abdomen.
2) Slower metabolism
Our metabolic rate – or how well we burn the calories from food rather than storing them as fat – slows down every year so we can gain weight even with the same diet and exercise program. Adding gentle metabolic stimulants like green tea and chilli to your diet, changing your exercise to include interval training and avoiding dieting will all go a long way to protecting your bodies ability to burn food effectively.
The effects of stress, fatigue and sleep deprivation cannot be overemphasised. As we become older, our body no longer has the reserves to cope well with these factors, plus the long term effects of them start to manifest in the body. Good quality sleep, healthy relationships and improving your response to stress are all critical for weight loss and overall health.
4) Undiagnosed thyroid problems
Thyroid function can be an undiagnosed problem as we get older. Long term stress, mineral deficiency or autoimmune disease all cause an underactive thyroid, and as this gland is responsible for regulating our metabolism, one of the first signs is easy weight gain and/or difficult weight loss. It’s important to note that there is a period of slowing down of thyroid activity – a “sluggish” thyroid – during which you can have many of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid before it will be diagnosed in a standard blood test. More accurate blood tests are available to pick up this subclinical hypothyroidism before it becomes a full blown problem.