Trying to lose weight? Thought so.
When it comes to shedding pounds, age factors into the equation. You've probably noticed that the pounds come on easier—and come off harder—as the years creep up. That's because things are changing: your hormones, your metabolism, your level of activity and the way your body stores fat.
Although you may still feel like you're in your 30s, the undeniable fact is that there are physiological forces at work behind the scenes, especially when it comes to losing weight.
Take your metabolism, for example. It's slowing—at the rate of about 1 percent or 2 percent each decade, due to a decrease in muscle mass and an increase in fat mass. Muscle burns calories and fat is metabolically inactive, so there you have it—a slow creep up of weight, even though you're not eating more.
That's not to say you need to wave the white flag of surrender. Instead, consider these small and achievable tweaks:
- Take up weights. You need not join a gym full of buff muscleheads to reap the benefits of weight training. But it would be wise to pick up some weights, since you also lose muscle mass after 50. If you're physically inactive, that loss can amount to as much as 3 percent to 5 percent each decade. A well-structured weight-training program can help boost not only your metabolism, but your strength and function, too.
- Include plenty of produce in your diet. Fruits and veggies pack in valuable nutrients, which fill you up with less fat and calories than many other foods. Make sure to include them at every meal and fill half your plate with them. And, they can even satisfy a sweet tooth (think berries, watermelon) at a much lower calorie count (and lower guilt, too!) than a cookie can.
- Remember breakfast. Did you grow up hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? It still is, for many more reasons now that you're in midlife: Making healthy choices in the morning sets the tone for the day, and decreases the chances of overeating later. Plus, it helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and boosts your energy.
- Concentrate on cooking right. Look for ways to cut the extra fat and calories, like grilling, baking and broiling rather than sautéing or frying. And remember, olive and other oils may be healthy, but they're definitely not low-calorie: 1 tablespoon contains roughly 120 calories, so use it sparingly.
- Exercise right. Another fact of aging is that our joints start to show—and feel—wear and tear and may be more prone to injury. Consider trading in some high-impact exercises for those that are gentler and kinder to your body. That might mean walking on the treadmill rather than running or alternating between the two. Better to be realistic about your abilities than give up exercising altogether because of pain or injuries. Here's some guidance on how to determine the best exercise intensity for you.
- Keep your stress in check. Constant stress can make you fat. That's what a new study found when scientists measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in test subjects. Those with higher levels of this hormone, released into the bloodstream during stressful times, also had larger waist circumferences and higher body mass indexes. You can read more about the study on CNN.com.
- Get enough sleep. Blame the hunger-regulating hormones—ghrelin and leptin—for the weight gain that can result from skimping on sleep. That's because inadequate sleep throws them out of whack and can cause you to overeat, crave foods high in calories and fat, and miss signals from your brain that you are full. And then, there's the more obvious: sleep deprivation robs you of energy, making it more likely you'll be slogging through the next day.