Why Is It Harder For Women To Lose Weight With Age?
Do you find that as the years pass by that It’s harder to lose weight? Women tend to gain 1-2 pounds yearly. It may not seem like a lot but over a 5-year period, that can be up to 10 pounds on the average according to research.
The Most Common Reasons Women Struggle With Weight Loss As They Age
As women go through menopause, typically through the ages of 45 and 55, but can also be younger, estrogen drops. As the hormone estrogen drops there is an increase in extra weight and redistribution around the belly.
This also puts women at increased risk for
High blood pressure
Type 2 diabetes
Higher cholesterol levels
Most women are sleep deprived and their quality of sleep decreases as they age. There is a link with decrease estrogen levels and melatonin. Melatonin promotes sleep and also has anti-cancerous properties.
Poor and erratic sleep increases insulin (the fat storing hormone) therefore you will battle weight loss regardless of a perfect diet and exercise.
Poor sleep increases the hormone ghrelin which triggers the brain telling you “I’m hungry”, therefore resulting in overeating. It also decreases the hormone leptin which tells you “I’m full”.
LESS MUSCLE MASS
As we age there is a decrease in muscle mass therefore, we need less calories to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight. After the age of 30 muscle mass begins to decline at a rate of 3-8% per decade.
A decrease in muscle mass for many women is also attributed to arthritis (Rheumatoid the most common), which keeps women from engaging in physical activity.
Women’s slower metabolism is correlated with decrease in muscle mass. The less muscle mass the more likely your metabolism slows down. When there is a decrease in muscle mass, there is an increase in fat mass and reduces calorie burning.
A woman can stay the same weight but if her body muscle mass decreases, she will appear more “fluffy”, kind of like the Pillsbury dough boy. The types of calories a woman burns matters, which is dependent on the food she consumes because not all calories are created equal when it comes to fat loss.
A 1200 calorie diet with 900 calories coming from carbs compared to 160 calories is very different and results in a different body composition.
Let’s face it women have it a bit tougher to staying slim with the demands of work, children, some have grandchildren living with them and keeping a tidy home with meals to cook too. It can be exhausting and exercise is put on the back burner.
As more women have entered the work force their careers start to blossom in their 40’s and 50’s, they tend to pour themselves into their work. This tends to lead to increase sedentary lifestyle and for many they sit for 3-4 hours without a break. Instead of taking a break every hour they tend to work at their desk while mindlessly snacking and eating their lunch.
The increase in stress combined with the decrease activity is the perfect storm for the thyroid to slow down. Think of the thyroid as the CEO that is in charge of energy and weight loss.
The increase in stress will create an increase in the hormone’s cortisol and ghrelin. Exercise is a great stress reliever.
MAJOR LIFESTYLE CHANGES
The demands of motherhood, keeping the house clean, community contribution, working outside of the home, taking care of elderly parents, and a skyrocketing career and business are major life changes that create a disharmony in work, home and self-care balance
Women tend to put everyone else first before they take care of themselves. Exercise and mindful eating go out the door.
LIFETIME YO-YO DIETING
If you were to poll 100 women and ask them how many of them have been on a diet restricting caloric intake, more than 90% would say yes. The constant dieting stresses the body and the release of cortisol (the hormone that buffers stress) inhibits fat loss. There is also a change in the body weight set point.
The most detrimental diets are the shake only diets and you limit your caloric intake and as soon as you start to eat REAL food you gain weight. Or you try it again and it doesn’t work. I have seen this in my practice for years!!
Some Simple Ways To Lose Weight Despite Aging
Finding the right food (ingredients) your body thrives on will make health and weight loss more sustainable. Not all calories are created equal. Consuming more vegetables, moderate protein, healthy fats, minimal fruit and removing alcohol, grains, sugar, excessive starchy carbs (bread, rice, potato, pasta) will make it much easier to release the extra weight and improve overall health.
Size does matter when you are trying to lose weight or improve your overall health. I often have patients ask themselves “Did I earn my food today?” This is what a day to day eating plan could look like:
7-10 servings of vegetables (1 cup = 1 serving)
3 portions of protein (1 portion = a deck of cards)
1 portion of starchy vegetables, fruits or carbs (1 cup = 1 portion)
5-7 fats olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, grass fed butter (1 fat = 1 tablespoon)
Other satiating fats nuts and seeds (1-2 ounces)
We often mistake thirst for hunger. A simple guide is drinking half your weight in ounces. Drink at least 8-12 ounces within 30 minutes of awaking and an additional 8-12 ounces within the 90 minutes of waking up.
Decrease water intake 2-3 hours before bed as this cause frequent trips to the bathroom at night.
So remember we mentioned that women tend to lose muscle mass as they age? The anti-dote is strength training. One of the best things you can do is incorporate weight training because the more muscle mass you preserve the more calories you burn, improve balance and even increase stamina.
Group training is great for ladies as we tend to be more social than men. If you prefer working out at home you can use heavy resistance bands and your own body weight to increase and preserve muscle mass. One of my favorite websites is www.darebee.com
Incorporating daily aerobic activity for 30 minutes that elevates your heart rate has a positive impact on your mental health and body composition. Various forms of aerobic activity make it more sustainable whether it’s walking, jogging, swimming, biking or use of an elliptical machine at the gym to elevate your heart rate, can make it a more enjoyable process.
If you feel you are pressed for time, break it up in 10-minute segments throughout the day. Short bursts of exercise throughout the day can be more effective than 30 minutes of exercise once a day.
If you work at home or in an environment where you are sitting for hours, getting up every 50-60 minutes and getting out for a walk, half jacks or my favorite is rebounding for 5-10 minutes, can be very effective for your physical health but also brain health.
Remember to get your sleep dialed in. The average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep. The quality of sleep is important. If your sleep is off, there is a tendency of overeating due to the low energy and most people mistake that for low blood sugar levels.
Remember poor sleep impacts the hormones ghrelin, leptin, insulin and cortisol which impact weight loss or gain.