Can you be too old to think about losing weight? The simple answer is no.
It’s natural to gain weight as you get older due to your metabolism slowing down. This can be due to being less active, eating more or keeping your eating habits the same, losing muscle mass, bad quality sleep and hormones.
What is metabolism?
Metabolism is a network of chemical reactions which work together to keep you functioning normally as well as measuring the number of calories that your body burns. Age, activity, diet, muscle mass, sleep and hormones can all affect your metabolism. People who have a fast metabolism will burn more calories than someone with a slow metabolism. The main part of your metabolism is your BMR (basal metabolic rate) which is the number of calories burned whilst at rest. These are the calories needed just to keep you alive. Your BMR decreases with age, thereby slowing down your metabolism.
Let’s look at what affects your metabolism and what you can do to keep the weight off.
1 – Being Less active – Older people are generally less active once they retire as they are not running around after children, rushing to get to work or trying to fit household chores into a small window of time. It sounds simple but the less you move, the fewer calories you will burn, and your muscle mass will decline and become harder to maintain.
The easy answer to this is to become more active. Add some cardio such as cycling on an exercise bike along with some strength or resistance training into your lifestyle at least 3 – 5 times a week. Our 30-minute circuit is perfect for this. Resistance training also has the added benefits of helping with sleep, preventing anxiety or depression and reducing the risks of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. It’s also an excellent calorie burner as your metabolism will carry on burning calories after you have finished exercising for anything from a few hours to more than 24 hours. It will also help to build lean muscle mass which helps keep your metabolism working efficiently, as muscle is more metabolically active than fat, and also burns more calories than fat. What’s not to love so far? Keep moving whether that means parking further away from the supermarket or going for a long walk. Use the stairs as often as you can and make the most of any nice weather by getting outdoors.
2 – Eating more or keeping eating habits the same – As your metabolism slows down, you may find that you put on weight even though your eating habits haven’t changed. You will find it harder to lose the weight without making changes.
This may be an obvious one but as your metabolism slows down, it’s easier for the weight to creep on and harder to lose if you keep your eating habits the same or you don’t incorporate exercise to burn it off. You need a combination of healthy eating, eating the right number of calories for you, and moving more. Try to switch to eating healthy homemade meals and cutting down on snacks and alcohol. Cooking from scratch means that you know exactly what is going into your meal and you can leave out or substitute unhealthy ingredients with healthy ones. Keep healthy snacks prepared in the fridge such as chopped up carrot, cucumber and celery and have these with hummus or homemade guacamole. Or keep chopped up fruit in the fridge to snack on. I know sometimes the fruit and salad won’t cut it, so now and again a treat is ok. It’s when it’s every day that the problems start. Try making some low sugar snacks to keep for when you want a treat, and these will satisfy your sweet tooth but with a healthier alternative to sugar. If you prefer savoury snacks, try making your own crisps from kale. Sprinkle with salt and a little pepper and they will satisfy that savoury, salty crunch that you want. Freshly popped corn is another great healthy option.
3 – Losing muscle mass – Muscle mass starts to decline in your 30s and this speeds up as you reach your mid 60s. The less active you are (especially if you’re not doing any strength training) the more you will notice this.
Exercise, exercise, exercise! Strength training or resistance exercise is what is needed to build lean muscle mass. Lost muscle mass can be reversable with a regular exercise plan.
4 – Sleep – If you do not get enough sleep, your metabolism will naturally slow down to save energy, and this in turn releases the cortisol hormone (also known as the stress hormone!) High levels of cortisol cause more visceral fat storage (the dangerous fat that is tightly packed around our organs), making weight loss difficult.
Make sure you are getting a good night’s sleep and reducing your stress levels. It doesn’t necessarily matter that you are not getting 8 hours sleep a night as long as the sleep that you are getting is good quality. Take some time just for you and start to wind down an hour before bed, whether that’s by reading a book, having a nice relaxing bath or doing some meditation. Just make sure to turn any screens off – including the tv! This will also help to reduce stress levels rather than rushing around, collapsing in front of the tv for an hour or two and then checking emails, texts and social media before falling into bed and expecting to get straight to sleep and stay there. Our brains need to wind down slowly. Unfortunately, we don’t have on/off switch.
5 – Hormones – Hormones also play an important part in how your metabolism works. Your metabolism turns protein, fats and carbohydrates into amino acids and fatty acids, moving them into your cells. It helps muscles to grow and breaks down fat which is stored by your body. All of this is controlled by your hormones, which need to be balanced. If one hormone is too high or too low, then it can mess up your metabolism which can affect your weight and mood.
The best way to keep your hormones balanced is through a combination of eating enough protein throughout the day, cutting out sugar and refined carbohydrates, eating healthy fats, having a regular exercise plan, watching those stress levels and helping to reduce them, getting good quality sleep, eating the correct amount (not under/over eating), regularly eating fatty fish, eating eggs and regularly consuming enough fibre.
There we have it, age is not a barrier to losing weight. You just need to make a few small changes to your lifestyle in order to make this possible.
Caroline & Hannah xx