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Why does it get harder to lose weight?

This is the third question in a series of key questions about weight loss, based off the March Time Article. Although for the most part I like the Time answers, they don't go nearly as in depth as they should have, so I am extrapolating on the answers, and providing a little more detail. You can read the first two questions, Why doesn't exercise help you lose weight and Which kind of exercise is best for me.

The third question in the series is Why does it get harder to lose weight the older I get?

Time says that there are a couple factors involved in making weight loss harder as we age.  The first is that we lose muscle mass as we get older, the second is that our metabolisms slow down, and finally we are more likely to be less active.

I’ve heard conflicting reports about metabolism slowing down. On the one hand, according to MSN article about Slow Burn, as we age the mitochondria in our cells slow down, which causes our bodies to convert nutrients to power at a slower rate.  This would definitely imply that our natural base metabolic rate slows down, but it seems that that is only half of the story.

Going hand in hand with metabolism slowing down is the loss of muscle mass that often occurs as we age. Each pound of muscle in our bodies burn about 7-10 calories per day, which sounds like a paltry amount, but is basically a powerhouse compared to the pound of fat which burns about 2-3 calories per day. All that to say that since we do lose muscle mass as age, if you do not do any kind of activities to combat the muscle loss it will cause your metabolism to slow down. However, this is not something that you are powerless to change. Many people say “I have a slow metabolism” but often times that is simply because of the choices that they are making, not so much a reflection of genetics. Although it is debatable how much of an influence your genetics have over your body and weight, at the end of the day blaming your body solely on genetics takes away your power in the situation. Anyone can lose weight (except maybe some people with metabolic disorders or other health problems – in which case you should visit a doctor who can help to deal with those issues, and then you could be on your way to weight loss). My end point is that we are not powerless to combat a slowing metabolism. It will naturally slow down from muscle loss as you get older, but by continuing to be active, do strength and resistance training, and eat healthy foods you do have the power to influence how much that affects your life.

Lastly, Time says that often people are less active as they get older, which is the third factor in making weight loss harder. This can be very true, and I think as we get older we tend to substitute more sedentary activities for our previous active ones (going to the movies or a show versus hiking). We are also less inclined to do thing “out of the box” as we get older, such as biking to work, walking to the grocery store, etc. This doesn’t mean that we can’t do these things, simply that most people don’t. Just like in the previous “reason” this is entirely in your control, and becoming less active doesn’t have to be your story.

The only thing that Time left out that I do think is important to at least acknowledge is the fact that as women get older they tend to put weight on in different places than they may have before. Having more estrogen in your body causes you to store weight in your hips and thighs, while having more testosterone in your body causes you to store weight in your midsection. As women go through menopause, their estrogen levels change, which often causes weight gain in the midsection. Again, this isn’t something that can’t be combated, but it is just simply something that women need to be aware as they approach that time in their lives.

At the end of the day, I think that the answer that Time gave and that I agree with is that often time people have more trouble losing weight as they get older because they are less active and do not work out as much. I believe this is a hopeful answer, because it puts you in the driver’s seat as to how much you are willing to accept this as your case, and how much you want to change your situation!

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