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Avoiding Midlife Weight Gain

Posted 07-08-2013 at 01:59 PM by ChristaIB
Updated 10-16-2013 at 12:21 PM by ChristaIB

Midlife weight gain is an inconvenient, yet inevitable reality for many adults. After the age of 30, your metabolism tends to slow down, and you are more likely to gain weight if you maintain your normal eating without burning it off with exercise.

Unfortunately, an increasingly sedentary lifestyle is another culprit that contributes to midlife weight gain. Other factors that contribute to weight gain include stress and overeating (due to stress?). Working to eat less, exercise more and manage these other factors can help you avoid midlife weight gain.

Consume Fewer Calories

As you age, your body requires fewer calories. Because your metabolism slows down as you age, you will need to remember the old tried-and-true formula of weight gain -- if you take in more calories than you burn off, you will gain weight.

The best solution is to talk to a nutritionist about the amount of calories your now-older body requires on a daily basis. The amount varies according to your age, weight, muscle mass and activity level. For instance, the typical 50-year-old woman requires only 75 percent of the calories she needed to consume in her twenties. If you are middle-aged, but you stay very fit and have good muscle tone, you may be able to get away with consuming a few more daily calories before you notice any weight gain.

If you find you do need to reduce your caloric intake, but you're concerned about feeling hungry, consider shifting to a more plant-based diet. That is, make sure more of your food volume consists of fruits, vegetables and other sources of fiber that fill you up, but don't pack as many calories.

Did you know that for every gram of fiber we eat, our bodies eliminate about seven calories? Replacing fatty, starchy and sugary foods with lean proteins and healthy fibers can shave calories from your diet. Your best sources of fiber are whole grains like popped popcorn (no butter), oats, wild rice, beans, lentils, and fruits and vegetables with edible skins or seeds.

Exercise is a Must

Once your doctor clears you to begin an exercise program, make sure you get at least 30 minutes of exercise at least three days a week. Exercising helps you lose some pounds and also increases your muscle mass, which can speed up your metabolism. As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass. So, if you can, add some weight training to your workout routine to prevent the loss of muscle mass. A bonus is that better muscle tone makes you look younger longer.

Manage Your Stress

Midlife stress can lead to overeating and weight gain. By identifying the stress triggers in your life, you can begin to make lifestyle changes to diminish or eliminate those sources of stress, which can help head off snack attacks or the urge to overeat.

If it isn't realistic to eliminate the sources of your stress, try finding a new activity that will help you relieve the stress. Sign up for that yoga class you’ve always wanted to try, or get a portable music player to use while you exercise so you can play tunes that invigorate you and make you feel good. If spending time with someone you can talk to would help you relieve built-up tension, then grab a friend and get outside to explore a local hiking trail.

To join a discussion on stress and how to relieve it, visit the Healthboards Stress Message Board.

You can also check out the suggestions for how to cope with life's main stressors in our Anxiety Center.
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