Weight Gain As You Age: Is It Inevitable?

Many people gain weight as they age -- is this weight gain inevitable or are there things you can do to prevent it? The good news is that yes, you can prevent this weight gain.
woman on scale
When I was youngster, I dreaded becoming “old” because I kept hearing that weight gain after 30 is unavoidable. As it turns out, I’m hitting 40 soon and weigh less than I did during my college days. The same can’t be said about some of my old college buds. So what gives?
Calorie Count

One of the things I typically hear from clients is that they’ve always eaten the same amount of food yet are still gaining weight. Oftentimes folks don’t realize that your metabolism can slow down as much as 5% each decade after 40. So if you’re eating at 40 or 50 the same way you did when you were 18 years old, of course you’re putting on weight!

Here’s a look at the caloric needs over time for an average-sized man who exercises moderately (30-60 minutes) each day:

  • At 18 years old = 2,800 calories
  • At 30 years old = 2,600 calories
  • At 50 years old = 2,400 calories
  • At 70 years old = 2,200 calories

If his activity level declines over time – which often happens once the kids are born or retirement hits, then calorie needs also decline.

The Biggest Culprits

There are many contributing factors to long-term weight gain including food choices and lifestyle habits. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed over 120,000 people over 20 years. On average, folks gained 17 pounds over 2 decades. Some of the biggest food contributors to weight gain were:

  • Potato chips
  • Potatoes
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Red meats
  • Processed meats

Folks who ate more of the following foods gained fewer pounds over the years:

  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Yogurt
Lifestyle habits that caused weight gain included:
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Alcohol: One alcoholic drink per day equated to a 0.41-pound increase over 4 years.
  • Too little (less than 6 hours) or too much (more than 8 hours) of sleep
  • Watching TV: the more TV time, the more weight gained
So . . . Is Weight Gain Inevitable?

Many folks do gain weight as they age but it’s not inevitable. Those extra pounds are often due to bad habits that go on for years. If your weight’s been creeping up for some time, the New Year is a fabulous time to start making changes for a new you. Look at what you eat, your exercise habits, TV time and sleep habits and start making some changes for the better. If you need help getting started, seek the guidance of a registered dietitian in your area.

TELL US: Do you think weight gain over time is inevitable?

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