As I gained this enormous amount of weight over the past 10 years, and I whined about it to my friends and family, I was constantly told – “Oh well, you are getting older. You know once you hit your 50s, your metabolism slows considerably, and honestly there isn’t a thing you can do about it.” And I would always say, “Why? Why does your metabolism slow as you get older?” And the response was a shrug of the shoulders and “I don’t know…hormones maybe?”
What is the physiology behind one’s metabolism slowing as they age? So…..I did some research.
According to the Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.org) the reason we gain weight as we age boils down to two simple issues (but actually it is a lot more complicated – I am giving you the bottom line)
When we age – we lose muscle. The muscle is replaced with fat. Men manage to maintain their muscle composition much better than women, so they generally don’t gain the weight as fast as women do.
Calories in and calories out. Although we would like to blame the onset of “furniture disease” (that’s my husband’s phrase – when your chest falls into your drawers) on age, really it has more to do with diet and inactivity. The calories taken in, must be expended to avoid weight gain.
So how does one avoid the middle-aged weight creep? The weight just creeps up on you, and when you realize how much weight you have gained, you say “Oh this is all so overwhelming, what’s the point. I think I will watch TV and eat Cheese Puffs.”
There is no magic pill, or magic diet, it all boils down to energy expenditure. Therefore:
Increase your daily activity by exercising 30 minutes a day. It is said if you don’t have the time to do that at least do 3 increments of 10 minutes a day.
Strength training – This helps increase the muscle mass, and the loss of muscle as we age is the main reason we get fat as we age. My sons are always telling me – “Get in the gym, we will show you a 30-minute workout that will make you stronger, help you tone and increase your metabolism.” Turns out, they are right. According to the Mayo Clinic (who I trust completely) increasing muscle mass does in fact increase your metabolism (muscle burns more calories than globs of fat) and is key to losing weight. And it can be done at my age or any age really – I found a video on a woman who is 73 years old and bodybuilds with her daughter (of course they spend all day in the gym to do this – but it is possible at any age).
It turns out 1 pound of muscle burns about 6 calories per hour, whereas one pound of fat burns about 2 calories per day. It’s not a substantial difference, but every little bit helps.
As far as monitoring your progress, there are so many tools to help you with this. Back when I was a kid, even as a young adult if you wanted to diet, you had to buy a “caloric content book” because food packages were not plastered with the nutrient break down of the food item. Then you had to write all the calories in a little book. Then you had to add all the calories ingested by hand (calculators didn’t cost $3 at the grocery), because we were not armed with a mighty computer installed into a phone we carried around in our pockets. And exercise – I remember my parents had the Canadian Air Force Exercise book. Then in the 1980s Jane Fonda came out with her exercise tape, Jim Fixx wrote his book on running and Richard Simmons came on the scene.
But now, there are apps to track calories, which figures out how many calories you need to take in to lose so much weight. I just loaded “Lose it!” into my phone, it has what seems to be every food item in there. Or if it doesn’t, you can scan the barcode and it pulls the food item up. It’s brilliant.
I think in a previous post, I was talking about a Fitbit, to monitor my heart rate, steps walked and calories expended. But unfortunately, the Fitbits are not waterproof, so I couldn’t use it to swim. Well, I found the Apple Watch Series 2 – which is water-resistant to 50 meters. And my husband bought me one as an anniversary present. It is so cool. For about the first hour, after I put it on, I was asking my husband about every 10 minutes if he wanted to know what my heart rate was.
I have had the best time with this watch. We took the dogs over to the huge wooded park near us, and ran up and down hills – my watch told me we did 1.79 miles. Then yesterday, I gardened for most of the afternoon, and managed to burn off a huge number of calories – 509 calories to be exact. I read somewhere, the average British gardener burns about 19,000 calories a year, just puttering around in the garden. I can see why – I was plumb tuckered out after yesterday’s activities. Today, I am going to go swimming, and see how my Apple Watch works. I am very excited about that!!!