by Doug Marrin

Maintaining the proper body weight is easy in our 20s and 30s. But as we start to creep towards the dreaded “five-oh”, it is startling how quickly the weight comes on and how hard it is to get off. But is that just the way it goes? Are we simply expected to succumb to the natural order of things and buy bigger clothes?

As tough as it may seem to get the weight off as we age, it is important to realize that it isn’t because we aren’t just trying hard enough. Eliza Kingsford, psychotherapist and author of Brain-Powered Weight Loss tells us, “As we age, our bodies start to change metabolically. However, this doesn’t mean you are doomed to gain weight or are unable to lose weight as you round 40. The keys to success lie in consistency and mindfulness.”

Maybe you’ll need to be more focused and dedicated to your goals than when you were younger, but that doesn’t mean those goals aren’t reachable. But don’t despair. You’ve got a big advantage in being around long enough to connect the dots between nutrition and health and you can use that to your advantage.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you get older:

WATCH YOUR EATING PATTERNS

“I won’t sugarcoat it, you need to be more mindful when you’re older about what you’re feeding your body and how you’re moving,” Kingsford says. “As the metabolism slows with age, we can often no longer get away with some of the indulgences that our bodies used to forgive us for.”

But don’t let the fear of dramatic changes shoot you down before you get off the ground. Instead of thinking in terms of extreme calorie reduction or jumping on the fad diet train, think instead about long term strategies. Consider adjusting, not radically changing, eating choices and patterns such as portion sizes, why you eat at certain times, and why you pick the foods you do.


SORRY, PORTION SIZE IS KEY

American culture is designed for us to overeat and as a result be overweight. Processed foods are readily available for our ease-of-life mentality. Home cooking is shadowed by convenience and eating out.

Portion sizes have increased dramatically from a couple of decades ago and along with them, our pant sizes. It can be useful to track what you eat and realized package “serving size” doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how much you should eat. Don’t panic. You will live.


WATCH YOUR CARBS AND CALORIES

Common wisdom is to restrict calories and limit macro nutrients such as fat, carbs, and protein. “When you’re older, these methods can backfire,” explains Aaron Leventhal, a NSCA-certified personal trainer and owner of Fit Studios in Minneapolis. In his work with older clients, he’s seen challenges when calories and carbs get too restricted.

“Often, there’s a ‘starvation effect,’ and that tends to happen more for those over age 45 than those who are younger,” he says. “That means the body holds on to fat and seems to slow down a metabolism that’s already changing because of age.”


INCORPORATE SOME RESISTANCE

Muscle mass decreases with age causing your resting metabolic rate to also decrease. As a result, you don’t burn as many calories. This can be exacerbated by poor diet, smoking, alcohol use, sedentary habits and genetics.

The good news is that its not inevitable. In some situations it can even be reversed.

Weight lifting shouldn’t be thought of as straining to lift your max with loud, straining grunts. Light weights used a few times a week can help you regain what has been lost but also increase bone mass. Studies have suggested it might improve sleep, help cardiovascular health, boost your mood and confer other benefits.

It’s not your imagination. Losing or maintaining weight as you get older is harder. But, getting more conscious and intentional about what, when, and why you’re eating as well as a little strength training into your routine can help you age better.