According to experts at the UC Health Weight Loss Center, from an evolutionary perspective, it used to be good for us to become heavier as we grew older because we had to survive the winter. In modern times, we have the luxury of not worrying about survival. However, biologically and physiologically speaking, we continue to store energy as fat and lose lean muscle mass if we don’t regularly use our muscles.
Designed to Eat
Humans are designed to eat every three to four hours to fuel their bodies and metabolism, as well as to reserve a standard time period in which we do not eat. Over time, people are no longer getting the proper amount of sleep, which often takes a back seat to screen time, working longer hours, etc. Our bodies need to be fuel free for a certain period of time and fasting for 12 hours can have benefits to our physical health. Therefore, it’s important to have at least seven and a half hours of sleep, and use this time to not eat.
20s & 30s
Malti Vij, MD, NCMP advises to eat planned portions of plants and protein, and fuel your body with good nutrition 80% of the time. No one is expected to eat perfectly healthy 100% of the time, but if we try to embrace the 80/20 rule, then 20% of your diet can be those foods you want. Moderate intensity exercise can set the stage for maintaining a healthy weight in future years.
40s & 50s
Metabolic changes tend to happen most prominently. Focus on nutrient-dense foods, such as lean proteins, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Brain-healthy fats are extremely important, such as avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Avoid overly processed carbohydrates, such as refined grains, white bread, seeds, candy and foods with added sugars. These foods can contribute to excess calories, promoting weight gain.
Embrace weight training. At age 50, you have about 20% less muscle mass than you did when you were 20. Since muscle is metabolically active, more lean muscle mass equals increased weight loss.
“Many women gain weight during menopause, which occurs during this age range,” says Dr. Vij. “Scientific studies have proven neither menopause nor hormone therapy is responsible for the added pounds—weight gain during menopause is mostly related to aging and lifestyle.”
“Maintaining a healthy weight early in life lays the groundwork for keeping a healthy weight later in life – and especially during the 40s to 60s when most chronic diseases emerge.”
Dr. Vij continues, “Sleep deprivation is another significant factor which affects our physiology by increasing levels of the hormone “Ghrelin,” which tells your brain to become hungry and seek out food,” she adds. Many people begin taking new medications for management of chronic ailments. “It’s important to discuss weight gain as a side effect of certain medications with your doctor.”
60s & Above
During our 60s and beyond, more focus should be on physical activity. The goal is to keep muscles strong. It’s about using muscles every day, throughout the day. Exercises that are easy on the joints are recommended, such as walking and water exercises, as well as low-impact cardiovascular activities including biking, dancing and yoga.