Middle-aged spread – is it inevitable or can something be done to avoid putting on weight as we reach middle age. As we approach our 40’s it seems easy to gain weight but not so easy to lose weight. Here are some causes and tips.
Why Do We Gain Weight in Our Mid 40s?
Middle aged spread! You’ve probably heard the term. It refers to the human tendency to begin gaining weight when we reach our forties.
Middle age weight gain is a common problem. Lots of people start piling on extra pounds as they get older. Even people who have been slim all of their lives.
But why is middle-age weight gain an issue for so many people? It’s a good question. It’s also a question that’s quite difficult to answer because many different factors can come into play.
What Causes Weight Gain in Middle Age?
Here are some of the reasons we put on weight (middle aged spread) as we reach 40.
As they reach middle-age, women have an issue to contend with that men do not—menopause. It causes hormonal changes. That’s one of the reasons middle-age women often begin putting on weight.
Estrogen is one of the main culprits. During menopause, estrogen levels can fluctuate wildly and often begin to rise. Research suggests high estrogen levels may make a woman’s body become more efficient at storing fat.
Although hormonal changes appear to be one of the reasons women in their 40s may suddenly start gaining weight, it’s not the only reason. Mid-life women also have to contend with other factors that are the same as the ones that affect middle-aged men.
Becoming Less Active Causes Weight Gain in Middle Age
As we grow older, we often become less active. This is not true for everyone but it happens a lot. If you sit and think about it, you will probably realize you know people who have “slowed down” in this way.
Lots of things can contribute to this reduction in physical activity. One of them is hormonal and, in this case, it’s a problem that’s more pronounced in men.
As the male body grows older, it gradually cuts back on testosterone production. By the time a man reaches his 40th year, his testosterone level will be significantly lower than it was during his adolescent years.
Lack of testosterone can make the body more prone to fatigue. It can also reduce the motivation that’s necessary to get things done.
Low testosterone interferes with the body’s ability to burn fat as well. It affects the body in lots of other ways too.
When testosterone levels dwindle it makes it harder to retain muscle mass. Loss of muscle mass slows down the metabolism. This is another factor that can make middle-age men and women start to gain weight. Thankfully there are products that can boost testosterone levels naturally.
As we age, the body also starts producing less human growth hormone (HGH). Again, this is something that can cause aging men and women to begin gaining weight.
Hormonal changes are not the sole reason people become less active as they get older. Some people just begin getting lazier as they progress through their lives.
Diseases, such as arthritis, can also come into play. As we get older, the skin, ligaments, and tendons lose elasticity. Even without the presence of arthritis, this can cause stiff joints.
When your joints are giving you problems, it’s very easy to think, “Screw it! I don’t feel like exercising today.”
Eating More Food + Drinking More Alcohol
If we allow ourselves to slow down with age or have health problems that cause us to become less active, we may tend to spend more time snacking or enjoying a drink. It doesn’t have to happen but sometimes it does.
Boredom is another thing that may make us begin to eat more. Again, it depends on the individual in question, and their circumstances, but boredom is one reason why middle-age people may start to eat more. The same can be said for drinking alcohol.
Stress Can Cause Weight Gain in Middle Age
Midlife can be a very stressful period. Many people have to spend time juggling their work commitments with problems at home such as dealing with troublesome teenage kids.
There may also be other commitments. A lot of middle-aged people also have to provide support to their parents. When there’s a lot going on in your life, it’s easy to succumb to stress.
Research shows the stress hormone, cortisol, can cause you to begin storing extra fat. Especially in the areas around your belly and waist.
Stress can also make you succumb to the temptation to comfort eat. Doing so will only add more pounds to your frame.
Poor Quality Sleep
As we age, we may also find it harder to get enough quality sleep. It’s not a problem for everyone but it affects a lot of people.
Middle-age people may also find they wake up more times during the night. There can be many reasons for this. One of them is an increased need to visit the bathroom.
Snoring is another issue that affects middle-age people. Even if you don’t snore, it can still ruin your sleep when you share a bed with a partner who does.
There are other reasons why midlife people can be burdened with poor-quality sleep but, regardless of the cause, lack of sleep can make you more prone to gain weight.
Lack of sleep causes fatigue. Many people deal with this by eating sweet and sugary foods. The consequences of this are so obvious, they need no explanation.
Lack of sleep can also increase cortisol. This is bad too, for reasons we’ve already explained.
When you don’t get enough sleep, it retards leptin production while, simultaneously, increasing levels of ghrelin.
Leptin is the hormone that controls appetite. Ghrelin is the hormone that increases it. [source]
Decreasing Adipose Lipid Turnover
Adipose lipid turnover! That sounds very complicated, doesn’t it? The term comes from a scientific study conducted in 2019 by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. The study shows aging decreases lipid turnover in fat tissue.
Lipid turnover refers to the speed at which lipid (fat) within the fat cells is removed and stored.
The study was pretty long. It had a duration of 16 years. Fifty-four men and women took part. During that period, all the participants showed reductions in lipid turnover.
The reduction in lipid turnover occurred regardless of whether or not they sustained weight gain or weight loss.
The participants who did not compensate for this biological change by eating less food gained weight and the average weight gain was 20 percent.
In a nutshell, the study data shows aging causes changes in the way the body stores fat and releases it. These changes appear to be one of the reasons middle-age people gain weight and then find it so hard to turn the situation around.
Is Middle Age Weight Gain Inevitable?
Despite the fact that you may be fighting hormonal issues and other biological changes, it’s still possible to avoid midlife weight gain. It’s also possible to take steps to tackle the issue if it occurs.
Many people who are aged 40+ manage to remain slim. Do you think that’s down to fortunate genetics?
Although a few people may be lucky enough to have “good genetics”, a lot of middle-aged people make lifestyle choices that help them avoid getting fat.
The things they do are no different from the things younger individuals do to keep in shape.
Regardless of what your hormones may be doing, if you don’t provide your body with more calories than it needs, it won’t need to store fat. If you don’t provide it with enough calories, it will need to burn fat – so choose foods low in calories. Healthy living is the key.
How to Stop Middle Age Weight Gain
1. Keep Active
There are lots of things you can do to stay active. If you don’t want to go to the gym, you could take up a sport.
Try making other changes too, such as using the stairs instead of the elevator and walking instead of traveling by car or public transport.
2. Lift Weights
Maybe lifting weights is not your thing. However, resistance training of this type is good for building muscle.
Gaining some muscle mass will speed your metabolism and help you burn more calories per day.
3. Watch What You Eat
Avoid foods that are full of sugar and fat. You may have got away with it when you were younger but things have changed.
Try and stick to three meals per day. Focus on correct nutrition, be sensible about the portion size, and try not to snack.
Try to eat foods that will fill you up and choose foods that curb hunger cravings. There are also supplements that you can take that are natural that can help you control your hunger cravings – these are called appetite suppressing pills.
4. Mind the Drink
Alcohol contains more calories than you think. It has a lot more than protein and carbs and only slightly less than fat.
Sensible drinking may not be a problem but allowing too much alcohol into your life is only going to make that belly grow.
Soft drinks can be a minefield too. They often contain more sugar than you expect. Green tea, on the other hand, can increase metabolism and help you to burn more fat.
5. Get More Sleep and Avoid Stress
Geeting plenty of sleep and avoiding stress as much as possible can also help you to keep in shape. Getting more exercise will help you do the first. Things like yoga and mediation may help with the second.
Weight Gain in Middle Age – The Bottom Line
Keeping in shape can get harder as we get older. Just because something becomes more difficult, it does not make it impossible.
Granted, when you get older, you may need to be a little stricter about the food choices you make.
You may also find it harder to exercise, but it’s generally possible to find ways to keep active. There is no law that’s forcing you to glue your tush to the couch.
If you have medical issues or other difficulties that appear to be holding you back, your doctor should be able to offer you advice.
If you have a problem controlling your hunger, want to burn fat faster, or need an energy boost, there are specialist supplements that can help.