Why Do We Gain Weight as We Age?

The average American gains 20 pounds between ages 25 and 55. It's depressing, and it's called middle aged spread. But is it invevitable? Here to set the record straight is registered dietician and author of "Age Proof Your Body" is Elizabeth Somer.


1) Eat regularly: Humans have always been nibblers. When we go against this basic drive and skip meals, we’re more likely to battle cravings and overeat later in the day, and are more likely to have a weight problem than are people who spread their food intake into mini-meals and snacks, starting with breakfast.

2) Think produce: Include two fruits and/or vegetables at every meal and snack. I’ve had clients lose up to 30 pounds following this guideline alone. Our ancient ancestors ate pounds of produce and always were lean. When you focus on low-calorie, fiber and nutrient-packed foods, you just won’t have as much room for the fatty and sugary stuff. This is as easy as a bowl of whole grain cereal with nonfat milk, a banana and glass of OJ for breakfast. At lunch, a half turkey sandwich (no mayo) with a salad (fat-free dressing) and an apple for lunch. At dinner, have a cup of steamed vegetables and a salad. Snacks can include frozen blueberries, baby carrots, or even strawberries dunked in a little chocolate syrup.

3) Focus on real food. Study after study shows that the more refined and processed or fast foods people eat, the more likely they will be overweight, especially as they age. If you focus on real food - that is whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nonfat milk products, and a little extra-lean meat or chicken or fish - you’ll automatically cut back on useless calories.

4) Think satiety. Some foods fill us up on fewer calories, so they give weight loss an extra boost. For example, a soon-to-be-published study found that the omega-3 fat DHA helps fill people up, so they lose weight faster and keep it off longer. Other satisfying, low-cal foods include broth-based soups, fat-free smoothies, having a salad with low-cal dressing before a meal, and cooked whole grains like brown rice or oatmeal. Include these foods frequently in the weekly menu.

5) Portions not Platters. Americans eat too much of the wrong stuff. A real serving of pasta is about the size of a softball (1 cup), but I ordered one serving of take out spaghetti the other day and it was 8 cups! That’s a platter, not a portion. Cut servings of grains and meat in half and load the plate with steamed vegetables and salad.

6) Take a supplement. If you consume less than 2,000 calories a day, you need to fill in the gaps by taking a moderate-dose multiple vitamin and mineral supplement, plus some extra calcium and magnesium.


The Bottom Line: No matter what the fad diets tell you, there are no quick-fix solutions to staying slim throughout life. On the other hand, you don’t need to take weight gain as an inevitable consequence of aging. Fuel your body with tasty, filling good-for-you foods. You also need to burn more calories than you take in, make changes gradually, and establish eating habits you can stick with for the rest of you life. Of course, eating right is only half the battle. People only maintain their weight loss when they exercise daily!


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