As you reach your mid- to late 40s, you go through many changes. Some of these have more to do with your mental and emotional state than you might expect. You might experience frequent fluctuations in your mood, or lose interest in activities you were previously passionate about. The other changes you experience are more physical, like finding a grey hair, or realizing your teeth have gotten more sensitive.
Some of the changes you go through are noticeable, and some of them are not. There’s one change you go through when you’re in your mid- to late 40s that you can’t not notice- midlife weight gain.
Weight Gain in Midlife
As you reach your mid- to late 40s, you may notice that your clothes feel a little tighter. Contrary to popular belief, this happens regardless of other habits such as exercise or dietary practices. Even if you haven’t changed your daily routine at all (this involves eating and exercising just as much as you always did), midlife weight gain is unavoidable.
Basically, when you’re middle-aged, it seems as though when you eat healthy for a week, you lose about half a kilogram, but when you eat just one teaspoon of ice cream, you gain about five.
So why does this happen?
Changes to your metabolism. Think of your metabolism as a calorie-burning engine—whatever you consume, your metabolism burns. Your ‘naturally skinny’ friends who seem to be able to eat anything and everything without gaining a single kilogram of weight aren’t just ‘lucky’—they simply have a high metabolism.
As you age, your metabolism slows. Unfortunately, metabolism slows down by about 5% with each decade you cross. That’s why it’s going to seem like no matter how many crunches you do, gaining weight in your 40s is inevitable. Weight gain is directly linked to the development of lifestyle diseases. Lifestyle diseases are on the rise in India, and people are taking up health insurance plans to fight the woes of it. However, in order to avoid hospital stay and get on with a fulfilling and happy life, here’s what you can do.
For starters, don’t worry there is a way to prevent weight gain during midlife. There are several dietary changes you can make to slow down the appearance of those extra kilos.
- Avoid Fad Diets: Don’t believe all those diets that tell you they can make you lose weight in a week—especially those that tell you you can do it without exercise! These diets, known as fad diets, are popularly followed because of the over-the-top promises they make. Unfortunately, the only weight that leaves you when you follow a fad diet is your water weight. Since you lose water weight almost immediately, you may think you’ve lost weight, but don’t be fooled—as soon as you complete a fad diet, your weight comes right back.
- Get Lean—Literally: The more muscle your body has, the less likely you are to gain weight. That’s why it’s important to maintain your muscle, especially as you move further into your 40s. Having more muscle helps to burn more calories and increases your metabolism. Research has shown that the inevitable loss of muscle, or sarcopenia, can be slowed down by consuming high quantities of protein, especially lean protein. One such study found that men and women who ate the most protein lost 40% less lean mass than those who ate the least protein.
- Leave Sugar Alone: Next time, say no to that fizzy delight you so crave. Did you know that replacing just one can of regular soda per day would keep you from consuming the equivalent of over nine kilograms of sugar a year?! Most of us don’t realize soda is one of the biggest contributors of sugar. To solve this problem, it’s a good idea to replace soda with water.
- Fill Up With Fiber: Whole grains, oats, wild rice, popcorn—all these foods are filled with one of the best nutrients for you: fiber.The best thing about fiber is that it fills you up. That way, you’re not tempted to eat more, as your stomach is already satisfied.As an added bonus, fiber itself doesn’t provide any calories, as your body can’t digest or absorb it.
- Go Plant-Based: Turns out the vegan craze has some basis after all. We’re not saying you should go totally vegan, but going vegetarian, even for a little bit, can help kick-start your weight loss. A vegetarian diet usually has less saturated fat (the bad kind of fat) in comparison to non-vegetarian ones, so you lose weight a lot quicker. The chart below should give you a good idea on how to follow a plant-based diet. Keep in mind that as the picture says, you shouldn’t be cutting carbs out of your diet entirely—balance is key.
- Be A Little Nutty: Or rather, be a lot nutty. While we previously mentioned that saturated fat is the bad kind of fat, nuts are filled with the good kind. If you do happen to be vegetarian already, nuts is a great way to add in some protein to your diet. They’re also loaded with vitamin E, and to make things even better, they’re cholesterol-free. The next time you get a hunger pang, grab a handful of almonds or walnuts. Not only are they super healthy, but they’ll keep you full for a long time.
Don’t worry—going through weight-related changes as you age is completely normal, and you’re not alone. It’s relatively easy to alter your dietary practices to prevent, or slow down, these changes.
However, it’s best that you try to stick to a routine diet. Make changes now, and your future self will thank you.