Why losing weight gets harder with age

RealPeopleGroup—Getty Images

Now that we’re spending more time at home, it’s even tougher to keep weight in check. Generally eating healthily and exercising regularly (even at home) will do the trick, but as you get older there are other factors that impact your waistline. So, why does losing weight get harder with age?

Muscle loss

As you get older you lose muscle. Since muscle actually burns more calories than fat, having less muscle means it’s harder to use the calories you’re eating. But why do you lose muscle? While hormones can play a role, the old adage “if you don’t move it you lose it” rings true. Whether it’s a busy family life or out-of-control work hours, finding time to stay active gets tougher and we tend to move less.


Increased stress can contribute to weight gain. Time pressures can relegate exercise to last on the list and, when you’re under the pump, it’s easy to ditch the diet and reach for a quick snack or sugar fix. Stress also increases your level of the hormone ghrelin, which makes you hungry and increases fat storage.

Slowing metabolism

Your metabolism runs 24/7, turning the food and drink you eat into energy for your body to function. Even when you’re sleeping, it’s providing your body with the energy needed to circulate blood, breathe and repair cells. Your metabolism can slow down with age, which means you burn fewer calories and store more fat.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes can tip the scales too. For women, it’s very common to gain weight during menopause, with a drop in oestrogen triggering an increase in weight, especially around the belly. For men, typically from the age of 40, testosterone levels drop. As testosterone is responsible for regulating fat distribution, muscle strength and muscle mass, less testosterone can make it harder to burn calories.

Preventing weight gain

Make each mouthful count. Rather than reaching for highly processed foods that lack nutrients, swap these out for mostly whole foods. Focus on nutrient-dense foods full of vitamins and minerals, fibre and protein, like fruit, vegies, legumes, nuts and wholegrains.

Watch portion sizes. If you don’t burn all the energy from the foods and drinks you consume, your body will store it as fat. As you get older it’s important to potentially cut back how much you eat.

Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and steer clear of fizzy drinks. Mild dehydration can cause symptoms similar to hunger. Don’t confuse the two and grab a snack instead of a glass of water. Dehydration has also been linked to increased risk of obesity and higher BMI.


Article courtesy of Sanitarium Health Food Company. Visit sanitarium.com.au or sanitarium.co.nz and subscribe to Wholicious living for more great health and nutrition info each month.

image Subscribe to our eNewsletter