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The Weight Gain Which Accompanies Aging - A Question

 
 
Reply Sat 26 May, 2012 09:07 pm
When I was growing up, my father usually weighed about 30 to 35 pounds more than what I would regard as his ideal weight. I remember sometimes criticizing him for a lack of willpower. At that time, and until I was about 19, I was much too skinny and couldn't gain enough weight to have the appearance I would have preferred. I tried to eat more, but it did no good. Then, when I was about 19 or 20, my weight began to rise and remained at a level I would have regarded as ideal for about 15 years. During that period, I could eat as much or as little as I pleased and yet my weight remained about 165, which I think is about ideal for my height, which is 5'10". During some of this period, I was very sedentary, but my weight remained at about 165 pounds. When I was about 35, I found to my surprise that I was beginning to gain weight, and finally began having to control my eating. It has gotten worse every year since. I believe that most of the population over 35 or 40 has a similar problem to mine. Now I have to make a nearly superhuman effort to get down to the mid 180s. Suffice it to say that if I ate anything approaching what I wish, I would weigh well over 200 pounds. If I run and lift weights, I start looking much better, but it has zero effect on my tendency to gain weight.

As a young person, I had always assumed that older people were often pudgy because they stopped caring about their appearance. Now I realized that it is a true change in body function. Yet I have heard virtually nothing about the scientific reason for the metabolic change. The issue is often discussed, but never scientifically - at least not withing my earshot. They simply say that your metabolism slows down as you age, but nary a word about what the cause is. Discussions are almost exclusively about advice to manage the problem, delay it, mitigate it, etc.

So the question is this. Does anyone have the slightest idea what the cause of this phenomenon is scientifically? Is it a problem in the cellular structures? Is it a problem with the hormones? If I have to endure it, I would at least like to understand it. Please discuss.
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Type: Question • Score: 5 • Views: 4,726 • Replies: 28
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jespah
 
  2  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 08:04 am
@Brandon9000,
I have been looking into weight gain/loss/you name it for a few years now, and I really haven't seen anything specific on it. Doctors - including my own - simply seem to shrug and say, "It's aging." Well, uh, that's nice.

For women, it may be, at least in part, menopausally-driven. There are also sleep disturbances that can accompany menopause, and a lack of good quality sleep is associated with weight gain.

My own pet theory is a combination of factors, e. g. slower recovery times mean people may be less likely to push themselves with exercise, and so running times might suffer (and therefore fewer calories are burned). A diminished sense of smell might result in some overcompensation with fatty or salty foods, thereby increasing caloric intake and/or adding to the chances of retaining salt. Socializing tends to become more about restaurants than about playing frisbee or the like. More driving means fewer chances for exercise. Plus sleep disturbances and hormonal reduction as stated above.

But I have not seen studies on any of this, sorry.
Green Witch
 
  2  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 08:17 am
@Brandon9000,
Like everything else when we age our metabolism is not as efficient as a younger one. We lose muscle mass that helps us burn fat, we lose stamina that helps us move faster and longer. Our bodies change shape and we become softer so we even look fatter without adding a lot of pounds. Basically gravity wins. I was told to cut calories by about 20% after the age of 45 to keep weight gain to a minimum. but even after doing that I realize I am never again going to be 125lbs unless I end up surviving a famine. I do know a few people who have maintained their youthful weight, but there seems to be a genetic component rather than a diet and exercise factor. I'm just glad I'm old enough to not care as much as I did in my 20's and 30's about physical appearance. I still eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle without associating it with being a size 6. There probably are scientific breakdowns of this process, but I don't personally know of any.
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 08:27 am
@Brandon9000,
There's more than one factor that combine to determine your weight. Age, and it's effects on your metabolism, is one. What you eat is another. If your diet consists mostly of processed foods or carbs then your aging metabolism simply isn't able to keep up with the salt and sugar you're eating. If greasy burgers and fries are your mainstay then you're going to pack on the pounds even if you could eat a triple bacon cheeseburger daily back in the day.

If you change your diet to match your changing metabolism you'll be much more successful, but it truly does mean making a lifestyle change. Whole foods (not the store, it means non-processed) that are high in protein, low on salt and sugar are your best bet at this age.
Green Witch
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 08:46 am
I thought this was a good report on the topic, but apparently some of the process is still a mystery:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123887823
CalamityJane
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 09:07 am
I agree with what's been said, there are many factors that contribute to
gaining weight - never just one!
Yet I do think that the main reason is what we put in our mouth. Processed food makes our entire body sluggish, not only our metabolism - our organs are part of it too!

If you do a 2 week detoxifying diet with no salt, sugar, no alcohol and no
processed food and only a few good carbohydrates, you'll lose fat weight faster, in addition to exercising of course. You'll never be at the same weight you were in your 20s, but you certainly will feel healthy, energetic and your organs are in tune again.
0 Replies
 
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 09:43 am
@jespah,
jespah wrote:

I have been looking into weight gain/loss/you name it for a few years now, and I really haven't seen anything specific on it. Doctors - including my own - simply seem to shrug and say, "It's aging." Well, uh, that's nice.

For women, it may be, at least in part, menopausally-driven. There are also sleep disturbances that can accompany menopause, and a lack of good quality sleep is associated with weight gain.

My own pet theory is a combination of factors, e. g. slower recovery times mean people may be less likely to push themselves with exercise, and so running times might suffer (and therefore fewer calories are burned). A diminished sense of smell might result in some overcompensation with fatty or salty foods, thereby increasing caloric intake and/or adding to the chances of retaining salt. Socializing tends to become more about restaurants than about playing frisbee or the like. More driving means fewer chances for exercise. Plus sleep disturbances and hormonal reduction as stated above.

But I have not seen studies on any of this, sorry.

Thanks for your reply. I have to dispute the idea that a principal part of the phenomenon is associated with lifestyle changes such as eating more and exercising less. In my own case it is absolutely clear that there has been a profound change in how food is processed by my body. I eat far less now than when I was younger, simply because I don't want to weight 300 pounds, and when I was younger, even if I was utterly sedentary, I was very, very thin. I actually tried in vain to gain weight.
0 Replies
 
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 09:46 am
@Green Witch,
Green Witch wrote:

Like everything else when we age our metabolism is not as efficient as a younger one. We lose muscle mass that helps us burn fat, we lose stamina that helps us move faster and longer. Our bodies change shape and we become softer so we even look fatter without adding a lot of pounds. Basically gravity wins. I was told to cut calories by about 20% after the age of 45 to keep weight gain to a minimum. but even after doing that I realize I am never again going to be 125lbs unless I end up surviving a famine. I do know a few people who have maintained their youthful weight, but there seems to be a genetic component rather than a diet and exercise factor. I'm just glad I'm old enough to not care as much as I did in my 20's and 30's about physical appearance. I still eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle without associating it with being a size 6. There probably are scientific breakdowns of this process, but I don't personally know of any.

It may be that the loss of mucle mass you refer to is a reason why fewer calories are needed, but, if so, then I would ask why we lose muscle mass. I have had periods during the last few years when I lifted weights and ran on a treadmill a lot, and gained a great deal of muscle mass, but it didn't seem to return me to being able to eat anything and remain thin, as was true until I was about 35.
0 Replies
 
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 09:49 am
@JPB,
JPB wrote:

There's more than one factor that combine to determine your weight. Age, and it's effects on your metabolism, is one. What you eat is another. If your diet consists mostly of processed foods or carbs then your aging metabolism simply isn't able to keep up with the salt and sugar you're eating. If greasy burgers and fries are your mainstay then you're going to pack on the pounds even if you could eat a triple bacon cheeseburger daily back in the day.

If you change your diet to match your changing metabolism you'll be much more successful, but it truly does mean making a lifestyle change. Whole foods (not the store, it means non-processed) that are high in protein, low on salt and sugar are your best bet at this age.

The problem is that I ate the same crap when I was a kid and it didn't have the effect of making me gain weight. Clearly, there is a real change to our metabolisms as we age. Furthermore, I have tried twice to revert to a diet of natural foods cooked by my wife, and both times I gained so much weight that I had to stop and return to diet foods. Clearly MCDonald's is not the primary culprit.
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 09:52 am
@Green Witch,
Green Witch wrote:

I thought this was a good report on the topic, but apparently some of the process is still a mystery:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123887823

This is very interesting, and not very encouraging. It makes the process look completely irreversible.
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 09:57 am
It's a rather discouraging thing, eh?
0 Replies
 
Green Witch
 
  2  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 10:02 am
@Brandon9000,
Brandon9000 wrote:

Green Witch wrote:

I thought this was a good report on the topic, but apparently some of the process is still a mystery:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123887823

This is very interesting, and not very encouraging. It makes the process look completely irreversible.


As irreversible as all aging I would think. Roll with it. I'm of the opinion that immortality would suck.
0 Replies
 
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 10:04 am
@Brandon9000,
Quote:
Furthermore, I have tried twice to revert to a diet of natural foods cooked by my wife, and both times I gained so much weight that I had to stop and return to diet foods.
I gained 10 lbs on Weight Watches. It wasn't the right thing for me. What kinds of things was she cooking?
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 10:08 am
@JPB,
JPB wrote:

Quote:
Furthermore, I have tried twice to revert to a diet of natural foods cooked by my wife, and both times I gained so much weight that I had to stop and return to diet foods.
I gained 10 lbs on Weight Watches. It wasn't the right thing for me. What kinds of things was she cooking?

Meat, vegetables, grains, and we ate fruit. I tried to eat like people did a couple of centuries ago. It didn't alter my metabolism or provide a magical way to lose weight.
JPB
 
  2  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 11:04 am
@Brandon9000,
Two hundred years ago we didn't have cars, television or other electronics, and we tended to work hard by manual labor all day. Take a look at your great-grandmother's china if it's still in the family. Her dinner plates were the size of what we now call a luncheon plate. Also, food was scarce and the idea of second servings was a very special occasion. Life expectancy of a baby born in 1850 was 38 years. A 20-year old born in 1830 who survived infant mortality could expect to see 60 on average by 1850. Now we think people in their mid-80s still have another 10 years to live.

We aren't the same people living in the same conditions as those who lived 200 years ago. Eating and living like them requires much more than just the types of things we put on our plates.

There's also a genetic component. My grandmother was born in 1891. She was obese (as were her siblings) by the time I was born in 1956. My family tree has a lot of obese people. They weren't lazy, some probably ate more than others, but the propensity to put on weight runs in families.

There are some very easy changes you can make in today's world that add up to real lbs lost (or at least not gained in the future). Minimizing processed foods, sugar, salt, large plates, and second servings can drop upwards of 20lbs in a year.

There is one book written by a food scientist that I can recommend. Some of his studies are for clients who want to entice their customers to eat more. Others are for clients who want to help their patients/clients eat less. His observations are sometimes fascinating.

Mindless Eating

Quote:
Dr. Wansink is a food psychologist who specializes in the investigation of the mental and emotional factors that cause us to eat. This book demonstrates that we can lose weight, simply by being more mindful of our eating habits. It contains interesting and humorous case studies that highlight those mindless activities that add 200 or 300 calories to our diet each day and which can add up to 20 or 30 excess pounds in the course of a year.

The author provides practical suggestions at the end of each chapter that will help you to make the simple changes that will allow you to lose 2 or 3 pounds per month without resorting to conventional diet techniques that are doomed to failure. Although this book is based upon scientific research and extensively end-noted, it is enjoyable to read, easy to understand and quite funny at times.


edit: The extensive endnotes may be what you're looking for in terms of scientific discussion.
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 12:33 pm
@JPB,
JPB wrote:

...edit: The extensive endnotes may be what you're looking for in terms of scientific discussion.

Only if they discuss the physiological cause of metabolism with age, which is the only thing I care about on this topic.
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 12:46 pm
@Brandon9000,
These folks have a list of publications on the subject, including a 2001 study described here that you may find interesting.

I disagree with those who say that weight gain with aging is "only" a result of a changing metabolism. I don't think it's something you simply have to learn to live with.
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 04:26 pm
@JPB,
JPB wrote:

These folks have a list of publications on the subject, including a 2001 study described here that you may find interesting.

I disagree with those who say that weight gain with aging is "only" a result of a changing metabolism. I don't think it's something you simply have to learn to live with.

There is a curious mind frame which seems to set in when one discusses the science of aging, as though it were not a scientific problem in the category of other scientfic problems, and as though the mechanisms involved were not even in principle subject to understanding and reversal.

Some comments and articles above indicate that the weight gain and changed metabolism which occurs with aging may result from the loss of muscle, and from damaged muscle metabolism. Surely, those are scientfic matters which at some future time might be understood and treatable.
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2012 09:35 pm
@Brandon9000,
Oh, yes, JPB, the Jean Mayer people are at the forefront of some of this research.
Mark Hawk
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 May, 2012 07:48 am
I think it a problem with the hormones because I can see lots of cases like this in which people are not eat so much but their weight is gaining by time to time.
0 Replies
 
 

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