Ask Stew: How to Lose Mid Life Weight Gain

Military Eat Healthier

Gaining weight later in life (40 years and over) can be as easy as looking at food for most of us. Losing it however is much tougher than it was in our twenties.  Men and women both have a decrease in metabolism after forty years old – some even earlier.  We can however, fight the effects of aging with a steady AND daily exercise plan, stretching, de-stressing, and eating foods that are rich in protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Here is an email from a former Army Soldier who still gets after it but is in a constant battle of the bulge.

Stew, I am now 55, not much older than you I understand, and for the past ten years, I have been slowly gaining weight, even with a good diet, regular exercise (5-6 hours a week), and other outdoor activities.  I should be thankful that I am still this active, but just cannot shake this extra 10-15 pounds that I have gained since I was 45 years old.  Any recommendations?  Are you feeling my pain yet?  Jim

Thanks Jim. Reading this email is like looking in the mirror. Absolutely, I know exactly what you are going through. In fact, I even compound my weight gain issue since I like to lift and gain mass for a strength cycle during the Winter months. For the last few years, I have not been able to shake that extra 10-15 pounds of muscle / bulk gained in the Winter during our run cycle in the Spring.  This obviously makes running and exercises like pullups harder. Below is a list of tips to help you get the weight moving in the other direction again:

1 – Make a list of EVERYTHING – Everything you eat, snack, drink all day long needs to be put on paper so you can see it and do the math.  Add up the calories / portion sizes of every meal, snack, and drink. Also keep track of water intake. In fact, add more water (typically).

This was life changing. I realized I like to get a spoonful of peanut butter as a snack throughout the day. This is not an “unhealthy” snack, but does add up with calories.  A few days a week, I added 800 calories to my day with a few spoons just because it was there. This adds up by the end of the week and was my main contributor maintaining / slowing gaining a pound a month. No more peanut butter in the house and I dropped five pounds in 2 weeks!

2 – Keep up your activity – Like you said, we are lucky to be this active and enjoy exercising as a daily habit.  Keep this up, but play around with new training ideas and figure out roughly how many calories you are burning in a workout session.  You can also add in your other outdoor activities like walking a dog, yard work, or other active hobbies too.

I realized I needed to up my game a bit and add a second activity session in my day.  As an early bird exerciser, I am great with a higher metabolism in the morning, but found my afternoons were sluggish, if I ate a big lunch followed by little activity.  Now, a quick walk /jog of the dogs, a swim for 20 minutes, or bike ride helps me after a smaller meal to stay awake and productive at work and burning more calories in the day.

3 – Either / Or Both – Doing either one of the above or both will make a big difference in how you understand the calories you are taking in and the calories you are burning. I hate to say it is as simple as “calories in / calories out”, but it is the major factor in successful weight loss.  Sure, you should avoid refined foods, processed sugars, and empty calories and eat foods high in nutrients and fiber from all macronutrients (proteins, good carbs – fruits / vegetables, and fats).  See list or options.

4 – Some Foods Should be Avoided and All Need to be Controlled – At increasing ages like ourselves, outworking your diet is a thing in the past. Your ability to consume more calories is easier but the ability to burn them off at higher rates is more difficult. I have found that it came down to more portion control for me than what I was eating.  I do not eat sugar snacks, drink sodas, or sugary drinks, however, I will eat a second portion of chicken, steak, fish, peanut butter, and other nuts.  These are high calories foods that are great for the body but controlling that urge to eat more has been the ticket to not gaining five pounds a year.  If still hungry after dinner, and there is still more food just sitting there, save it for tomorrow. Try to top it off with a salad or extra glass of water.

In closing, find out where the leaks are in your diet by keeping track of food coming in and see if you can add something to your exercise plan that burns more calories (higher intensity, duration, resistance training, etc). Avoid sugar and focus on foods that keep you full that are higher in fiber, vitamin rich nutrients as listed in the links above.  Good luck.  Keep working!

 

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Contributor

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness