Six SNEAKY reasons why you start packing on the pounds
Plus, simple fixes that will have you looking—and feeling—fabulous
Many people struggle to keep their weight in check. Especially after 50.
(Even those who’ve never had a “weight problem” before!)
And while diet plays a crucial role, modern research shows there are six SNEAKY reasons why those pounds start to pack on… and that number on the scale relentlessly creeps UP with age.
Fortunately, I have some simple fixes that will have you looking—and feeling—fit and fabulous in no time.
Here’s everything you need to know…
Six scale saboteurs
1. Slower “lipid turnover.” In a recent, pioneering study from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, scientists studied the behavior of fat cells in men and women over a 13-year period.1
They found that lipid turnover slowed significantly as the participants got older—making it far easier for them to gain weight. (Lipid turnover is the rate at which your body removes and stores lipid [or fat] from fat cells.)
Furthermore, those who didn’t compensate for slower lipid turnover (more on that in a moment) gained an average of 20 percent in excess body weight.
Meaning a 150-pound woman packed on an extra 30 pounds… and a 200-pound man packed on an extra 40… in just over a decade!
This biological mechanism clearly explains why it’s so common to gain weight as you get older, even if you stick to your healthy (or usual) eating and exercise habits.
The fix: I would never suggest that you eat less to account for this unavoidable, biological aging factor. But you do have to choose the foods you eat more wisely. Because as you age, you’ll have far less wiggle room.
As always, make sure to build your diet around lean sources of protein with healthy monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and low-starch vegetables. Like grass-fed and -finished meat, fatty fish, nuts, avocado, broccoli, and more.
And stick to your commitment to get 150 minutes of exercise each week, as more physical activity helps to speed up the lipid turnover in fat tissue.
2. Less muscle mass. Another consequence of aging is sarcopenia. It involves the involuntary loss of skeletal muscle mass as you get older. And research suggests that most begin to experience it by age 40.
So, by 80, many will have lost a staggering 50 percent of their muscle mass!2
This slow, steady decline certainly impacts your ability to lift heavy boxes or grocery bags as you get older. But it also wreaks havoc on your waistline—mainly because muscle burns FAR more calories than fat…
Even when you’re at rest.3
In fact, 10 pounds of muscle burns about 50 calories a day when at rest. Whereas 10 pounds of fat only burns about 20 calories a day.
I should also mention that counting calories and limiting fat as you age will only make matters WORSE—this will cause you to lose more muscle instead of fat!
The fix: Since protein builds and maintains muscle, make sure to follow a diet filled with lots of lean protein (as mentioned above). Good sources include: fish, chicken, turkey, beef, eggs, beans, and lentils.
Of course, you need a lot more of it daily than you probably realize. I always recommend getting 1 gram of protein per pound you weigh. And if you’re trying to gain weight or build muscle, you’ll need TWICE that amount.
If you find it hard to reach that daily target, add a whey protein shake to your regimen. It’s an easy—and tasty—way to get 20 or more grams of vital protein. (For more about whey protein, just enter “whey” in the search box on my website, www.DrPescatore.com.)
You should also try to get some moderate-intensity aerobic training, resistance training (also called weight training), or a combination of the two into your routine, as they both help build and maintain muscle as you age.
And remember—you don’t need to bench hundreds of pounds to get results. In fact, more repetitions at a lower weight will still help you avoid flab and build lean muscle.
3. Hormone changes. Your hormone production also decreases with age, making it much harder to maintain a healthy waistline.
For women, estrogen levels (and other related hormones, such as progesterone) begin to decline during perimenopause. And fat is one of the places where the body stores estrogen. Therefore, when a woman enters menopause, her body stubbornly tries to hold onto fat in order to keep a supply of this youthful hormone.
For men, the gradual, age-related decline in testosterone results in less lean muscle mass and more fatty deposits. Plus, men also produce estrogen. And, like women, they can store it in their fat tissues, making them doughy and round, especially in the mid-section.
The fix: There are a number of nutritional approaches, based on your gender and stage in life, that can help you improve your metabolism, regulate your hormones, and build muscle.
For example, I recommend menopausal or postmenopausal women begin a daily regimen of these key amino acids and fat sources:
- 3,000 mg L-leucine
- 750 mg L-valine
- 750 mg L-isoleucine
- 5,000 mg L-glutamine
- 1,000 mg L-carnitine
- 1 tablespoon macadamia nut oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground chia seeds
Likewise, andropausal men over 40 should follow a daily regimen that includes:
- 6,000 mg L-leucine
- 1,500 mg L-valine
- 1,500 mg L-isoleucine
- 10,000 mg L-glutamine
- 3,000 mg L-carnitine
- 1 tablespoon macadamia nut oil
I go into far more detail about your dietary needs, based on your hormonal stage in life, in my A-List Diet book. Order yourself a copy from the “books” tab on my website, www.DrPescatore.com.
4. Medications. Some of the most common prescription medications—including beta blockers for high blood pressure, statins for cholesterol, and asthma medications—can also cause you to gain weight. And lots of people over age 50 take several of these drugs!
In fact, at the beginning of my clinical training in London, we had an older lady come into the hospital. One of the attending physicians said to me, in a very posh British accent I might add, that, “If you shake her, you will hear her rattle!”
He was basically telling me there was no reason for her to be on so many medications. That’s why, to this day, I always review my patient’s medications—and see how many we can discontinue. This is especially beneficial when you’re trying to keep your weight under control.
The fix: Find a general practitioner who will take the time to look at your health holistically. Then, at your next visit, ask him or her to review your medication list to see what you do—and don’t—need.
And while you’re at it, check to see if there are any natural approaches you can try instead of medications. (This is where being a newsletter subscriber and having complete, free access to my archives can come in handy.)
5. Stress. Stress is a huge factor behind weight gain after 50. For one, when you’re under excess stress, you may feel the urge to load up on junk food—like greasy burgers, French fries, and chocolate shakes.
Plus, new research out of Stanford University suggests that stress triggers weight gain on a cellular level. 4 It all starts with your body’s production of glucocorticoids, a class of hormones that includes the so-called “stress hormone” cortisol…
Normally, your glucocorticoid levels rise and fall in a 24-hour cycle. They hit their lowest point at about 3 a.m. Then, they peak around 8 a.m.—as a wake-up signal that “turns on” your appetite and gets you moving for the day.
But, as the Stanford researchers found, stress can also increase your glucocorticoid levels at ANY time of day. As a result, your body begins converting “precursor” cells—which are a type of “stem” cell—into fat cells.
In fact, in the final stage of this research, the Stanford scientists raised glucocorticoid levels in lab mice to see what would happen. And in just 21 days, the animals DOUBLED their fat mass… even though their feedings remained the exact same.
Of course, the research on mice is just a start—and you know how I feel about animal studies. But these results offer an interesting and compelling perspective into one of the many ways that stress causes weight gain… even in humans.
The fix: You have many tools at your disposal to lower your stress and normalize your glucocorticoid levels.
Some of the best ways include practicing some daily mediation or yoga. In fact, any form of exercise can help.
I also recommend CBD. Look for a product that contains full spectrum hemp. Capsules are convenient and effective, but CBD oil is really the only delivery method that allows you to determine for yourself exactly how much you need to achieve the stress-relieving effects.
6. Sitting disease. Inactivity—or “sitting disease,” as I call it—certainly doesn’t help you win the battle of the bulge as you get older. Plus, it can raise your risk of developing any number of chronic diseases, including dementia, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 28 percent of Americans over age 50 are completely inactive—meaning they don’t move at all beyond what’s required for basic living.5 And the statistics only grow worse with each additional birthday.
The fix: I don’t believe in magic bullets for weight loss or disease prevention. But the one thing that comes pretty, darn close is getting some daily exercise.
The formula is simple: Get three minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity—or 12 minutes of light activity—for every hour you sit during the day.6
According to a recent study, that’s exactly what you need to keep the weight off, improve your health, and even slash your risk of early death.
You can make this “three-to-one recipe” work for you in various ways.
- 55 minutes of exercise, along with 4 hours of light activity, and 11 hours of sitting, or
- 13 minutes of exercise, along with 5.5 hours of light activity, and 10.3 hours of sitting, or
- 3 minutes of exercise, along with 6 hours of light activity, and 9.2 hours of sitting.
My absolute favorite workout—and the one I do at least four times a week—is a cycling class called SoulCycle. But, as always, you do you! In other words, whatever type of activity makes moving fun for you, is the activity you should do!
In the end, a wealth of ongoing research confirms that our metabolic and hormonal processes naturally slow down after 50. So, don’t be surprised if you start to notice the effect of these changes in your mid-section as you get older.
But, that doesn’t mean you automatically “lose.”
It just means you have to sharpen your focus on all the healthy basics: following a healthy, balanced diet, supplementing wisely, eliminating unnecessary drugs, sitting less, and exercising more regularly. It really is as simple as that.
- “Adipose lipid turnover and long-term changes in body weight.” Nature Medicine, 2019; 25 (9): 1385. doi.org/10.1038/s41591-019-0565-5
- “Sarcopenia in older adults.” Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2012 Nov;24(6):623-7. doi.org/10.1097/BOR.0b013e328358d59b.
- “8 Ways to Burn Calories and Fight Fat.” WebMD, 5/11/2007. (webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/8-ways-to-burn-calories-and-fight-fat#:~:text=When%20you%20exercise%2C%20you%20use,fat%20would%20burn%2020%20calories.)
- “A Transcriptional Circuit Filters Oscillating Circadian Hormonal Inputs to Regulate Fat Cell Differentiation.” Cell Metabolism, 2018; 27 (4): 854. doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2018.03.012
- “Press Release.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9/15/16. (cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0915-physical-activity.html#:~:text=Inactivity%20significantly%20increased%20with%20age,chronic%20disease%20(19.2%20percent)
- “Joint association between accelerometry-measured daily combination of time spent in physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep and all-cause mortality: a pooled analysis of six prospective cohorts using compositional analysis.” British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2021; bjsports-2020-102345. doi.org/1136/bjsports-2020-102345