Why is it harder to keep weight off as you get older? Tips to lessen weight gain as you age

Heather Campbell
 min read

Why is it harder to keep weight off as you get older? It seems that overnight, the pounds refuse to shift no matter how hard you try.

Why is it harder to keep weight off as you get older? Tips to lessen weight gain as you ageAs you get older, your weight increases, or that’s something you often hear anyway. The assumption is that your metabolism will work slower. But is this correct?

As a general rule, getting older means you need less energy to carry out day-to-day tasks. If eating habits and portions remain equal, then less calories are burnt, resulting in weight gain. Muscle mass also decreases, thus impacting our resting metabolism rate, so more fat is stored than used up.

Is it true that nothing can be done? Continue reading below to find out about all the myths and truths of weight gain and age.

Why is it harder to keep weight off as you get older? Introduction

Total energy requirements depend on several factors such as:

  • The energy needed to process your consumed food and drink
  • The resting metabolism
  • How much you move and exercise to burn calories and build muscle

Resting metabolism has the largest share of total energy consumption in normal situations, at 45-70%.

This is the energy we need to maintain and keep the body operational. Exactly how much energy is required for this varies from person to person.

For example, your height, body composition, and gender affect your resting metabolism.

It is often stated that your metabolism automatically slows down with age. But it’s not that simple in practice.

Body degradation as a result of aging

Our bodies slowly but surely begin to break down and decline as we age.

This starts (get ready) as early as the age of 30. Shocking isn’t it!


Bone calcification is an example of this natural breakdown due to age and old age.

The amount of bone mass will build from birth until about age 30.

The sooner the maximum bone density is reached and the higher it is, the stronger the bones will be in later life.

If you want to keep your bones healthy, you need to practise an active lifestyle and proper nutrition.

Muscle mass

The same applies in terms of maintaining your muscle mass. From the age of 30, people lose an average of 1% of their muscle mass per year.

As a result, an 80-year-old may have lost just half of his original muscle mass, while muscle mass has a significant impact on resting metabolism.

Certain medications can accelerate the process of muscle breakdown, but less exercise, especially, is the cause of muscle breakdown.

Because of a smaller muscle mass, your resting metabolism will work more slowly, reducing your energy needs.

In addition, if you start moving less, your energy needs decrease even further.

If you continue to eat the same as before, which is often the case for older people who still want to fully enjoy the good life, you will gain weight. This is a simple matter of math and energy balance.

The loss of muscle mass not only negatively impacts your resting metabolism. Your muscle strength also decreases, so the risk of dangerous falls increases.

This can further encourage inactivity, leading you into a vicious cycle later in life.

Lower energy requirement later in life

People generally become heavier as they age. But what makes this happen in practice?

It is increasingly difficult to maintain weight as you age, and this has several causes:

  • We move less as we age. As a result, we consume less energy.
  • Your muscle mass decreases while muscle consumes more energy than fat. So with less muscle mass and the same dietary intake, you are left with more calories that will be stored as fat.
  • Your metabolism slows down. Therefore, the energy you take in through your diet is burnt less quickly and is stored more readily as fat.

All of this causes your body to need less energy when you are older. And if you don’t adjust your eating habits accordingly, your weight will increase.

Unfortunately, all these changes also make losing weight less easy.

Related post10 Common mistakes when trying to lose weight & How to avoid them

What can you do about weight gain as you get older?

Weight gain is not the direct cause of getting older. Nevertheless, there are several factors you can look out for.

In particular, the decrease in muscle mass and increased inactivity reduce energy needs. In other words, if you keep eating the same thing later in life, you will get heavier.

Yet you can certainly do something about this. The most important tip is to get moving!

Muscles are highly dependent on movement and activity. If muscles are not used, they will break down quickly.

You can clearly see this with a broken limb that has been in a cast for several weeks.

Tip: Strength training is effective in building and maintaining muscle mass. In addition, make sure you eat a whole foods diet with enough protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Want to know more about healthy eating? Then contact a nutritionist to create an appropriate nutrition plan together.

Becoming healthier by losing weight later in life

Obesity has many consequences, and as a result, it may be necessary to lose weight. Some of the benefits of losing weight later in life are:

Less chance of diseases associated with obesity

Being overweight increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension, and joint problems.

And this is even more true for the elderly because they are often already more susceptible to these conditions.

Improved quality of life and comfort of living

Losing weight often makes you feel better mentally and socially as well and makes you fear less that you will be rejected.

Better physical functioning

Activities like biking, taking the stairs, walking, and grocery shopping require less energy by carrying less excess weight.

Nutrition and points of interest for the elderly

Each target group and age group has its own specific nutritional needs.

There are also some particular dietary concerns for the elderly. Three critical areas of concern are:

Vitamin D

Vitamin D, along with calcium, ensures strong bones. This vitamin is found primarily in oily fish and a small amount in eggs, meat, and dairy products.

Vitamin D is also produced in the skin under the influence of sunlight.

Going outside every day for at least 15 minutes to stretch your legs in the sunlight is enough for adults to meet their typical vitamin D requirements.

Did you know: Older people don’t make vitamin D as well. Walking around outside in the sun is then no longer enough and they need additional help through supplements.

Check with your doctor for advice tailored to your body, age, and situation.

Dairy products

Dairy contains calcium and vitamin D, which make for stronger bones.

Think milk, cheese, yogurt, and so on. Contact a nutritionist for a balanced plan tailored to your body and age.


We tend to eat too much salt, which is true for almost everyone. Consuming too much salt can increase blood pressure and greater cardiovascular disease risk.

For the elderly, it is essential to pay attention to salt intake. The salt we eat too much of, we also pee out. Through this excretory process, calcium is also lost.

While calcium is just needed to keep bones strong and prevent bone fractures.

Weight loss risks for seniors

Losing weight, especially for seniors, also comes with dangers.

Muscle loss

When you lose weight, you lose not only fat but sometimes also muscle. This causes muscle strength to deteriorate and increases the likelihood of painful falls.

Strength training for the elderly can help counteract muscle loss and, therefore, loss of strength.


Bones become weaker during weight loss, which is undoubtedly the case later in life. This increases the risk of bone fractures.

By continuing to exercise, this risk is lessened if not eliminated.

Choose exercises that require you to support your own body weight, such as walking. Or opt for targeted strength training under the guidance of a personal coach.

Swimming and cycling are less likely to keep bones strong (because you don’t have to support your own weight, which means less strengthening activity for your bones).

Unbalanced diet

As you get older, you need less energy. So to lose weight later in life, you need to eat a little less.

But because of this, there is a chance that the diet will no longer be complete and that there will be deficiencies in specific vitamins and minerals.

Therefore, always consult with your doctor before starting to lose weight later in life, and focus on losing weight responsibly with attention to your sleep quality, body, age, and desires.

Why is it harder to keep weight off as you get older? Conclusion

Given that muscle mass usually declines, our resting metabolism rate requires less energy as we grow older.

If food portions and calories remain at the same levels as in younger years, then there is a higher conversion to fat, which invariably translates to increased weight.

Consult with a professional if needed, and make sure to keep moving!

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About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More