Losing Weight After 50 - Why Is It So Difficult?

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: April 2, 2024
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The unfortunate reality is that a lot of things start to change in our bodies at 50 which makes weight loss much more difficult.

And if you’re not aware of why it becomes harder to lose weight, then you could end up on a slippery middle-age slope.

I talked with my clients over 50 to get their perspective and consulted our dietician to help you avoid that. Here's how to overcome the obstacles of losing weight at this age.

Quick Summary

  • Metabolism changes, hormones, and lifestyle are the main reasons people over 50 struggle to lose weight. 
  • Tips anyone over 50 can use to lose weight range from avoiding processed foods, eating fewer calories, getting enough sleep, and performing workouts.
  • A study in the National Library of Medicine shows a clear link between age and reduced metabolic efficiency, impacting weight loss efforts.
  • I found that maintaining a balanced lifestyle with regular exercise and a healthy diet is key to weight loss success after 50.

What Happens At Age 50 That Makes Losing Weight Difficult?

Beyond a big birthday cake with extra cream, there are some key areas you have to be aware of if you want to shed pounds after 50.

1. Metabolism Changes

woman shaping a heart on her bare stomach

One of the most common reasons for age-related weight gain is a gradually slower metabolism.

A study in the National Library of Medicine has shown a clear link between age and how effective your metabolism is, and one reason for this may be slower organ metabolic rates [1].

The result is a lower basal metabolic rate, which means you burn fewer calories when you’re at rest.

But many people don’t adjust their calorie intake, which makes them gain weight slowly but consistently.

Another effect is that you simply don’t burn off body fat as effectively as you used to, even during physical activity.

We’ll get to some solutions for this shortly.

2. Hormones

woman seated on the couch tired

While most people think of menopausal women when they think of hormonal shifts in the 50s, it’s important to understand that men will experience something similar.

According to a study published in the journal Healthcare, for women, it’s a significant change in estrogen levels that can cause excess weight to build up [2].

And for men, it’s a gradual drop in testosterone production from as early as 35.

As a personal trainer, I have seen a lot of men who started to notice muscle loss from age 50 and difficulty getting rid of stubborn pounds.

3. Lifestyle

man holding his face in exhaustion

Whether you’re dealing with very busy family life, or your kids have grown up, and you’re less busy, your lifestyle and day-to-day activities have a huge impact on how you store fat.

Everything from your food intake and how many calories you eat to your exercise routine and sleep habits will add a few pounds here and there.

And those all add up to more weight that becomes increasingly difficult to shift.

That’s a lot of bad news for the over-50s.

4. Impact of Chronic Conditions on Weight Loss

From my experience working with clients over 50, I've seen firsthand how conditions like arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease can significantly affect lifestyle choices and impede weight loss efforts.

Here are the most common conditions people over 50 suffer from and how they affect weight loss:

  • Arthritis: Is characterized by joint pain and stiffness, can significantly limit physical activity, a key component of weight loss. The discomfort and reduced mobility make it harder to engage in regular exercise.
  • Diabetes: Weight management is a delicate balance for those with diabetes. Blood sugar levels can be significantly affected by diet and physical activity, making weight loss more complex.
  • Heart disease: Individuals with heart disease must approach weight loss with caution. Excessive physical strain or drastic dietary changes can be harmful.

8 Top Tips For Losing Weight After 50

You’ll notice in this section that most of the tips are around creating healthy eating habits that promote weight loss.

And it all comes down to the fact that you simply can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

1. Be Careful With Carbs

woman cover her eyes and saying no to burger

Most people think that dietary fat is a big evil. And while trans fats from fried foods certainly bring on major health issues, it’s refined carbs that are the biggest enemy of weight loss.

Swapping bread and pasta for whole grains helped several of my clients shed those stubborn pounds

The more calories you get from other sources, the less you’ll stimulate appetite, and the more you’ll increase your chances of losing weight.

2. Avoid Processed Foods

The more processed something is when it arrives in your home, the worse it’s going to be for your health and weight gain. As your metabolic activity slows, empty calories become more potent, causing blood sugar spikes.

I found that simple switches to whole foods can lead to significant weight loss.

The overall effect can further influence your thyroid hormone, which could further slow down your metabolism.

3. Eat Fewer Calories

Energy in and energy out is the simplest way to look at the problem of a few extra pounds. And because your base metabolism slows down from about age 50, it becomes more important to track and reduce your calories.

4. Try Intermittent Fasting

plate with fork and knife and a clock beside

If you have found it consistently harder to lose those unwanted pounds, then extending the time between your last meal of the day and the first one the next day is an effective option.

I have worked with several aging parents who switched to not eating any calories after 7 pm and not having breakfast until 9 am, and they have managed to turn up their weight loss again.

We have an article on intermittent fasting, you can learn more about the diet there.

5. Cut Out Sugar And Alcohol

This is an unfortunate tip, but if everything else isn't working, then start tracking everything in Noom.

You’ll be surprised how that odd glass of wine or beer and a sneaky cookie add to your daily calorie number.

A great tip from certified health coach Leiah Rocheleau is to use what she calls a “7-day contract.”

Pick one thing you want to eliminate for the next 7 days – like sugar – and stick to it for a week, before deciding to renew that contract with yourself or not.

Sustainable habits often begin with small, manageable changes.

6. Mindfulness And Sleep

Stress is a big factor in people’s lives, becoming a huge barrier to optimal health. Try out a mindfulness app like Calm and go through some regular breathing exercises throughout the day.

Practicing mindfulness and ensuring good sleep has been key to losing weight for many of my clients over 50.

Make sure you get 8 hours of good sleep every night to help your body regenerate.

7. Body Weight Exercises

old couple working out in the gym

My top recommendation would be to do high-intensity interval training.

Moderate exercise is fine to keep your muscles active and joints loose, but it’s not going to be enough to lose the love handles.

The more intense you train, the better the results will be for your overall health, including your heart and metabolism.

Related: Best Exercises For Seniors To Lose Weight

8. Introduce Strength Training

I tell my clients bodybuilding isn't about becoming a bodybuilder; it's about maintaining muscle mass, which naturally declines with age.

I've incorporated strength training into my client's routine and have seen not just an improvement in muscle tone but also in his metabolic rate.

And because muscle burns calories a lot more effectively, your metabolism will improve too.

Related Articles:

FAQs

How Can You Boost Your Metabolism After 50?

You can boost your metabolism after 50 by avoiding carbs, switching to nutrient-dense foods, and doing more regular intensive exercise. Add more healthy fat and protein from plant sources, and you should notice a big change.

How Do You Get Rid of Belly Fat After 50?

You get rid of belly fat after 50 by reducing your calories from carbs and going through intensive exercises. You simply cannot have the same content in your meal plans at 50 as you did at 20, and you will need to work harder for effective weight management.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2880224/
  2. https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/4/3/42
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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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