How can I prevent weight gain as I get older?

Marilyn Ricci, M.S., R.D.
Nutrition & Dietetics

It is not easy to maintain your weight as you get older, especially if, like me, you have learned to enjoy so many more foods as you've aged. The best remedy is exercise. Both aerobic and weight-bearing. The more muscle you have the more calories you can eat without gaining weight. Muscle is a much more active tissue than fat. Just look at a piece of steak and then at a piece of butter. You can see that the meat is muscle and a more active tissue than the blob of fat. As far as food, eat more fiber foods - vegetables and fruits. They have few calories, take time to eat, fill you up and are full of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals important for good health.  

Cindy Gay
Nutrition & Dietetics
Walk, walk walk!
  • Eat a high-protein breakfast with skim milk and other lean sources of high-quality protein, like low-fat yogurt.  Choose an egg (up to 4 per week).
  • At each meal, make 1/2 the plates fruits and vegetables without fat.  The more color, the better!  Eat one piece of whole wheat bread or toast at each meal, or another whole grain portion.  Measure items like brown rice to 1/2 cup.
  • Choose a lean meat or protein source for lunch and dinner, smaller portions as one ages.  2 ounces is adequate.
  • Drink 8 oz. of skim milk at lunch and dinner too.
  • Choose low-calorie, nutrient-dense snacks like unbuttered popcorn, fresh whole fruit or light yogurt.
  • Limit foods that have no nutrient value, like soda.  Watch the alcohol intake as well, drinking 1 glass on a weekend or for a special occasion.
  • Walk, walk, walk!
Smart eating and an active lifestyle help you prevent weight gain and stay healthy as you age. Learning to make healthy food choices and watching your portion sizes are important steps in achieving and keeping a healthy weight. A registered dietitian can help you get -- and stay -- on the path to nutritional health.
Donna Feldman
Nutrition & Dietetics

Lots of people think gaining weight as you age is just inevitable. You can't avoid it. But that's actually untrue. The changes associated with aging might make it easier to gain weight, but you can make your own changes to fight back. 

The main change that makes weight gain easier is a gradually slowing metabolism. A 65 year old won't burn as many calories as a 20 year old. In fact, the difference is most pronounced for sedentary people. The difference is much less when you're active. So the most useful method for avoiding creeping weight gain is to stay very active. Include physical activity everyday: brisk walking, swimming, bicycling, jogging, dance and other activities all count. Local gyms and recreation centers are a great resource for classes and exercise equipment to help your efforts.

Another way to avoid weight gain is to eat slightly less, while sticking to a healthy high fiber diet. Many people find their appetites decrease as they age, so you might eat less without really thinking about it. Just don't let a decreased appetite lead to a less nutritious diet. High protein foods can be especially important now, to maintain muscle mass. If you are less interested in cooking and eating meat, be sure to include yoghurt, cheese, milk, eggs or tofu at your meals. High protein meal shakes or smoothies are another good option.

The best diet for older people is the same for everyone: plenty of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, with healthy fats from vegetable oils like olive oil and modest servings of meat or dairy foods.

Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
As you get older your metabolism slows and your body requires less calories. Preventing weight gain involves many factors including your environment, behavior change, genetics, health status, physical activity and diet. Reducing calories in your diet is an effective way to prevent weight gain. Include nutrient dense foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil, proteins including lean meat, poultry, fish, nuts, legumes, beans, soy or dairy and reduced saturated fat, sodium and sugar in processed and packaged foods. Expend calories through physical activity daily in which you break a sweat for at least 30 minutes. If you are unsure if you are healthy enough for exercise, check with your doctor. As a rule you should be able to talk while you walk. If you are out of breath and unable to talk while exercising, decrease the intensity.

Awareness in my opinion is key.  Yes your body changes as you get older but things such a slowing of the metabolism, and anything else is really an excuse for people to not want to change.

Most people that gain weight as they get older have never really learned how to properly eat right and have good solid exercise habits.  No, you cannot turn back the clock but you can take where you are and improve it from there.  

Being aware of your exercise and nutrition is to first have a clear vision and then develop the appropriate strategy to match that vision.  A good strategy is to write everything down (log) or enter it here :) and be aware of your calories in versus calories out.

That simple fact of awareness will get you to move more and be aware of what you are doing nutritionaly and ultimately eat less.  

Not accepting what most people say and changing your life and being aware of what you are doing is what you have to do to prevent weight gain.  Oh, and be willing to adapt as life changes for you!

Livia Ly
Nutrition & Dietetics
The answer is very simple - increase your caloric expenditure with physical activity (PA) and decrease your caloric food intake (eating more foods that are low in energy density). Remember: as you get older your metabolism slows down. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends moderate intensity of 150-250 min of PA/week or 45-60 min of moderate to vigorous PA on most or all days of the week for prevention of weight gain.
Cindy Guirino
Nutrition & Dietetics

As we got older, we lose muscle mass. The technical term is sarcopenia. Decreased muscle mass lowers our metabolic rate and thus it is easier to gain weight. To prevent age related weight gain, a consistent regimen of strength training is essential.

Dee Sandquist
Nutrition & Dietetics

It's a challenge to prevent weight gain as you grow older. Gradually reduce portion sizes and add exercise. You can start by adding 10 minutes a day of exercise if time is a problem. Then add another 10 minutes and another until to reach 30 minutes a day of physical activity. Try strength training to help prevent muscle loss that starts to happen after age 40. Take a look at what you are eating and make one change at a time to get your plate to follow the "my plate" method.


Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics

As we age, our metabolism will start to slow down therefore potentially causing weight gain. The first way to combat this is to pay attention to the portion sizes that you consume. Remember for meats and protein that one serving size is about 3 oz which is the equivalent of a deck of cards. A serving of cooked pasta is ½ cup which is about the size of a small light bulb. Over eating your portions is one of quickest and easiest ways to gain the weight. Another way to prevent weight gain is to increase your exercise throughout the day. Walking, swimming and biking are easy and funs ways to get the exercise in. Look throughout your community to see what exercise groups are available specifically targeted to the senior citizen age group. This is a great way to have fun, meet new people and prevent weight gain.

F. Michael Gloth, III
Geriatric Medicine
If you continue to eat the same type and amounts of food as you get older, without increasing your level of activity, you will gain weight -- and you will gain it mainly as fat. To counter this normal change associated with aging, you must reduce the number of calories you take in, increase the amount of energy you expend, or combine the two. This does not simply mean eating less and exercising more.

Understanding some of the changes associated with aging will allow you to reach your ideal body weight with relatively little change in the amount you eat or the total amount of exercise or activity you do. By learning about the changes that occur as you grow older, you'll find it easier to improve your health, well-being, and general overall appearance.
Fit at Fifty and Beyond: A Balanced Exercise and Nutrition Program (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)

More About this Book

Fit at Fifty and Beyond: A Balanced Exercise and Nutrition Program (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)

As people reach their fifties, the body’s metabolism slows. Without a change in eating or exercise habits, it’s common to put on weight and become less able to perform routine physical...
Rose Reisman
Nutrition & Dietetics

As we age it’s common for men to develop that “pot belly” and for women to start spreading more through the middle. Most of us accept this as part of aging. But you don’t have to gain weight as you enter your 50’s. It is preventable if you either increase your exercise or cut 200 calories daily from your diet, which most of us can do. Both will yield the best results. Muscle mass declines with age and your body will begin to accumulate more fat and less muscle which leads to a slower rate of burning calories.

Weight gain as we age can be dangerous to our health. Excess fat around the middle is associated with diabetes type 2, increased heart and stroke and a greater risk of colon and breast cancer.

In terms of exercise aim for 30 minutes daily to increase your metabolism so you burn more calories. Strength training should be included two to three times weekly for 20 minutes. If you’re eating less and still not losing weight try stepping up the intensity of your exercise.

Cutting 200 calories from your daily diet is not difficult. It’s often that extra helping of meat, potatoes or dessert. Try cutting back on your night time munchies and I’m sure you’ll see how quickly a pound or two comes off a week. Watch your liquid calories and increase your fruits and veggies when you may be eating out of boredom. Pay attention to skipping any meals since this always leads to overeating or bingeing.

Karen Ansel
Nutrition & Dietetics

Weight gain as you get older isn't inevitable. In fact, with a game plan it's entirely preventable. The main reason we gain weight as we age is because we lose lean muscle mass (up to 8% per decade after age 40). Because muscle burns considerably more calories than fat our metabolisms start to slow. But there are steps you can take to counteract this. The first is weight training. Weight training is the most effective way to preserve existing muscle. The second is by eating enough protein. Protein provides amino acids which are the building blocks our bodies need to synthesize muscle, so making sure you get some at every meal is key. Top sources include 1% or skim milk, low fat yogurt, eggs, fish, skinless chicken or turkey, beans, tofu and very lean cuts of meat. By spacing small servings of these throughout the day you'll ensure that you're giving your body the building blocks it needs to preserve lean muscle mass and keep your metabolism from taking a nose dive.

Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics

If you really want to prevent weight gain as you get older, stay active. Keep burning calories. Yoga is an excellent form of physical activity that burns muscle mass and promotes flexibility. Even walking one mile a day will help maintain blood pressure.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
With age, your body’s production of hormones that help maintain muscle mass begins to decrease. Additionally, most of us become less active as we get older, which also causes loss of muscle mass. Combined, the distribution of your weight changes. As you lose muscle weight, more of your weight can be attributed to fat.

To counteract age-related weight gain, you need to practice strength training. Do 10 minutes of exercises such as lunges, leg lifts, and pull-ups several days a week. By building your muscle back up, you’ll burn more fat.

Another harsh reality tied to aging: Your metabolism simply slows down by about 5% for every decade past age 40. To counteract this, force your metabolism to work harder by cutting calories. As a rule of thumb, beginning at age 40, cut approximately 50 to 100 calories out of your daily diet.
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Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
You might not like my answer because it requires focus and work! You have to watch what you eat and exercise regularly. There is no way around it!Limit the servings and kind of carbs, make sure the carbs are whole grain, and exercise at least 4-5 times per week. That is the secret.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.