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How to Stop Gaining Weight While Aging

It’s a fact of life: the older we get, the harder it becomes to lose weight. There’s a reason why they refer to weight gain later… Trista - October 31, 2019

It’s a fact of life: the older we get, the harder it becomes to lose weight. There’s a reason why they refer to weight gain later in life as “middle-age weight gain.” Our bodies change as we age, and our metabolism may become slower. Additionally, we tend to move less and eat more, which will most certainly lead to weight gain. 

Not only is carrying extra weight uncomfortable, but it can also negatively affect your health. Gaining weight may lead to developing diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Being overweight can even shorten your life. If you’re struggling with weight gain as you age, you’re not alone! Luckily there are numerous ways to take charge of your health and get in shape. You can find ways to get the whole family excited about being active and healthy. Making small lifestyle changes can go a long way to helping you lose weight and improve your health.

All about body weight. Shutterstock.

What Is Body Weight?

Body weight is the term used to refer to a person’s mass. In the United States, we measure our weight in pounds, but around the world, weight is measured in kilograms. Our body weight is the measurement of our bodies without any clothing or accessories. Most of the time, people will be wearing some apparel when they step on the scale.

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A significant factor when determining a person’s health is their weight. Medical professionals evaluate whether a person is overweight or underweight, as well as the distribution of fat on their body. The average weight in the United States is 195 pounds for men and 168 pounds for women.

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Being Overweight

When a person has more fat on their body than is healthy, they are considered overweight. In areas where food is in abundance and lifestyles are mainly sedentary, it’s common for people to be overweight. More than 1 billion adults in the world are overweight or obese.

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The human body needs a minimal amount of fat to function normally. Small fat storage is used to function the immune, hormonal, and reproductive systems and provide energy. Once a person accumulates too much excess fat, their flexibility, movement, and body functions can become impaired. Their appearance will also be altered.

Obesity is when a person’s BMI is higher than average and is a step above overweight. Shutterstock.

Obesity

When a person’s body mass index reaches levels above 30, they are considered obese. Obesity is especially dangerous because it will most certainly lead to the development of serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis. Since 2013, obesity has been recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association.

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Overeating food, not exercising, and having the genetic disposition for it can all lead to being obese. Some obese people may insist that genetics are all to blame for their condition, but that theory is not medically supported. Making adjustments to a person’s diet and exercise regimen can help them prevent obesity.

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All About Body Fat

Medically known as adipose tissue, body fat is the loose connective tissue that sits on the human body. Its primary purpose is to store energy for later use in the form of lipids. Adipose tissue also cushions joints and insulates the body. Because adipose tissue produces hormones, it is considered to be a major endocrine organ.

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There are two types of adipose tissue: brown and white. White adipose tissue is the type that stores energy, and brown adipose tissue is the kind that generates body heat. This tissue can be found under the skin, in bone marrow, around vital organs, and in the muscles.

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Weight Gain

An increase in body weight is known as weight gain. Weight gain can happen due to muscle mass gain, an increase in fat deposits, and fluid retention. Those with a severe medical condition may experience weight gain as a symptom.

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If a person gains a large amount of weight due to body fat deposits, they may become overweight or obese. You can calculate your body mass index, or BMI, to see if your height and weight are in proportion. Close to 65 percent of the United States adult population is considered overweight or obese. The rate of overweight people in this country has increased exponentially in the past four decades.

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Causes of Weight Gain

There seems to be a latency period when it comes to gaining a few extra pounds. So many lifestyle factors come into play that it can be hard to pinpoint the one that is the main reason for weight gain. The calories in the food you eat, the amount of water you drink, and the salt in your diet all contribute to your weight.

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Other factors include the country you live in, the time of day you eat, and how old you are. Even the amount of stress you are under and how much water you retain in your feet and legs make a difference. It can take three days to two weeks to see the food you eat reflected in your weight.

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Sedentary Lifestyle

The science of weight loss states that one pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. So in order to lose a pound in a week, you have to burn 500 more calories per day than you eat. For those with a sedentary lifestyle, this can be hard.

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Someone with a sedentary lifestyle sits for most of the day. Whether they are home or at work, they are sitting down and reading or watching TV. Inactive people aren’t too concerned with being active, and this lifestyle can lead to many adverse health impacts, including adding more to the scale. One of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States is a serious lack of physical activity.

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Social Factors of Weight Gain

You may not realize it, but the people around you could have a role in whether or not you gain weight. Your friends and family could end up influencing your eating and activity habits. Studies have found that wives can transmit an increased risk of obesity to their husbands. This can also happen between siblings and friends.

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Have you noticed that at social gatherings, you tend to eat more? Or when you hang out with a particular group of people, you consume more unhealthy foods? You may want to find a way to change your eating habits with your friends to see if it can improve your health.

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Sleeping In Relation to Weight

Everyone needs to get a good night of sleep, but did you know that bad sleeping habits can cause you to pack more around your midsection? It can also make it hard to maintain a healthy weight. Not getting enough sleep can also lead to weight gain.

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Losing sleep reduces the levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin in the human body. Ghrelin helps to increase appetite and reduce energy expenditure. Leptin increases your energy expenditure and slows down your appetite. When the levels of these hormones are decreased, a person can experience an increased craving for food, specifically foods high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates.

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Stress Can Affect Weight

Stress is an inevitable part of life, and unfortunately, it can cause a lot of issues within the body. Having an excessive amount of stress can lead to sleep issues, digestive problems, depression, muscle tension, and weight gain. Weight gain can come from anxiety because of hormones.

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When you’re stressed out, your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol can increase appetite, making it easier to accumulate abdominal fat, and cause you to crave high-calorie junk food. A recent study also found that cortisol can end up causing your body to burn fewer calories. If you find that stress is causing you to eat unhealthy foods and remain sedentary, make a few small lifestyle changes to get back on track.

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A Hormonal Imbalance

A significant reason for weight gain as we age, especially for women, is hormones. A change in hormones around menopause can change how the body accumulates fat. The hormone in particular that can cause this is estrogen.

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When a woman goes through menopause, her levels of estrogen go down. The form of estrogen known as estradiol, especially decreases during this period. Estradiol works to regulate body weight and metabolism. When your levels of estradiol go down, body weight can increase, especially in the abdomen, hips, and thighs. It can also gather around the organs as visceral fat, which is extremely dangerous. This type of fat can cause stroke, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

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Learn About Pathologies

There is a wide variety of medical conditions that can cause weight gain. Many autoimmune diseases can lead to weight gain. Thyroid issues can especially lead to unwanted weight gain. 

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An underactive thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism, occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormones. This happens to people of any age or gender but happens most often in older women. Another cause of putting on some pounds is the treatment for type 2 diabetes. Taking insulin to manage diabetes can lead to having to eat more food to prevent low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia.

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Effects of Being Overweight

Having an excessive amount of adipose tissue on the body can cause medical problems at some point. But that doesn’t mean that a person is guaranteed to develop a disease because of their weight. Having a larger figure doesn’t imply that a person has a medical problem. If an overweight person does have a medical issue, it could be caused by something other than their weight.

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On the other hand, a person who gains a lot of weight and ends up in the obese category could develop severe health conditions. An increase in fat mass can lead to sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and social stigma. Diabetes, fatty liver disease, some types of cancer, and cardiovascular disease can all be caused by an increase in the body’s number of fat cells.

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Society’s Perspective of Obesity

In past centuries, namely the Middle Ages and earlier, being overweight was seen as a good thing. A plump figure indicated that you came from a good family that had enough money to afford large amounts of food and didn’t have to work a physical job. It wasn’t until the 20th century that being overweight became stigmatized.

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In modern Western society, being overweight or obese is considered unacceptable. The diet industry makes billions of dollars each year from people trying to lose a few pounds. As fast-food become more popular over the past few decades, the national weight average has slowly climbed. People around the world, especially in the United States, have become accustomed to a lifestyle of eating more and moving less.

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Excess Abdominal Fat

One of the main results of weight gain, as you get older, is excess abdominal fat. No one wants to have that dreaded spare tire or stomach pooch. It may seem that no matter how much you change your diet or workout, that area of fat will not go away.

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Identifying the reasons for your sudden weight gain can help you start the steps to getting rid of unwanted inches. Weight gain is prevalent in older adults, especially women. Hormones, loss of muscle mass, and a lower metabolism all contribute to a higher number on the scale. Once you have identified the reasons for gaining weight, you can create a plan for getting fit.

Hormones and menopause can be factors in gaining weight as you age. Shutterstock

Menopause and Weight Gain

Hormonal imbalances are a major reason for weight gain, especially for older women. The time leading up to menopause for women is known as perimenopause. During this time, hormones are all out of wack. Progesterone levels decline while the body tries to hold on to estrogen levels.

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The body holds on to estrogen by retaining fat cells. That means that you are more likely to develop belly fat when you enter menopause. Men can experience an excess of belly fat as they age too because of a decline in testosterone levels. That’s why you may develop a “beer belly” as you get older.

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Less Muscle Mass As You Age

Once you reach the age of 30, your muscle mass will start to decline. When your muscles shrink, the body will begin to put on excess weight. Having strong muscles will help keep your body lean because the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you will burn.

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You can boost your muscle mass by changing your lifestyle. Eat a diet rich in protein and essential nutrients like calcium. That will help make you stronger and feel better. You can also start weight training to improve your muscle mass as well as lose weight. Consider hiring a personal trainer so you can learn how to target all of your major muscle groups effectively.

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Lower Metabolism

Another unfortunate side effect of aging is a slower metabolism. When we’re young, it feels like we can eat whatever we want and not gain weight. Many young people can eat huge meals and large desserts and not see the scale move at all.

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Unfortunately, that phenomenon diminishes the older you get. Both men and women will experience a lower metabolic rate as they age. To combat this, try eating a healthy diet and sticking to a regular exercise routine. Join a gym and take a few fun exercise classes or team up with a few friends and start a running or biking club.

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Major Lifestyle Changes

Another reason why you may experience weight gain later in life has nothing to do with your body or genetics. As you enter your thirties, life can change dramatically. This is especially true if you start a family.

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Once you have children, everything in your life shifts; the time you used to spend in the gym or being active is now consumed with your baby. Your attention is divided among many different areas instead of being just on yourself. It can be hard as you get older to focus on yourself, but it’s essential to make your health a priority.

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Less Activity

As we mentioned before, a sedentary lifestyle is one of the main reasons why we gain weight. Most of us tend to slow down as we age, which is not great for our health. This can lead to weight gain since we aren’t burning as many calories each day as we used to.

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If you have reduced your physical activity because of an injury or medical condition, look for ways to exercise without overexerting yourself. Try swimming, walking, or light aerobics. You can also talk to your doctor about finding a great exercise regimen that won’t be too taxing on your body. 

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Eating More

In addition to moving less as we age, there is also an increase in caloric intake. It could be that as you age, you want to cook less, so you eat out frequently. Or you’re so busy that you get fast food several times a week.

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A sedentary lifestyle combined with a diet high in calories will most certainly lead to your pants fitting more snug. For busy people, try meal planning and prepping the whole week’s worth of meals on the weekend, so you don’t have to cook a lot during the week. If you must dine out, order healthier dishes and take half of your portion home.

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Reducing Weight Gain

Luckily there are many ways to slow down weight gain as you age. You can change your eating habits, drink more water, and increase your physical activity. The best option for losing weight and keeping it off is to make a complete lifestyle change. 

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Talk with your doctor to determine the best plan for getting into shape. See if they will help you map out a diet and exercise plan that works for your lifestyle. You may also find assistance with a support group or counselor. Also, get your family involved so they too can live a more healthy life. 

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Cook Healthy Meals at Home

When you eat your meals at restaurants, it’s tough to know just how many calories are in your food. You can’t get an exact amount of fat, carbohydrates, and sodium, especially at non-chain restaurants. That’s why cooking meals at home is your best option. 

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By cooking at home, you will know precisely what is in your dish. You can calculate calories and see just how much you are eating. There are plenty of resources to find creative, delicious recipes that are healthy and easy to make! Consider getting a slow cooker so you can work smarter and not harder in the kitchen.

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Practice Mindful Eating

When a meal you’re eating is delicious, it’s not hard to dive right in and eat it super fast. This not only can lead to a stomach ache, but it can also make you end up eating way more calories than you would prefer. That’s why it’s a great idea to practice mindful eating.

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With mindful eating, you take your time while enjoying your meal. Savor each bite and chew slowly. Take a sip of water in between each taste of food to reflect on what you are eating. This technique will help you teach yourself how to slow down and enjoy your meal. You may even end up eating less than you had expected. 

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Keep a Food Journal

Another great way to prevent weight gain or lose weight is to keep a food journal. Writing down everything you eat and drink is an excellent way to see just how many calories you take in. It’s also a way to hold yourself accountable.

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Seeing everything you eat written down can make you want to indulge in unhealthy foods much less. You can also track how much water you drink and adjust your hydration levels. If you don’t like carrying a journal around with you, look for an app on your phone that can help you create a food diary. 

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Adjust Your Diet

In addition to eating fewer calories and exercising more, you can also curb weight gain by changing the types of foods you eat. You can try eating fewer carbs, less meat, and even cut dairy or gluten from your diet. Try a few things to see what helps you lose weight. 

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There are many trendy diets out there, and many people have found great success with them. Those who live a low carb lifestyle recommend the ketogenic diet, which focuses on eating plenty of fat to lose weight. There’s also the Mediterranean diet, which involves eating lean meats, olive oil, and fresh produce. If you want to eat all kinds of foods in moderation, try a program like Weight Watchers, now known as WW.

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Weight Training

As you age, your muscles begin to weaken. Weaker muscles lead to a reduction in strength and an increased risk of gaining weight. The more muscle you have, the better chance you have of losing fat. 

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Muscle weighs more than fat, but it’s essential for getting in shape. Start a weight training regimen to help build your strength. For beginners, you can find great body weight exercises to try that don’t involve buying any expensive weights or exercise machines. If you need assistance, head to the nearest gym and work an introductory session with a personal trainer for guidance.

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Exercise as a Family

In addition to working out by yourself, get your whole family excited about becoming more active. This way you can spend more time outside with your family then cooped up in the house watching TV. Take some time each day to combat your sedentary lifestyle with some outdoor activities.

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You can go for a bike ride around your neighborhood or take a walk to your nearest park. Join a dance class or a martial arts program to get in shape and have fun while doing it. This will help you get healthy while teaching your kids excellent habits to carry with them through life. 

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Split Portions at Restaurants

As we mentioned before, restaurant dishes are hard to keep healthy. The calorie counts are hard to determine, and they can be loaded with extra calories and fat. For this reason, consider sharing your plate with someone else.

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Order one entree and split it with your spouse or child. Then you can each have a side salad or bowl of soup with the meal. Everyone is satisfied, and you didn’t go overboard on calories. If no one wants to share with you, get a box with your meal, and put away half of the food before you start to eat.

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Avoid Dining Out If You’re Too Hungry

If you have had a long day and are ravenously hungry, you will most likely want to eat everything in sight. For this reason, you should avoid going grocery shopping and dining at a restaurant. There are so many choices at these places; it would be so easy to load up on unwanted calories.

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This is another reason why meal prepping is essential. You can take care of weeknight dinners, so all you have to do is come home from work and heat up a dish. This will keep you on track with your healthy lifestyle and save you money in the long run. A win-win!

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Choose a Healthy Dessert

Many people cannot imagine having dinner and not following up with dessert. It’s nice to sit down after a meal and have a piece of cake or bowl of ice cream. Unfortunately, those calories add up. 

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Luckily there are healthy alternatives for dessert. You can have a yummy piece of fresh fruit or a bowl of fruit salad. There are plenty of delicious frozen yogurt flavors to choose from. Many brands offer sugar-free options that are just as delicious as the regular kind. You can also find dairy-free and gluten-free dessert options at your local grocery store. 

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Stay Active

It’s one thing to become active to lose weight, but it’s another thing to stay active after you’ve reached your goal. Even people at their ideal weight need to maintain a level of activity. This will help keep them healthy and also extend their lives.

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Aim to exercise at least 30 minutes per day, five days a week. Join a gym and take a few different exercise classes. Get a bike and start biking a few times a week. You can even find exercise videos to follow at home. There is a wide variety of options to help you stay active and fit. 

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Stay Hydrated

The human body requires water to function. Without drinking water, we cannot survive. You may have heard that the recommended amount of water to drink each day is eight 8 ounce glasses, but that number isn’t set in stone. 

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Start out drinking that much per day and see how it makes you feel. You can drink more if you’d like. There are specialized water bottles that can help you get in enough water throughout the day by having you drink a certain amount every hour. You also can find apps on your phone to help you track your water intake throughout the day. 

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Chill Out

Stress affects everyone and can be detrimental to our health. It can cause anxiety, weight gain, insomnia, and other medical issues. It’s easier said than done, but eliminating stress from your life can do wonders for your body. 

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If you feel that stress is causing weight issues, seek professional help. See a doctor or psychiatrist for help with managing what is stressing you out. You can also try meditation, getting massages, and taking notes in the journal. Channeling stress into physical activity, like boxing or running, is a great way to get in shape while feeling better. If you have changed you’re eating habits and level of physical activity, stress may be the cause of your weight gain.

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Sleep Better

Like stress, insomnia can negatively affect your weight. Not being able to sleep causes physical and psychological problems. The brain and body both need sleep to function. The less restful you feel in the morning, the less energy you’ll have for physical activity throughout the day. 

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If you are having trouble sleeping and it’s causing you to gain weight, talk to a doctor. They can help you find a potential treatment for insomnia. You can also try meditation, drinking tea, exercising, and counseling. Also, getting a sleep study done can really help you pinpoint the root cause of your sleep issues. 

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Work Your Muscles

Remember that as humans age, their muscle mass begins to decline. Because of this, staying active is essential. It’s also why strengthening your muscles is so important. 

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Find an exercise routine that works for you. It is vital to work out all of your major muscle groups. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories your body will be able to burn. That will lead to you being even more active because your stamina will be higher, and your balance will be greater. Work with a personal trainer to efficiently target all of your muscle groups. You can also find excellent workout guides and videos online. 

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Increase Protein

Another way to lose weight and become healthier is to increase the amount of protein in your diet. Protein helps to build muscle and keeps us fuller longer than carbohydrates and fat. Additionally, protein has a more significant thermogenic effect, making it possible for the body to burn more calories. 

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Eating a breakfast high in protein can help keep you energized all day long. Some of the best ways to get more protein in your diet are eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, nuts, and yogurt. If you are vegetarian or vegan, excellent protein sources include tofu, beans, lentils, chickpeas, and edamame. 

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Drink More Green Tea

Green tea is a delicious beverage that is all-natural and calorie-free. You can enjoy this tea hot or iced to reap its benefits. This tea has been associated with reducing blood sugar and preventing the accumulation of body fat. 

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A significant component of green tea is polyphenols, which help the body to burn calories. Green tea also can help boost energy levels and fat oxidation. It’s also been known to be helpful in preventing chronic diseases like obesity. One of the best uses of green tea is that it can assist with satiety. Caffeine found in green tea will lead to an additional boost in energy. 

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Boost Your Fiber Intake

Dietary fiber is an essential part of any healthy diet. The fiber found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can help aid in satiety. It can also limit the number of macronutrients absorbed by the body as well as regulate the secretion of gut hormones. 

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Foods high in fiber are also rich in water, so they help aid in weight loss as well as hydration. The body cannot digest fiber, so it will fill you up without absorbing calories. Fiber-rich foods will have you feeling fuller faster and longer. Those who eat a breakfast high in fiber will most likely eat a smaller lunch. 

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Try More Dairy

Another dietary change you can try in order to lose weight is to eat more dairy. Many studies have found that a diet rich in dairy can decrease body fat. Dairy contains high levels of calcium, which is an essential nutrient. 

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Calcium works to increase your energy levels as well as the amount of fat that is excreted from the body. Those that get their calcium intake from food rather than supplements have recorded higher levels of weight loss. Other components in dairy, such as whey protein, can have a positive effect on satiety, weight loss, and increased energy levels. 

Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

https://www.health.com/nutrition/5-ways-to-beat-stress-induced-weight-gain

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/nine-medical-reasons-for-putting-on-weight/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/25/AR2007072501353.html

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326449.php

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323551.php

https://www.healthxchange.sg/fitness-exercise/weight-management/middle-age-weight-gain-causes-menopause-sedentary-lifestyle

https://www.everydayhealth.com/weight/weight-gain-and-aging.aspx

https://health.usnews.com/wellness/aging-well/articles/2018-11-12/is-it-harder-to-lose-weight-as-you-age

https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/why-do-women-gain-weight-as-they-age

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