CW: discussion of body weight, weight gain, and claims of personal responsibility for weight changes.
Yes, you heard it here first, folks: when we get older, we tend to gain weight. But you don’t have to take my word for it; I’ve got tables and things from science to back this up:
Of course all women know this, and we’re constantly reminded to fight weight gain through restricted eating and increased exercise. Now, I’m all for spending time enjoying a variety of physical activities, and plan on doing so for the foreseeable future. Just like Notorious RBG.
But can I expect to lose or maintain my weight over time by physical activity and restrictive eating? No, say some Swedish researchers. Here’s what this news article has to say about their results:
Lipid turnover in the fat tissue decreases during aging and makes it easier to gain weight, even if we don’t eat more or exercise less than before… “The results indicate for the first time that processes in our fat tissue regulate changes in body weight during aging in a way that is independent of other factors,” says Peter Arner, professor at the Department of Medicine in Huddinge at Karolinska Institutet and one of the study’s main authors.
I’m no human metabolism science expert, but I think the upshot here is this: the rate of lipid turnover (part of human metabolic activity that affects weight maintenance and change over time) varies in the population. Experts thought that we could improve our rates of lipid turnover through exercise. Turns out, not so much.
In a way, this is good news– it’s offering another scientific puzzle piece to provide a picture of what we already know: in general, people gain weight as they age, independently of their eating and activity behaviors. This opens the door to shifting talk away from addressing how older bodies look and toward how older bodies feel and function for those who have them.
But this shift is not something that will come easily, and even metabolic researchers are struggling against this model, hanging on for dear life to the view that we do or should work to wrench some control over our bodily processes– even our own lipid turnover rates. They seem not to be able to help themselves despite their best efforts, a lot of calculus and cool figures like this one:
In the article, they say this about effects of lipid turnover on long-term weight loss after bariatric surgery:
…these results indicate that the success of long-term weight loss after bariatric surgery is predicted by lipid removal rate status and that individuals with a lower baseline removal rate may have more ‘room’ to attain energy balance.
Okay, this is interesting. We are getting a potential explanation for variations in long-term weight loss after bariatric surgery. Good to know. And also good to know that it’s not something that we can currently control (until they develop, say, some drug to alter lipid turnover rates).
But wait. The article simply can’t leave it at that. They have to fall back on the idea that some “lifestyle strategy” might work to address changes in human metabolism over time.
These results encourage the development of therapeutic and lifestyle strategies to counteract age-related decreases in lipid turnover rates and recognize the importance to adapt adipose lipid turnover for the maintenance of normal weight or weight loss.
You know what they mean by “lifestyle strategy”. They’re not talking about developing a new hobby or adding a deck onto the back of your house, along with new patio furniture.
They’re talking about dieting and increased exercise– that’s what they mean by “lifestyle strategy”. But the whole point of the article was that those things don’t prevent weight gain as we age– lipid turnover rate does.
I am all for lifestyle strategies to improve my quality of life now and in the future. By the way, the archery looks kind of fun. Anyone do archery? Tell us about it.
What I’m not all for is this: maintaining the same tired view that it’s up to me to try to lose weight throughout my life course, regardless of my other health metrics and life situation, and regardless of new-new research suggesting that some important factors influencing weight change over time are totally out of our hands. That tired view needs to be put to rest.
Or maybe blown up.
Readers, what do you think? Is your community still focused on weight loss throughout life? What views are you hearing about aging and weight? And don’t forget any archery tips you might have as well.