fitness · weight loss

New research shows: weight gain as we get older… happens. But scientists don’t like it.

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:

table showing average body weight (in pounds) increasing for women as they age.
table showing average body weight (in pounds) increasing for women as they age.

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:

This is supposed to show that lipid uptake is the main driver of weight loss following bariatric surgery. Okay, then.

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.

a pin that says "heavy sigh".
I need a pin like this, saying “heavy sigh”.

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.

an explosion in a field.
boom.

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.

diets · eating · eating disorders · weight loss · weight stigma

Losing My (Diet) Religion (Guest Post)

by Mavis Fenn

(This post discusses disordered eating. Please be aware it may be triggering for some.)

 Eating issues began when I was ten. There were two contributing factors. The first was that I was pre-puberty, a time when many children put on additional weight. The second was related to my mother’s health. She died at fifty-eight of early onset Alzheimer’s. It was when I was about ten that her behaviour began to change. Looking back on it now, I realize that this was also the time I began to binge-eat. I clearly remember ketchup and mustard sandwiches on white bread. Yuck!

My parents were older and came from a generation that had survived the depression of the thirties and the Second World War. Not wasting and will power were considered virtues; a lack of frugality or will power was a moral failing. Fat people were considered to be lazy, gluttons with no will power. My dad loved me and wanted the best for me. We were close until he died at ninety-four. He was a great role model and still is. Having said that, family and friends believed that teasing was a good way to correct behaviour. How well I remember, “Your eyes were bigger than your stomach,” when I didn’t finish the food on my plate. Unfortunately, that hurt my feelings; hurting my feelings makes me mad. Thinking, “I’ll show you,” I would eat everything up even if they said I didn’t have to. And the boys that called me names, I ran them to ground and sat on them until they apologized.

For a girl, being fat could be limiting. It didn’t matter how smart you were, how funny or caring you were, you weren’t going to get a good job or a husband who would take care of you if you were fat. So, at about twelve I got on the diet roller coaster. I stayed on it for well over fifty years. It eroded my confidence and sense of self-worth. I was never good enough, strong enough; I was not perfect and it was all my fault. When I was thin, I worried about getting fat; when I was fat, I was anxious and depressed because clearly I was lacking in will power. Eating compulsively was my punishment. It made things worse and I knew it.

I never had trouble losing weight, just keeping it off. I used food in times of stress, knowing that I could lose it when the latest crisis passed. I didn’t know that genetics determines most of your weight range, that only about two percent of people who lose weight are able to keep it off permanently, and that when you begin to gain weight again your body adds a bit more because dieting puts your body into starvation mode. In January 2015 I decided it was time to lose weight again. I struggled and struggled. I couldn’t; I just couldn’t. I was overwhelmed with defeat and shame. I sat down on the bench in the gym, put my face in my hands and cried.

My trainer asked me what I intended to “do” about my situation. I mumbled that I guessed I’d get a therapist to recommend something.  She said not to worry and the next morning my inbox had an email with the contact information for the CMHA Eating Disorders program. I called.

When I met with the nurse, she asked me if I could accept myself as I was if my body stayed the same. My response was, “Absolutely not!” Getting rid of the diet mentality wasn’t easy.

As the introductory workshop wore on, I realized that I had in the recesses of my mind the idea that I was still looking for weight loss. That was not going to work. So, I made the decision to go “all in.” I analysed how I used food, the mind traps I set for myself, and most importantly I examined why I was still allowing myself to be controlled by childhood beliefs about body size. Those were stereotypes of a past generation and they were wrong. I didn’t need to continue to judge and punish myself for not being someone else’s idea of perfect. I was not defined by my body; it is only a part of who I am.

Do I ever think of weight loss or body image? Occasionally, but dieting would cost me my freedom and mental health. I prefer to think about healthy eating and being fit. In the two years since I completed the program, my weight has stayed just above or below my last “set point” (where my body decided we were safe from famine).

The last day we were asked to reflect on completing the course, I wrote this: “I think I have come to peace with my body. Therefore, I am at peace with myself.”

Image description: A plaid pajama clad foot with bright blue toenails stepping on a bathroom scale.

Mavis Fenn is an independent scholar (retired). She loves lifting weights, Yin yoga, and Zumba Gold. She is mediocre at all of them.

diets · eating · eating disorders · fitness · health · overeating · self care · tbt · weight loss

Metabolic Health Is a Feminist Issue #tbt

For #tbt posts I like to go back to the same month in a previous year. Today we go back six years, to February 28, 2013, when I posted about metabolic health. Reading posts from the early days helps me to see how far I’ve come since we started the blog over six years ago. In this post, I finally “got it” about why it’s important to eat enough.

Over the last few years, my thinking and practice has shifted completely. Rarely do I worry about “eating too much,” unless in the sense of eating to physical discomfort, which simply doesn’t feel good. I think my metabolism has recovered from any damage I did in my decades of chronic dieting with the weight loss-gain roller coaster that comes along with it. Besides the idea of Intuitive Eating, this concept of Metabolic Health really helped me get to where I am today. If that’s of interest to you, read on….

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

campfire[Note: I am by no means an expert on metabolic health. I hardly know anything about it. I just know it’s an idea with major liberatory potentialFor more information about it, check out some of the links below]

Recently, after blogging about the thigh gap and taking Go Kaleo‘s recommendation to read Matt Stone’s Diet Recovery 2, and then reading Caitlin’s post that reminded us that, hey, we actually need to eat, the penny finally dropped for me.

Yes! I finally understand that metabolic health is a big deal. Huge. Bigger than the next fad diet, bigger than any particular training program, bigger than aspiring to have ripped abs or a thigh gap.

After we posted about fitness models earlier in the month, we noticed some fascinating discussion on a figure competitors’ discussion boards about ways to train smarter with more calories. Sam drew…

View original post 1,140 more words

accessibility · aging · inclusiveness · injury · weight loss

Sam is checking in for February, #monthlycheckin, cw: mention of weight loss

Good news!

My knee survived a week in Europe with many days of mega steps. I paid a lot of attention to how it felt, wore the knee brace sometimes but not at others, took anti inflammatory medication regularly, and stretched lots. Sarah helped lots too.

Now that I’m back home physiotherapy continues, massage therapy continues, personal training continues, and I’m back to my bike on the trainer, bike commutes, and dog walks. All of that counts, except the massages, on my quest to workout 219 times in 2019.

I’m so happy to see all the hard work paying off.

Next up: NYC 5 Boro Bike Tour in May.

After that, lots and lots of training before our 10 day bike tour of Newfoundland in June.

Bad news!

Weight loss is hard. (We all know this.) You might think that if you had a serious medical reason to lose weight, then you’d do it. But your body doesn’t know your motives. It doesn’t care what your intentions are. It’s super hard.

Wish me luck.

fitness · training · weight loss

High intensity interval training and weight loss: Yawn!

It’s all over the fitness media this week. For weight loss, you should go for high intensity interval training over other forms of exercise.

According Runners World, “Interval training could help you lose more weight than a continuous moderate-intensity workout, according to a new review and meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Interval training may make your body more efficient at burning fat, the researchers believe.”

But why is weight loss even the question? Why not sports performance or other training goals?

I confess this was my reaction: Yawn.

I shared the story with the other bloggers and Catherine chimed in, “Also, for those who are not actively competing, there’s the issue of what we LIKE to do and what we can sustain over time. I’ve done plenty of HIIT, but these days I’m not up to it mentally. We shall see as the weather improves– hill repeats do have a certain masochistic appeal– but right now steady state is a happy place for me.”

Then Mina, “I don’t even like the phrasing “not up to it” in this context, because it implies a shortcoming or deficit. No activity is sustainable, unless we like it. In fact, I’d Kondo-ize that statement and say that maybe we shouldn’t do activities that don’t spark joy. Recognizing, that we will need to sweat a little and experience some false starts to find what activity that is. Even if our goal is competing, we better be loving the training to get there. Basically, I think we feel best when we are pursuing our personal version of excellence and when that excellence has meaning to us (which likely involves some meaning for others, too).”

What’s your response to this report?

Also, I then ran into an interesting critique of the headline version of the review’s results. Read the whole thing here.

Yoni Freedhoff writes, “Last week saw the publication of a new study in the BJSM entitled (highlighting mine), “Is interval training the magic bullet for fat loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing moderate-intensity continuous training with high-intensity interval training (HIIT)“. Understandably intrigued given a prominent medical journal was suggesting there was a magic bullet for fat loss, I clicked through, and then reading the piece I learned that the amount of fat lost that the BJSM was calling a “magic bullet” was a 1 pound difference, one which the study’s abstract’s conclusion described as, “a 28.5% greater reductions in total absolute fat mass (kg)”. Duly surprised, I then took to Twitter to poke around and found that one of the study’s authors, James Steele, was tweeting out a corrective thread to his own study’s hype – hype which understandably and predictably led to an onslaught of media overreach.”

That post is worth reading. It’s totally not boring.

fitness · weight loss

When it comes to weight loss, aim to be an alpaca not a unicorn

There are lots of alpacas…

There are lots of alpacas. Here’s a herd. Or is it a flock? They’re in Peru. Photo from Unsplash.

But unicorns are rare. (Not the kind of unicorn that Rachel Lark sings about at 18:40 on the Bawdy Storytelling show.) The kind of unicorns I’m talking about are weight loss unicorns. Weight loss unicorns are those rare, mythical people who lose weight and keep it off for an extended period of time.

Alpacas are more common. Alpacas are people who lose a small or moderate amount of weight and manage to sustain that weight loss.

Alpaca
Some alpacas also have wild haircuts

When we get into the debate about whether or not diets ever work and whether long term weight loss is even possible, part of what’s at issue is which standard we use. It turns out that almost no one loses a very large percent of their body weight and keeps it off forever. But quite a few people do lose some weight and keep it off.

Here’s Yoni Freedhoff writing about a study of people who lose weight, “It’s quite heartening to see that after 8 years, for 35% of the DSE control group, 3 1-hour group talks a year were sufficient to help fuel a sustained weight loss of 5 percent or more of their presenting weight, and for 17% of them, enough to fuel and sustain a greater than 10 percent loss. ”

In my older post about this stuff I wrote, “There are at least two different ways to measure long term weight loss success. We can focus on those who maintain a goal weight or on those who maintain a weight loss of just five or ten percent of their starting weight. By that more easygoing measure, I’m in, I’m a success story. Lots more people are in even if we don’t typically think of only losing 5-10 percent of your body weight, a weight loss success story. Call the people who meet standard 1, getting to goal and staying there, the unicorns. They are rare. Far more common are people who meet standard 2, exotic but not unfamiliar. Call them the weight loss alpacas. ”

Rethinking success is part of Freedhoff’s pitch too. He writes, “What I’m getting at is that I think what makes maintaining weight loss seem “almost impossible” are the goal posts society has generally set to measure success. No doubt, if the goal set is losing every last ounce of weight that some stupid chart says you’re supposed to lose then the descriptor “almost impossible” may well be fair. On the other hand, if the goal is to cultivate the healthiest life that you can honestly enjoy, subtotal losses, often with significant concomitant health improvements, are definitely within your reach. ”

I know it’s less sexy. Change the way you eat for the rest of your life, exercise regularly, and you can maintain a weight that by society’s standards still counts as fat! I can’t see that up on a poster somehow. And yet….it’s better news than many of us are led to think by the blanket talk of “weight loss is impossible”and “diets don’t work.”

So should we aim to be be an alpacas instead of unicorns?

Well, you’re more likely to succeed.

Gina Kolta writes in the New York Times, “Anecdotal reports by people who have succeeded in keeping weight off tend to have a common theme: constant vigilance, keeping close track of weight, controlling what food is eaten and how much (often by weighing and measuring food), exercising often, putting up with hunger and resisting cravings to the best of their ability. Those who maintain a modest weight loss often report less of a struggle than those trying to keep off large amounts of weight.”

There are also health benefits. See More in praise of moderate weight loss.

And me, I’m coming to understand this debate between those who think diets work and those who don’t as being partly about different things.

advertising · weight loss

Where are Sam’s weight loss ads?

Yes, I know I’ve complained about them for years. And mostly, during the year, I don’t see them. But this year, for the very first time, they don’t even seem to be making a New Year’s appearance.

My Facebook newsfeed is full of ads for accountability journals and productivity tools. Where are all the January 1st weight loss ads? Has Facebook declared me too old for them? (Is that a thing?) Too feminist for them? (That seems too sophisticated for a social media tool to get.) Too career focused to care about my weight? It’s liberating and puzzling all all the same time.

The Getting Stuff Done planner looks pretty good but it includes food tracking and exercise tracking and I hate mixing streams.

Also, all that pink. But look! It comes with a rose gold pen. But is it a good pen? (Friend David says “no.” He says, “It’s a free pen. There are no good free pens.” He’s a serious pen snob though and I’m only a moderate pen snob, more particular than anything else I’d say.)

Do you have any great tracking tools, whether for productivity generally or fitness specifically to recommend? I like both paper and electronic, for different purposes.

Image of red “getting things done” book and an acer notebook on a white cloth background
Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash