You've been cutting calories, eating smaller portions and walking almost every day — a seemingly successful dieting strategy by all measures except one: the scale. It doesn't seem to budge. What gives? Why can't you lose weight even when you're dieting?
If you're over 50, experts say that your metabolism — as it relates to changes in your physiology, medications you take and muscle loss — may be to blame. But, of course, lifestyle (sitting much, anyone?) factors in, too. Here are the six solvable problems likely standing between you and your slimmer self, according to experts.
1. Your medications are an issue.
Roughly 75 percent of people over 50 take prescription drugs regularly, and the percentage (and number of meds people take) rises steadily with age. While those medications may be necessary, they can mess with your weight. Research shows that 10 to 15 percent of the obesity epidemic is related to drug-induced weight gain. Further, “it's likely that drugs make it harder to lose weight,” says Louis Aronne, M.D., director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. Weight-gain-promoting drugs run the gamut, from over-the-counter antihistamines that contain diphenhydramine, which increases appetite, to beta blockers, which can slow muscle contractions and thereby slow metabolism, to most selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors prescribed for depression and anxiety. “They initially cause weight loss, but over time they cause weight gain, although we don't have a clue as to why,” Aronne says. If you think your medication may be interfering with your weight-loss effort, don't go off the drug; instead, talk with your doctor. “In most cases there are alternatives that don't have an effect on weight,” he says.
2. You're losing muscle.
"If you don't make an effort to preserve muscle mass, you lose 3 to 8 percent per decade after age 30,” says Kristen Beavers, associate professor in the department of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University. And because muscle burns more calories than fat, your metabolic rate slows and you torch fewer calories, she adds. Age-related hormone loss, in both women and men, accelerates the decline. Complicating matters further, you lose muscle when you shed weight. In some people, as much as 40 percent of their weight loss is from muscle, according to Beavers.