If losing weight seems to get more and more difficult as you get older, despite making healthier choices over the years, there's actually some science behind the struggle.
"Biologically, our basal metabolic rate (how many calories we burn just by being alive) decreases with age," says Rebecca Washuta, LDN, nutritionist and coach manager at Noom. "Behaviorally, we also typically become more sedentary and less active as we get older, which can lead to loss of muscle mass."
You can't control the way your biology changes as you age, but there is one thing you can do to support your metabolic rate: strength train. "Pound for pound, the metabolic rate of lean muscle is greater than the metabolic rate of fat tissue, which means the more lean muscle tissue you have, the higher your metabolic rate," Washuta says. "Strength training is the best way to ... help reduce the amount of lean muscle tissue you lose, and also help you develop new muscle tissue."
That's why adding strength training into a regular workout regimen is one of the first things Washuta recommends for people trying to lose weight. After that, you can start taking inventory of the other factors that affect weight loss — because age isn't the only one. Noom — a weight-loss program that helps educate people on healthy lifestyle choices — takes those factors into account by tabulating age, height, weight, gender and activity level to calculate users' customized plans.
And while each person's journey is different, there are some common barriers that people who are trying to lose weight often face. Here, Washuta breaks down four of the most common factors she's seen affect users over her years as a coach.
Stress affects everyone differently, but living in a constant state of worry won't help anyone with their goals. "Stress can not only affect your metabolism and raise your blood sugar, but it can also trigger behavior patterns that may not align with long-term goals, like reaching for comfort foods or skipping the gym," Washuta says.
Whether it's starting a meditation practice or taking a walk break during a stressful work day, finding stress-management practices that work for you can help you calmly stay on track.
While losing weight doesn't have to mean cutting out alcohol completely, alcohol is something that's easy to overdo without realizing how many calories you're consuming. "If you make healthy choices all day, but then have multiple drinks in the evening, you could be undoing all your hard work," Washuta says. "At Noom, we encourage users to log their food and drinks (at least initially) so you have a good idea of how many daily calories you're consuming."
Reaching your weight-loss goal doesn't require giving up your evening glass of cabernet if you love it, but being mindful about your food and drink choices — for all aspects of your diet, not just alcohol — can help you find a healthy balance.
3. Activity Level
This one seems pretty obvious, but Washuta isn't just talking about hitting the gym. "Regular exercise is one of the biggest predictors of long term weight management," Washuta says. "But this doesn't mean you need to run 5 miles a day. Find a workout you enjoy and that you can fit into your schedule. Joyful movement is the best kind of movement."
And really any form of movement counts, as long as you stick to it — regardless of whether it's weekly HIIT workouts, jumping jacks during TV commercial breaks, or parking in the back of the lot to increase your steps.
You might think weight loss is a solo project (it's pretty personal, after all), but having a team of cheerleaders can actually make a big difference, Washuta says. "At Noom, users receive daily group support and weekly individual support from their coaches, and we work together to identify support systems at home and within their communities," she says.
A few suggestions for finding your support squad: Asking your partner to join you in making healthier choices at the grocery store, planning regular virtual workouts with a long-distance friend, or simply asking a few family members to help you celebrate hitting your weight-loss milestones.