Why am I gaining weight…? 

Why am I gaining weight…? 

There are lots of reasons people gain weight.  Here are just a few that you may find as you get older: 

  • Your energy needs can decrease so it can be easier to gain weight. 
  • Your body composition changes and you may lose muscle and gain fat.  As fat requires less energy than muscle to function our energy needs decrease. 
  • Many people may become less physically active as they age due to a variety of reasons, therefore, if you’re using fewer calories and you haven’t changed your diet, it can lead to weight gain. 
  • Due to hormonal changes as we get older, we become more like to lay fat around the middle. 
  • Changes in your home life such as suddenly living alone or having less money to spend on food. 

Do I need to lose weight? 

Typically, the NHS would recommend using the body mass index (BMI) chart to determine your health risks.  BMI is calculated according to your height and weight.   See the formula below.  

BMI (kg/m2) = weight(kg)/height2(m) 

BMI does have its limitations and it is important how it is interpreted.  Evidence suggests that the BMI ranges should be different for older adults and a BMI between 25 – 29 kg/m2 could be ideal.  We would recommend using your BMI alongside your waist measurement to monitor your progress and reduce the health risks associated with being an unhealthy weight.  

As you get older, your body composition changes. This means your muscles get smaller and you have an increase and redistribution of your fat cells, normally around the waist area. Studies show that when you are carrying too much weight around your middle it increases your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and type 2 diabetes. 

The British Heart Foundation has a YouTube video on how to calculate your BMI and you can add your own measures in.  The British Heart Foundation website has a good video on how to measure your waist yourself.  The table below shows what your waist circumference should be. 

Gender Low risk High risk Very high risk 
White European, black African, Middle Eastern and mixed-origin 
Men < 94 cm (37 inches) 94-102 cm (37-40 inches) > 102 cm (40 inches) 
Women < 80 cm (31.5 inches) 80-88 cm (31.5 – 34.6 inches) > 88 cm (34.6 inches) 
African Caribbean, South Asian, Chinese and Japanese origin 
Men < 90 cm (35.4 inches)  > 90 cm (35.4 inches) 
Women <80 cm (31.5 inches)  > 80 cm (31.5 inches) 

In short, your BMI for your age may be ok, but your waist circumference might still be too high.  Aim to get your waist circumference to halve of your height.  

What are the benefits of losing weight?   

It’s important to note that the benefits of weight loss can vary from person to person, and the approach to weight loss should be individualized and sustainable. Additionally, focusing on overall health rather than just the number on the scale is key to long-term well-being. 

Losing weight, particularly when it is done in a gradual and healthy manner, can have numerous benefits for both physical and mental well-being. Here are some of the key benefits: 

Improved Cardiovascular Health:  

Losing excess weight can reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels, and decreasing the strain on the heart. 

Better Blood Sugar Control:  

Weight loss can help regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and improving insulin sensitivity. 

Reduced Risk of Certain Cancers: 

Maintaining a healthy weight is associated with a lower risk of developing certain types of cancers, including breast, colon, and prostate cancers. 

Enhanced Joint Health:  

Excess weight puts additional stress on joints, particularly in the knees and hips. Losing weight can alleviate this stress, reducing the risk of joint pain and improving mobility. 

Improved Sleep:  

Weight loss can positively impact sleep quality and reduce the risk of conditions like sleep apnoea. Better sleep, in turn, contributes to overall well-being and cognitive function. 

Increased Energy Levels:  

Carrying excess weight can lead to fatigue and reduced energy levels. Losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle often result in increased energy and improved stamina. 

Enhanced Mental Health:  

Physical activity associated with weight loss releases endorphins, which can improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, achieving weight loss goals can boost self-esteem and confidence. 

Better Respiratory Function:  

Excess weight can strain the respiratory system, leading to difficulties in breathing. Weight loss can improve lung function and overall respiratory health. 

Lower Risk of Sleep Apnoea:  

Obesity is a significant risk factor for sleep apnoea. Losing weight can reduce the severity of sleep apnoea symptoms or even eliminate them in some cases. 

Reduced Inflammation:  

Obesity is associated with chronic inflammation, which is linked to various health conditions. Weight loss can help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of inflammatory-related diseases. 

Improved Fertility:  

In overweight individuals, weight loss can enhance fertility by regulating hormonal balance and improving reproductive function. 

Better Digestive Health:  

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is associated with improved digestive health, reducing the risk of conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and gallstones. 

Written by Twané Walker – Registered Dietitian 

January 2024