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Am I too old to aim for a certain body fat % ?



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ARCHIMEDESII
SparkPoints: (135,813)
Fitness Minutes: (204,470)
Posts: 20,194
6/15/13 6:42 A

Hey, Amanda !

I was watching a movie last night called Suddenly Last Summer with Elizabeth Taylor. When she was a teen, she had an 18 inch waist. As she grew older, so did her body. If you compare her figure when she was in her 20s to her teens, you'll notice that even though she was slender, she didn't have that same teen body. And when she reached her 40s, she certainly didn't have that 18 or even 24 inch waist. We can't all be Ginger Grant !

Even if you look at ballet dancers over the years, very few have the same body they did when they were younger. It isn't necessarily because we pack on too much weight as we age, but our bodies do change with time. Some women can have the body they had when they were in high school or college, some can't.

For me personally ? I'm happy I can do things I couldn't do as a teen i.e. like 100 good military style push ups. For me, what my body can do has become more important than its size per se. I've always had a study peasant type figure, I always will. And I'm okay with that. I'm working on the best I can be with the body I have.


Edited by: ARCHIMEDESII at: 6/15/2013 (06:43)


MOTIVATED@LAST
Posts: 13,911
6/14/13 9:19 P

One of the reasons for the slight increase in body fat on those tables is that we tend to lose lean mass (especially muscle) as we age. A typical figure quoted is 0.5 lbs of muscle loss per year, or 5 lbs in 10 years.

So if you had 40 lbs of fat, 120 lbs of lean mass for 25% body fat, 10 years later those same 40 lbs would be 26%.

But in terms of measurements, not much would change.

M@L




BARBANNA
SparkPoints: (97,203)
Fitness Minutes: (75,044)
Posts: 3,204
6/14/13 12:03 P

I do not know how old you are but what I do know is that the older you get the more critical exercise becomes and the more the metabolism slows. Your physician should answer this question if you have health issues that put you at risk. He/She can tell you what is safe and explain what that % should be.



NAUSIKAA
Posts: 4,848
6/14/13 11:52 A

Amanda, I believe that the technical answer is NO, there is no reason why you cannot achieve whatever body fat % you want, as long as you are willing to do the work. Will it take more time and more effort than if you were 17? Absolutely. But there are no laws of aging that supersede the laws of physics that govern the way body fat is burned off when energy is needed.

An extremely low weight (say, 115) may not necessarily mean a very low body fat %, and this is especially a concern in an older woman. Especially if most of your exercise is more cardio-based, you could be experiencing muscle wasting as well as fat loss, and that can leave you with a higher body fat % at a lower weight. For example you may end up 22% fat at 115 lbs, whereas you may have been 18% fat at 115 lbs in the past.

The way to avoid this is to focus on heavy strength training and to moderate cardio activity so its not taken to the extreme (muscle wasting level). If you are working hard to maintain your muscle mass and drop your body weight as low as you want you can get your body fat % low as well.

Remember that as our bodies get smaller, it takes longer to lose 1 lb of fat. Our bodies tend to work in % rather than absolute numbers. I know almost nothing about you personally but it is not at all rare for it to take an average woman years to drop her body fat % below 20% and you may simply decide that it's not worth the time and effort, but eventually, even if it takes years, it is absolutely possible to do.



AMANDANCES
Posts: 1,975
6/14/13 11:41 A

Okay, this is very helpful. The charts are also helpful. I was asking if there was a physical reason why an older person couldn't aim for those college measurements, and I'm seeing that there really isn't much reason, except for the small increase that comes with menopause. (Can't WAIT for that ... not!)

As for me, it's kind of complicated, but I used to be a ballet dancer, which meant lean, and my heaviest weight was around 115. I was looking at old pictures of me and I didn't look sick or anything, but I'm not sure I want to be THAT thin, or with that low of a body fat percentage.

Since I switched over to Oriental dance, the commercial aesthetic is MUCH different. Audiences don't want us to be super-skinny, but for some companies and some choreographers, you do have to be what we call "commercially thin" -- which for me is probably a weight of around 125. (I am only talking about the weight because before I did Spark, I didn't measure, and other than the miniskirt, I don't have any old clothes to compare with.)

When I did Spark the first time in 2007, it was because I was overeating and kept getting turned down in auditions. A choreographer told me to lose 20 pounds to be marketable. I did, Actually I lost 25 in about 9-10 months, and I went from a waist size of 34.5 to 28.5 (6 inches!!!) before I quit tracking it. I know I got smaller than that because costumes I had been wearing in 2008 were too big for me in 2009.

In any case, I was able to keep it off, with no problem really -- until 2011 when I got pregnant and used my pregnancy as an excuse to treat the refrigerator like it was an all-you-can-eat-buffet. (Actually I lost most of my fluid and baby weight quickly -- but gained over 30 pounds in the 18 months of his life, probably from not working and not exercising and eating a lot of fattening comfort foods.) So when I tried to go back to work, I couldn't fit in old costumes and my coach and trainer was kind of like, "um, you really need to lose about 40 if you want to work." I know I can do it -- I did it before. And so far it's working. Since I've started tracking food and amping up the cardio and weight training, I'm down 2 pant sizes. Once I hit goal, I NEVER intend to let myself go again. (And it was all me. I can't blame the baby.)

Seeing the miniskirt in the closet made me wonder if I could get to ballet weight again -- not that I want to, just wondering if the science would say no. (And I'm over 40, so I won't be wearing a miniskirt again - LOL!)

Anyway, that's my LONG story and I do appreciate the suggestions and comments. I may not WANT to weigh what I did when I was in college, but at least I know there's not really any science stopping me from it :) THANKS!!



TACDGB
Posts: 6,015
6/13/13 10:27 P

I am 57 and am in the best shape of my life. I weigh less now then I ever have. I have more muscles too. I do believe that you can do that. I weigh less now then when I was a teen. So go get the body you want.



FIELDWORKING
SparkPoints: (22,027)
Fitness Minutes: (42,203)
Posts: 601
6/13/13 5:00 P

I think that by age 60 most women are going through menopause or have already gone through menopause. I think that most doctors assumes that, by age 60, a woman has already gone through "the change." After menopause, women tend to gain and keep on the weight (even if they are still in their 50s). I have seen some charts that show the body fat % range for different ages. You can do a quick google search and find several pictures that show the body fat % based on age range.

www.weightloss-challenge.co.uk/2009/01/wha
t-does-your-body-fat-mean.html




ARCHIMEDESII
SparkPoints: (135,813)
Fitness Minutes: (204,470)
Posts: 20,194
6/13/13 1:26 P

AMANDARAQS,

Women are supposed to carry some body fat to be healthy. If our body fat goes too low, at any age, we're at risk for a number of health issues. From my own research, I've learned that "in general" most women should carry 20-29% body fat depending on age, athletic ability, frame and genetics. Yes, there are women athletes, body builders and super models who have ultra low body fat.

Some women can maintain a low body fat and not have any health repurcussions. that's just the way the genetic ball bounded. However, this is not the norm. As we age, we are expected to carry some body fat not only to be healthy, but to also protect our bones when we fall. Older women with lower body fat are at a higher risk for broken bones and fractures from falls.

How low does your body fat need to be to fit into a size 4 from your teen years ? First, take the measurements of the skirt. What are the waist and hip measurements ? let's say you had a 24 inch waist in high school and now your waist is 30. Realistically, how much work would you have to do to lose six inches off your waist ? If you're at a healthy weight for your height, it's going to take an awful lot of work.

You also have to ask yourself whether or not you can MAINTAIN that loss. It's one thing to lose the weight. it's another to keep it off. Ask Oprah Winfrey. She's famous for having lost 67 pounds and parading around in those skinny jeans. How many weeks was she able to fit those jeans before the weight started packing on ???

That's going to be a big issue you need to confront. If you take the weight off can you keep it off ? Many women do choose goal weights which are not realistic for their age or body type.

My question ? What's the waist size of the skirt and what's your current waist size ? Those numbers will give us a better idea of how much you might have to lose in order to get back into that size 4.

If it's only a couple of inches, it just might be a matter of eating a healthy diet combined with a good strength training program. However, the more inches you need to lose, the harder it's going to be to take off the weight.

I'm over 40. In fact, I'll be 50 next year. I may not be the size I was in high school. However, I have never been fitter. I'm in better shape now than when I was in high school. But I wore a smaller size in high school. I was "thin", but I wasn't fit. If you're in better shape now than you were when you wore that skirt, be proud of that !!!

My dos centovos.



Edited by: ARCHIMEDESII at: 6/13/2013 (13:27)


MOTIVATED@LAST
Posts: 13,911
6/13/13 12:12 P

You may want to look at the age-body fat tables at www.builtlean.com/2010/08/03/ideal-body-fa
t-percentage-chart/
for an understanding of comparable BFP's at different ages.

M@L



JESSAELINN
SparkPoints: (16,791)
Fitness Minutes: (16,460)
Posts: 365
6/13/13 12:03 P

But you never said how old you are?? I am assuming you're in your 80's? If so, I should tell you that in my nutrition classes I've learned that health professionals advise against it.
It is actually healthier for someone who is older to have on a little more weight then they were in their 20's. The reasons being that if you get sick or suffer any ailments that prevent you from eating or digesting properly, you will have that extra fat stores to keep you alive.

If you're not in your 80's, in fact if you are much younger, it is healthy to go back to your skinny weight again, it is just much harder to get there and keep there because as we age our metabolism slows down at a rate of 5% per 10 years.

(edit to add-- I'm a dork, I could have just looked at your profile. Beautiful baby!)

Edited by: JESSAELINN at: 6/13/2013 (12:06)


AMANDANCES
Posts: 1,975
6/13/13 11:43 A

Is there any truth to the fact that as we age, we can't get back to the weight or size or body fat percentage we were when we were younger?

I ask because I was going through my closet last night and found an old miniskirt size 4 that I wore in college. Now, I realize that I've had a baby and my hips may never fit back into that skirt again, but is there any health reason why I can't get to the weight I was (and body fat percentage) that I was when I was in college? I'm basically a little more active now than I was then, and I can't see how our basic weight and body fat percentage should have to INCREASE just because we're aging? Or am I missing something?

All the weight charts I've seen base healthy weights on adults 20-59, so doesn't that mean that pre-menopausal women can still aim for those college year measurements?




 
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