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Weight Loss Maintenance: Tougher for Younger Women?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I haven't actually seen any research on this topic.

But: based upon personal experience and observation of others (both here at Spark and in "real" life) I think this might be so.

Especially for women.


As younger women, many of us still take on disproportionate and gendered "food duties".

We plan, shop, prepare, serve and clean up meals for our children. And are tempted to sample at every stage of the process.

We take the lead in hostessing get togethers for both family and friends, which are inevitably food oriented. More planning, shopping, preparing, serving and cleaning up meals. More sampling opportunities.

Younger women experience greater hormonal swings which affect mood and need for comfort. Food is always handy (see above).

There are greater work/life balance issues for younger women: rushing from work to get the kids before the daycare closes. Exhausted. Worn-out will power, Driving past the fast food places with hungry wails from the back seat. Nothing ready for dinner. Overwhelmed with guilt. Never feeling "good enough" either at work or at home. Sound familiar?

All of which means: younger women have much less time for exercising and taking care of themselves.

Simultaneously there are greater pressures to look fabulous when you're younger: perfect body, perfect hair, perfect makeup. And to keep a fabulous home for all that entertaining. While providing little people with all of the opportunities for enrichment and "mummy-time" that society tells us are essential to their growth and development.

These pressures do relax eventually. And with greater age comes (I believe) greater confidence about just saying no.

No, I'm not able to make cupcakes for the fundraiser.

No, I can't host the reunion at my place: but I'll make reservations at the restaurant. How many want to attend?

No, can't attend the breakfast meeting (that's my gym time).

Is it any wonder that achieving a more optimal weight and maintaining that weight seems to be more doable for women over 50 than under 40?

What do you think: is that your experience too?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • CANNIE50
    Such an interesting blog, and I enjoyed reading all the comments. I am an odd one. I am 53, in seemingly endless menopause, a thyroid condition that has resisted all sorts of medication and medication changes, and I am still raising a young (9 year old) child, who is very food driven. I have been raising children for decades (family planning eluded me emoticon ) and I now help my elderly mother as well. I love your point about the ability to say no and stick to our own priorities - I have gotten much better at this as I have grown older. I just wrote a blog where I talked about not having struggled with my weight the first 20 years of my life and wondering if perhaps I won't have to struggle the LAST 20 years of my life (of course, that timeline is unknowable). In the meantime, I struggle away, day by day.
    1822 days ago
    It looks like you're going to be able to gather some research on this right here! :) As for me. Hmmm I dunno..I was thin when I was in my 20s and my 30s. Then toward turning 40 my metabolism slowed way down. My husband is not very active and eats foods I'm not fond of. However I'm taking back control of what goes into my mouth most recently! :) I think.. there's truth to what you say but I also think it's very situational.
    1823 days ago
    Very interesting. I have wondered if for me going through menopause wasn't helpful when it came to weight maintenance. I know that many people gain as they age, but I suspect that for me getting away from those hormone fluctuations was a help. Also, when I was 20-30-40 "they" were advocating "diets" that were just too few calories and set me up for re-gain.

    But your point about women having the cooking and food duties resulting in constant temptation is a good one. As a caregiver to 2 young children I will say that if I could not deal with many, many snacks and meals I could not maintain. Also, they waste so much food. It is a terrible temptation to eat what you tried to make look so tempting for them!!
    1826 days ago
    So true! I was the woman you spoke about! Four kids in five years kept me running. Soccer, at one time, for all four. Football, horses, work, taking care of aging parents, etc. Then, two years ago it was MY time. I lost 40 lbs and am now in the best shape of my life. I just wish I would have done this at a younger age before my body started "aging." It's well worth it, though.

    emoticon blog and perspective!! emoticon
    1828 days ago
    I agree that having to cook for your family and all the responsibilites makes dieting harder. But your metabolism is definitely faster when you are younger, and so weight loss is easier. I have the same conflicts, you want me to go to the party; but I have a workout class.

    keep pushing.
    1828 days ago
    Hmmmmm - it was easier to lose when I was younger, due to higher metabolism. And I skipped the kid thing. And I lived alone, didn't cook for anyone but myself.

    So, maybe my experience is out of the norm.
    1829 days ago
    I definitely agree that it's harder for younger people, and for younger women in particular. At 36, I'm definitely one of the younger maintainers here. Family commitments and a fuller social calendar that revolves around eating and drinking is part of it, but I also think that the wisdom factor is huge. Losing weight and keeping it off involves really internalizing and putting into practice a variety of different things and we're often not able to make all of the pieces come together in one go. It takes persistence, a willingness to experiment and be patient with the process and, to borrow a word from one of your blogs, grit. Those are not skills that are developed overnight and I think that means you won't see a whole lot of longer-term twentysomething maintainers, especially if their difficulties stem in part from emotional issues.
    1829 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/20/2013 3:04:51 AM
    I agree with you completely! And I have made this observation myself, too. I believe - correct me if I'm wrong - the majority of successful maintainers at the maintenance team are women over 50. I think the wisdom that comes with experience and a longer practice on willpower and patience, together with all the reasons you mentioned, make it a much more doable accomplishment for women at this age.
    Thank you for bringing this subject to our attention.
    1829 days ago
    It depends what you means by younger woman... I know I didn't have any issue maintaining a skinny weight in my 20's, I put on the weight in my 30's...

    In my 20's, I was never going to the restaurant, I had no money for any treat, I had a more flexible schedule to work out, I was working insane amount of hours as a student and I was definitively burning... In my 30's, I could enjoy myself more - including through food, the work related stress become more insidious, the schedule is more regular but that strangely didn't help... and the metabolism changes, and not for the best!

    I'm hoping that in the future, maintenance will be easier as I know myself better, I know why I ate and, unless something completely overwhelming happens to me and push health to a secondary plan, it'll become easier with time.

    1829 days ago
    There you go, making me think deeply again!
    I see your point and believe it is true for most folks- we women (esp. moms but, really, most women are caretakers whether they have kids or not) tend to put ourselves at the bottom of the priority list regularly, esp. when younger and spread thin by various demands.
    That being said- I found it much easier to lose wt when I was younger-
    I regularly lost 10-20-30 lbs between Jan-June every year-
    and then slowly regained it-
    plus a few extras for good measure. emoticon
    That is how I dieted my way up to nearly 200 lbs.
    I knew nothing about nutrition or fitness.
    I guess I always did some form of exercise because it was my major stress reliever and I always loved it.
    Now (at 61 and retired) I am an exercise fanatic and eat whole healthy home-made food 98% of the time and still struggle to lose.

    1829 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/19/2013 10:27:50 PM
    Just keep on keeping on.
    1829 days ago
    I didn't even try to lose weight while I was younger. Balancing work and family life was enough to keep me busy. Now that my kids are grown and I'm retired, I have much more time to take care of myself. Losing the weight was easier than maintaining the loss for me, though. I guess it will always be a struggle. But I'm much healthier now than I was, and I have a great time exercising and planning healthier meals.
    1829 days ago
    I feel its easier to take it off when your younger, because yoru more active, but harder after memopause since hormones has a lot to do with weight loss issues too! Without estrogen you have a harder time losing weight you put on after having children if you dont lose it while your young and also a harder time losing after memopause ; because as you age you have less hormone activity! Also with low low estrogen comes low adrenaline and with stress you have less thyroid available; which makes it harder to lose as you age. You have less adrenaline reserves and your body does not stores it when your so stressed. Because as you age, you have less and less hormones which controls the glandular activity of those glands also which control excess weight! Less hormones , less chance to lose weight after memopause! But if your young and active; and have no glandular problems, you have a greater chance to lose weight when your young than when your over the memopause age! Its a fact!

    But if you just sit around and are not active when your young, yes, you can put the weight on and keep it on, but a greater chance to lose it if your active daily! Even after memopasue IF you have good levels of adrenaline. But as you age, its harder when you have "no" adrenaline or less estrogen or no thyroid hormone to keep track of your fat reserves to help you unload that excess weight! No matter how much your active! But I do know you can lose weight if you eat less ( as you get older you can survive on less calories)! And if you get 8 hours of rest and you still have reserves of adrenaline, you can lose weight with adrenaline reserves ( IF your not all stressed out to the max). Having reserves of many hormones can help you lose weight! Hope this info helps you to never give up on losing the weight. Appetite is another thing! Susana
    1829 days ago
    Absolutely agree with your anecdotal analysis... matches my life cycles, for sure. The ability to become OK with saying NO is a huge one. The letting go of unrealistic expectations. ALSO, for some of us, age takes away the need for the armor of fat to keep unwanted sexual attention at bay!

    I have seen the pattern in others, not just myself... when we finally let go, we let go of the weight, too.
    1829 days ago
    Interesting for sure. I've thought about this as well and had some of the same conclusions. My difference is that I don't have kids but I had other things going on. Some differences for me other than noted is that I have different priorities, I feel calmer, wiser and clearer headed about what matters. (Not that I have any of these completely under control.) Perhaps this is what balances the pressures.
    1829 days ago
    Never thought of it that way before. I believe you are right. Also, this encourages me to simply take on the act of saying "no" gracefully and without guilt NOW, while I am only 40.
    1829 days ago
    Perhaps yes, you might just be right! Very interesting...
    1829 days ago
  • MILLIE5522
    I would agree with you but I know that my metabolism was higher in my 30's so I could lose the weight quite quickly averaging 2 lbs a week whereas now it averages out at 2 lbs a month emoticon

    1829 days ago
  • DALID414
    I'm in the minority: no kids, the boyfriend loves to cook (and get compliments for doing so), and I have a very small family= no 'gatherings'. I'm also very confident in saying no, which makes me seem like an old grouchy wentch, but it's what works for me!
    1829 days ago
  • KANOE10
    I agree that younger people can have more time problems with taking care of children and also more hormonal problems with being younger. However, older women are also often caretakers of their spouses or parents..which really can have the same impact on taking time from exercise or cooking.
    For myself I have learned late in life to say no and stick to it., I wish I had learned it when I was younger. I think young people can also develop this strength and commitment.
    Interesting blog.
    1829 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/19/2013 11:30:06 AM
    I was an overweight teenager as soon as I acquired the ability to buy extra food at school. I wasn't cooking for the family, nor did I have regular meal prep responsibilities then. (I did have clean-up duty.) This part of my experience doesn't match your hypothesis.

    I DO agree that having to feed small tummies on a regular schedule makes it easy to eat more if you don't reign in the amount. Having kid, cooking and other work responsibilities makes it hard to carve out time to exercise. My "me" time usually consisted of reading rather than sweating. Not having the monthly hormone cycle messing with my moods is a great relief.
    1829 days ago
    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm, I'm 57 (not really younger) and have had trouble maintaining in the past. Now I think I'm more successful b/c I've DECIDED it's what I want to do. I mostly don't let the old "normal of life" get in my way.... For example:

    I am the one who hosts the family get-togethers b/c I'm the "grand" of the family....I don't cook what I used to, and if I decide to cook something that is not "on-plan" I decide in advance of cooking it that I'm not going to eat it.

    I bake for coffee hour at church once a month. I make a decision not to cut the baked goods until I get to church and then I decide to give any left-overs away BEFORE I bring them home.

    I am the sole cook for my DH daily....almost every day I decide to make 2 different meals for dinner, one for him and one for me.

    So, from my perspective, successful maintenance is in the DECISION, not the AGE.

    Just my thoughts from my experience.
    Cheers, Sandi
    1829 days ago
    At 71; I've been through all these stages and agree with you! Younger women do have more challenges and it is hard to find the time and energy to take care of yourself. On the plus side you do control most of the food coming into the house, making healthy choices is good for you AND your family, you can set a good example so your kids have less of a struggle to face in their future and learning to say no is a skill that can be developed at any age. What you do to take care of yourself before you are 50 can have a great impact on your life after 50. Immobility is the enemy and will land you in a nursing home! That said, the best thing that happened for me was getting off the hormone rollercoaster that ruled half of each month. Regardless, strive for health!
    1829 days ago
    Greater confidence saying "no" coupled with greater confidence putting one's self-care needs first! After all, the better we take care of ourselves, the more we replenish our personal "wells" with reserves that we can offer others when there is true need for them! :-)

    1829 days ago
    I agree completely and with your reasoning. I have two daughters, ages 5 and 3. I started saying "No" after starting SP last October and I feel like it has benefited me and my family. Thank you for sharing.
    1829 days ago
    Total agreement. But I'd never considered the "why" of it al. Thanks for thinking!
    1829 days ago
    Yes this has been my experience as well. I can identity with everything you mentioned about young moms and the running around.

    I give credit to SP and my SP friends for helping me maintain my weight loss so far but it's also due to the fact that my kids are grown and I have more time to get a workouts in. I don't have all that running around to do anymore.

    Excellent observation!
    1829 days ago
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