how to lose middle age spread

How to lose middle age spread

Today we will talk about how to lose middle age spread. The middle age spread is an unfortunate phenomenon that most of us have firsthand experience with.

As we age, at some point we start to notice that the pounds start packing on and our mid section becomes fluffy. The dieting and weight loss tricks we did when younger no more seem to have any affect and the fat just won’t budge.

To add to the insult it seems that we gain weight and fat even when eating just like we have for most of our adult lives without any problem. So what gives?

In short, aging causes changes in our metabolism, muscle mass and hormonal levels. All these changes easily lead to general fatigue and less active lifestyle, without us ever noticing it.

Let’s get to the details more deeply in the next section!

What is the middle age spread

Generally speaking, the middle age spread refers to weight gain we seem to “suddenly” put on somewhere in the middle age. At what point this happens is highly individual and some people never experience it, but most of us do in some form.

You realize that your pants start to feel tight and the buttons of your shirt want to explode out of the pressure. It might seem this happens overnight but the reality is that it often happens very gradually over several years or at least months.

If you gain weight very fast in the matter of weeks this is probably due to a negative lifestyle change or an illness and you should always consult your physician in case of very aggressive weight gain.

With the typical middle age spread you can’t seem to find a reason why you are gaining the weight. You have kept your diet and meal sizes pretty much the same for decades already at this point and you never seemed to have any real problem with weight gain before.

This can really make you feel hopeless against the battle of the bulge and aging. But don’t worry, there is a pretty straight forward and simple solution for preventing and losing the middle age spread!

But first we need to understand what exactly causes this “unexplainable” weight gain.

What causes middle age weight gain

The weight gain many experience at middle age is a combination of physiological changes related with aging. Busy and stressful lifestyle that many live during the middle age can lead to bad lifestyle habits.

All this combined can lead to significant lowering of your activity levels and increase in consumption of calories. This will naturally lead to weight gain over the long run.

Hormonal changes

As we get older, the hormones that are responsible for keeping up our youthful metabolism and muscle mass start to diminish. This is especially prominent in menopausal women when estrogen levels drop.

Men suffer from a more gradual “andropause” where the testosterone levels gradually fall with age. In both genders this drop in sex hormones affects metabolism, muscle mass, muscle strength and bone mass.

hormonal changes cause middle age spread

Naturally these hormones have behavioral functions as well as they promote active lifestyle because of our natural drive to procreate and thus impress the opposite sex.

Both genders also lose growth hormone levels with age. Growth hormone together with the sex hormones have very significant metabolic functions, so lower levels of course affect our metabolism negatively. Our muscle and bone mass diminish and we tend to store fat more easily.

These changes in hormonal levels are natural part of aging and not much can be done to prevent them. Eating a healthy balanced diet and avoiding excess fat mass will provide some benefits as body fat tends to negatively affect especially testosterone levels.

Exercise, especially strength training, promotes growth hormone secretion and helps to maintain and increase muscle mass and lower body fat.

Loss of muscle mass

Due to the hormonal changes and lack of physical exercise we tend to lose muscle mass as we age. Losing muscle mass further lowers our metabolism and makes having an active lifestyle more difficult.

You see muscle mass requires more energy even at rest than fat. Not much, but it adds up over time. That’s why it’s important to do your best to maintain and increase your muscle mass when younger.

Muscle mass is dependent both on your hormones and exercise. Strength training and a proper diet are crucial for preventing loss of muscle mass.

Lack of activity

In middle age people are generally busy. With work, children, hobbies, responsibilities and just life in general. Unfortunately being busy with stuff that doesn’t make you move can make you feel like your physically exhausted even though you haven’t actually strained your body at all.

It’s very common to miss a walk or a gym session because you tell yourself you need rest after a busy day. The irony here is that exercise actually increases your energy if you are fatigued because of mental stress.

Simple leg exercises for the elderly

If you don’t actively think about increasing physical activity in your everyday life, you will likely end constantly doing bad lifestyle decisions because of your feelings of fatigue.

These include using the car for even short trips, staying at the couch the whole evening after work and always avoiding using the stairs. And of course missing your planned exercise routines because you don’t feel like it.

These might not be a huge issue if you do physical labor but for an office worker being otherwise completely sedentary is a surefire way to cause weight gain and health issues.

Even if you do manual labor it’s wise to hove other physical activity besides it because once you retire or change a job, the pound will pack on incredibly fast if you don’t increase your spare time activity and make a diet overhaul.

High caloric density foods

During middle age people tend to have more income to spend for food. If you don’t consciously think about what you eat it’s very easy to eat too much and especially too high caloric density foods. We are bombarded with constant stream of commercials and ads about tasty looking delicious food.

When we feel busy and stressed we start to crave sugar and fat. This is because eating something tasty activates our brains reward center that rewards us with feel good neuro transmitters like dopamine and serotonin.

high calorie foods cause fat gain

Just like it’s easy to give yourself permission to miss a workout it’s very easy to give yourself permission to get some pizza or a burger for lunch when your feeling tired and stressed. The irony here is that eating a healthier diet will give you much more energy

Is middle age spread inevitable

If you don’t make conscious decisions about your lifestyle choices, diet and exercise, the middle age spread is almost inevitable.

Only if you have exceptionally good genetics that give you high metabolism and low appetite you might naturally avoid the weight gain in the modern world of high calorie foods.

That’s why it’s important to learn about this stuff, try what works best for you and establish a routine. Parents should do their best to pass this knowledge to their children as well.

Unfortunately many forget about healthy lifestyle choices as a young adult when going out and getting take away food seem like the best thing ever. This is not that bad as young adults can get away with almost anything. But if you continue you those habits for several years you can cause some permanent health damage and obesity.

It will be that much harder to fix things in the middle age or as a senior if you have been neglecting your bodies needs for decades already.

Is middle age spread dangerous

To make things worse, the increased fat mass is very dangerous for your health. A bit of fat won’t pose a real threat but any significant amount of body fat will affect your health negatively.

Like we just established, young adults can get away with these negative effects much better because of better hormonal profiles and regenerative ability.

Being overweight and out of shape will always have negative effects but the really serious effects take time to cause real effect. We are talking about years and decades here.

Fat mass is linked with insulin resistance (pre diabetes), type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, increased inflammation, negative hormonal changes and many other negative health factors.

As you can surely realize from that list alone, it’s extremely important to do your best to lose the excess weight. It puts in risk of having a heart attack, different kinds of inflammatory diseases and diabetes.

How to lose and prevent the middle age spread

Now that we know what causes the middle age spread it’s time to look how to fix it!

Become more active (get an activity watch)

The first step is to become active in any and every way possible. If you are not sure how active you actually are currently it’s wise to get an activity watch or a fitness tracker. Even most smartphones do a pretty good job in gauging your activity by counting your steps.

You should aim for at least 10 000 steps a day and include things like cycling, carrying your groceries, doing your own cleaning and yard work to get enough activity for increasing your health and losing some fat.

Being active throughout the day is superior for fat loss and health compared to being sedentary most of the day and doing one bout of intense exercise. That is naturally better than doing nothing.

Start strength training

To fight the middle age spread it’s extremely important to include high intensity strength training in your exercise routine. This will build muscle mass and induce beneficial hormonal changes. Intensive strength training will increase growth hormone and testosterone which are beneficial for both increasing muscle mass and burning fat.

Strength training is superior to cardio for weight loss because it helps to maintain muscle mass. To lose fat you will need to be in a caloric deficit. Being in a caloric deficit without strength training will cause you to lose significant amounts of muscle mass which will further reduce your metabolism.

Doing large amounts of cardio will help you burn more calories it will further increase the loss of muscle mass if strength training is not present. This is because high levels of cardio increase your stress hormone cortisol levels and doesn’t encourage the same physiological changes that strength training does.

The best way is to combine both strength training (to avoid muscle loss) with cardio. Cardio will increase your fat loss and improve your cardiovascular health. Strength training will do this to an extent as well.

The third piece of the perfect puzzle is of course your diet!

Fix your diet

To lose the spread you need to be in a caloric deficit. For general health the caloric deficit should be as small as possible, as our bodies don’t generally like very large caloric deficits.

This will mean the fat loss will be fairly slow but you probably packed on the pounds over several years so it can take several months to over a year to lose them. You have to be patient and consistent and never lose faith, you will succeed!

If you want to prevent middle age spread you need to be in a caloric maintenance mode. This means you eat as much as you burn daily.

fix your diet to lose middle age spread

To achieve these goals it’s easiest to weigh yourself weekly and adjust your diet accordingly. Don’t do adjustment based on one week because weight doesn’t go down in linear fashion. It’s important to follow the overall trend over several weeks and months.

You should also take the measurements of your waist from the same every week. This helps you differentiate between losing fat and losing weight. It possible to lose significant fat while remaining at the same weight if you are doing strength training for the first time in your life.

Fat loss will almost always cause your waist size to go down, even though you can lose fat in other parts at the same time.

So what is the magic diet that will blast that fat right off? There isn’t one. Just eat reasonably and mainly foods with high nutrient density and low calorie density.

The recommended diet should consist mostly of vegetables, good carbs, lean proteins and healthy fats. Every single school and health magazine has been touting this for decades and people always want to try miracle diets.

This automatically leaves most processed food out of the equation. And just to be clear there is nothing wrong to eat some high calorie foods, say on the weekend.

The 80/20 rule is very good here. If you exercise and eat healthy 80 per cent of the time you can do almost what ever you want with the remaining 20 per cent without having too many issues. So if you eat healthy and exercise during the week you can take it a bit more easy with good conscience on the weekend.


We hope you enjoyed reading these tips about how to lose the middle age spread. It’s important to make the decision to lose the excess fat and we hope with these tips you can do just that!

If you are interested in reading about weight training and fitness tips for older people please subscribe to our newsletter and bookmark this site.

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments section below!

See you next time,

Elder Strength


  1. Sound, reasonable, hype-free health and fitness advice.

    How refreshing!

    I think you are exactly on point. There comes a point in everyone’s life where what worked before doesn’t now, and you need to get a little more serious, and a little more consistent with your diet and exercise.

    And I’m glad you pointed out the utility of fitness trackers. They get a bad rap sometimes, but used properly, they can be very effective at keeping you moving and incrementally increasing your daily caloric burn.

    Great post, thanks.

    1. Thank you for the comment! Fitness tracker are actually a very useful tool for monitoring your overall activity and for motivating you to exercise. Some of them provide some pretty useful stuff like continuous heart rate. Of course they won’t do the work and decision to live a more healthy and active lifestyle for you. Now that would be something wouldn’t it!

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