Is the idea that we should gain just a little as we age a fallacy?

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  • mk2fit
    mk2fit Posts: 730 Member
    When my mom's cancer went to her brain, we (reluctantly) put her in a nursing home. Her roommate was a very large woman - 300+#. Staff had to use a cherry picker to get her in and out of the bed and into a wheelchair. Why, oh why, would anyone say it is better to gain weight in our golden years?
  • SaunaSuit
    SaunaSuit Posts: 96 Member
    Is the idea that we should gain just a little as we age a fallacy?

    You might think thata person who reflect on themself as a 300-pound that it would be with disdain or pity. Hell no. The longer one is thin, though, the more the miss the gifts of living in a body so big that people often turned away. It may sound strange to some, but here are five things some miss about the old, obese self:

    1. Power

    Being fat gave them natural physical strength. As a thin person, One has to go out of there way to be strong. Despite daily strength training oneis nowhere near as powerful as they used to be. Once upon a time they could confidently lift a couch into and out of a moving truck (a U-Haul, not a truck in motion — being fat never did give anyone super powers). Today, most labor under the weight of heavy things. They miss the natural, organic strength that they used to take for granted, the sheer power born of moving under the weight of ones own fat day after day.

    2. Comfort

    At bedtime one can lie down in a sea of pillows. A husband/ or wife might laughs at them, but one needs all those pillows because one has spent most of their life in a large, soft body. When they are lying on there side, the feeling of knee bone on knee bone is enough to keep them up all night; Most hug a pillow to compensate for the generous expanse of tummy the arms are used to rest on. They haven’t slept on there stomach in over a decade because they lost the nice, round belly that softened the space between my spine and the bed. Also, they could write a whole post about how awful it feels to sit on a hard surface with a bony butt. Tail bones and hard seats: never the two should meet.

    3. Perspective

    When one is fat they understood that most weight changes are fleeting and insignificant. At 300 pounds, they wore clothes forgiving enough to accommodate ten pounds lost or gained, so they didn’t think much of it. Sadly, some going from a size 6 to an 8 can make them nuts in a way that going from a size 26 to a 28 just never did. They miss the freedom they once had from noticing and obsessing over Every. Single. Pound.

    For some obese woman they experience the world every day in a body that was judged, undervalued, demonized, mocked, feared, despised, and avoided. Those awful experiences gave them more empathy, more character, more personality, and a broader, richer and more inclusive perspective than lifelong thinness ever could have (back off, deep and interesting lifelong-skinny women — I’m speaking for all of us here). They also have a much more meaningful appreciation for my health and the body they have today, and they sure as hell will never take it for granted. Not to mention the deep respect they automatically have for every person they meet who doesn’t fit the (white, straight, middle-class, able-bodied) mold.

    4. Friendships

    Starting and maintaining friendships was easier whensome are fat. Women/men rarely see themselves as a rival and are less self-conscious than they are around others in today's society. One's larger body can make it easier for other peers to let their guard down and be themselves. Because they felt less-than when they were fat, some was way more forgiving and accommodating, and others often edited themself for maximum social appeal.

    Friendships today are more likely to feel prepiered with insecurities. Confident and candid, strong and outspoken, today many represent the real them, and, at times, ruffle the feathers of the sort of people they spent their early life catering to. The friendships that remains require real, sometimes uncomfortable heart-to-heart discussions, and true open-mindedness; they can be exhausting. When they had a long, hard day, they miss the easy, comparatively effortless friendships of yesteryear.

    5. Presence

    Finally, there’s the weird disconnect between the size of one in our minds and the size of everone else — The physical body — in the world. The “me” in our brains is big. There voice is big. There feelings are big. There attitude is big. Ten years ago, all that bigness was reflected in everyones body — fat, round, impossible to miss. Now, everyones personality and everyones body feel mismatched, like ones mind is walking around in shoes several sizes too small. They miss feeling like a cohesive whole. They miss inhabiting the grander space they once did.
  • fiddletime
    fiddletime Posts: 1,862 Member
    I’m 63, 5’2” and 129. In high school I vacillated between 120 and 135. A few years ago I got down to 121, my GW. I still had belly fat. I never had it at that weight in college. I’m active and have always worked out.

    My point is that it was frustrating to see pudge at 121. I’m less gaunt and wrinkly at around 125 so that’s my new goal. Maintaining my weight has been a lifelong project. It isn’t easy!
  • glassofroses
    glassofroses Posts: 653 Member
    I don't think we need to go out of our way to gain weight, but having a 'bumper'/not being a super low BMI exists for a reason.

    I'm 29 and in the last year I've had an emergent appendectomy and my father died. It took 7lbs from me I didn't really have to lose. I'm 5'11ish and I went from 145 > 138 > currently 140.

    To go through all that when I'm older but without the bolster of youth? I don't know if I would have made it out as well as I did. It's not to say I agree with gaining 20lbs and calling it 'health', I just think that we should be careful about where we situate ourselves in terms of our body composition.
  • elisa123gal
    elisa123gal Posts: 4,174 Member
    gosh.. i don;t sit around thinking...'i'm getting older, i want to put on weight so if i get sick i won't waste away.' that is so odd to me. i notice how most people get larger as they get older..especially famous actors..like 'angie dickinson ..tom hanks, dan aykroyd...and so on. i started thinking that gaining weight was a fact of life.

    However, i don't want to be like that..therefore..here i am almost at goal. my overall goal is to not swell and puff up as i age. i do think maintaining muscle mass ..stregnth and balance are key as we age.
  • Pastaprincess1978
    Pastaprincess1978 Posts: 371 Member
    gosh.. i don;t sit around thinking...'i'm getting older, i want to put on weight so if i get sick i won't waste away.' that is so odd to me. i notice how most people get larger as they get older..especially famous actors..like 'angie dickinson ..tom hanks, dan aykroyd...and so on. i started thinking that gaining weight was a fact of life.

    However, i don't want to be like that..therefore..here i am almost at goal. my overall goal is to not swell and puff up as i age. i do think maintaining muscle mass ..stregnth and balance are key as we age.

    My thoughts exactly - it happens so we think it's not a problem.

    My hope is that it doesn't have to happen for health - and that it is healthier not to happen.

    Strength and activity essential - but diet most important I think.
  • paperpudding
    paperpudding Posts: 8,254 Member
    mk2fit wrote: »
    When my mom's cancer went to her brain, we (reluctantly) put her in a nursing home. Her roommate was a very large woman - 300+#. Staff had to use a cherry picker to get her in and out of the bed and into a wheelchair. Why, oh why, would anyone say it is better to gain weight in our golden years?


    Absolutely nobody has said it is better to be massively obese at any age.

    I do think for many people it is realistic and healthy to weigh more as an older person than they did when they were a young adult.
    by ' more' I mean slightly more - so they may be in higher end of healthy BMI range or just over it. ( see my n=1 example upthread)

    PS - needing lifting machine can be for many reasons and applies to thin people as well. If they are in Aged Care facility after a stroke, for example.
  • Lillymoo01
    Lillymoo01 Posts: 2,865 Member
    I am at the lower end of my BMI at 46. I am pretty fit and healthy but a bit more muscle mass would not go astray. I weigh less now than I ever have since childhood as I had been overweight most of my life. My biggest concern is if I get sick that I only have a couple of kilos in reserve until I am underweight which could delay recovery. However, I believe I am less likely to get sick because I am fitter and healthier than the average person in my age bracket. Ideally I think a few extra kilos as a buffer would be an advantage but I see no advantage of being heavier than the top end of my BMI range.
  • Pastaprincess1978
    Pastaprincess1978 Posts: 371 Member
    Lillymoo01 wrote: »
    I am at the lower end of my BMI at 46. I am pretty fit and healthy but a bit more muscle mass would not go astray. I weigh less now than I ever have since childhood as I had been overweight most of my life. My biggest concern is if I get sick that I only have a couple of kilos in reserve until I am underweight which could delay recovery. However, I believe I am less likely to get sick because I am fitter and healthier than the average person in my age bracket. Ideally I think a few extra kilos as a buffer would be an advantage but I see no advantage of being heavier than the top end of my BMI range.

    You are where I want to be at 46!
  • ahoy_m8
    ahoy_m8 Posts: 2,979 Member
    cwolfman13 wrote: »
    kimny72 wrote: »
    Also, if I could be pedantic for a moment though :smiley: isn't there a difference between vanity lbs and being overweight? And isn't there a difference between "it's bad to be underweight" and "it's good to be a bit overweight"?

    At 5'4 I have been maintaining at @ 125 which is right around the middle of the healthy weight range for my height. If I dropped all the way down to 110, that would be underweight and probably not the best place to be in my 70s if longevity is a goal. But I could gain 10 vanity lbs putting me at 135 and still not be "overweight".

    I'd also guess older folks who are in fact overweight would be more likely to take to heart the idea that the extra weight is protective, simply because it sounds better than "I never figured out how to lose it like I wanted to" :wink:

    Most of the stuff that I've read addresses BF% rather than weight with higher levels of BF% being ideal as we age, but they're all still in the healthy BF% range and not overly fat.

    Here's the chart that was created using the research done by Jackson and Pollock...

    Ideal-Body-Fat-Percentage-Chart3.jpg

    Love the chart; love, love, love! I am 59 and the admittedly suspect handheld device said I am 20.5%. I am planning to drop another 5 from my current weight, which I have been maintaining at and one reason is to get under 20%. The chart isn't convincing me not to do that though; thee is also a small amount of fat hangin around just above the beltline that I hope is affected (I know I can't spot reduce, but it is the last really obvious spot).

    Ooohhh, I hate hate hate the chart! I’m 53, teetering over 18.5 BMI, under 19%BF (navy formula). I’ve been +/- the same wt since college but may have more lean mass since I started weight lifting a few years ago. I fantasize about doing bulk-cut to end up with 5 lb more lean with the same fat pounds. Which, obviously, would put me at an even lower BF.... like that of a 20 year old. The chart depresses me terribly. It makes me wonder if I’m just in denial about hopes/expectations at my age. It makes me wonder if I could ever really gain LMB with weight lifting, if it’s all downhill from here.
  • VanVanDiane
    VanVanDiane Posts: 1,307 Member
    https://www.nhs.uk/news/obesity/bmi-and-survival-in-older-people/

    An interesting response from the NHS here...
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 28,225 Member
    https://www.nhs.uk/news/obesity/bmi-and-survival-in-older-people/

    An interesting response from the NHS here...

    By looking at 70+, they've left out a bunch of people who've already died of things that are higher risk when overweight (CV events, cancer, complications of poorly-managed diabetes . . . ).
  • paperpudding
    paperpudding Posts: 8,254 Member
    Yes, it is only commenting on risk once one has already reached the cohort age.

    Nevertheless is interesting article - and the conclusion is tentatively that people in that age group were at greater overall risk if they were underweight or low in the healthy range than those who were higher in the BMI range or slightly above it.
    The greatest risk was still for those who were obese.

    They tentatively suggest healthy BMI range for older people should be slightly adjusted upward - they did not say how much but I expect to about 28.

    Of course there are outliers, as with all BMI guidelines - it is not saying any individual who is lower in the range is at more risk - just that the guidelines for healthy weight range for older adults may need to be adjusted upward.
  • Pastaprincess1978
    Pastaprincess1978 Posts: 371 Member
    It may well be a self fulfilling prophecy if you choose to believe it.
    I am 49, weigh less than when I was 17 and have more muscle than ever in my life. I worked hard at that (down at least 25Kg) but most of all I stoped believing these "generally accepted wisdoms" that are IMO just defeatist

    I also weigh less than when I was 17 :smile: hope I can keep this up :)
  • como_agua
    como_agua Posts: 213 Member
    after a year on keto/low carb and having lost 17 lbs - i'm able to maintain my current weight of 133 lbs at 5'7" and age 56. i feel amazing in my clothes and *lighter* (obviously lol) - even though i've got a grocery list of health issues. losing the weight has done wonders for my self esteem during these difficult times. i work out as often as i can and am as active as possible. the only thing vanity wise i don't like about losing the weight is more wrinkles and some saggy skin. for me personally - i don't want to gain any of that back. i will admit i see women carrying more weight and their skin looks much better than mine. ;) however - i'm very happy where i'm at!

    each to their own i always say...
  • geneticsteacher
    geneticsteacher Posts: 623 Member
    My doctor prefers that her older female patients be borderline normal/overweight (BMI 25-27). She is mostly concerned with bone loss and believes a little extra weight is beneficial. There is some research to support this view. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4016235/
  • Maxxitt
    Maxxitt Posts: 1,281 Member
    Interesting discussion! I'm 67 and using the age-adjusted BMI tables am right in the middle of "optimal" and using the non-adjusted BMI tables I am just about 8# over the top-end of "normal." Would I like to drop a dress size? Hell, yeah. I had to drop calories over the winter months to compensate for lower daily activity (thank you ice and snow for making my daily walks daily creeps). My "maintenance" level was around 1400 which made me cranky.

    I've upped my routine daily activity again and also upped my maintenance by about 200 calories, and that feels sustainable. I'm fortunate enough with the gene pool roulette to not have to take any prescribed medication & would like to maintain strength and mobility as long as possible - functionally, I need to be able to climb flights of stairs easily, and haul 40# bags of dog food into the house :D