Why is he getting fat?
April 9, 2019 2:26 PM   Subscribe

My husband has developed a belly. Despite a lifetime of being lean, a light eater, no lifestyle change, and only healthy foods, he has a significant paunch. Starting maybe a year ago, he had a lot of trouble getting in his pants. He is in his late 50s. We have heard of older people and a "shifting" stomach? He has begun exercises to strengthen his abdomen, but we remain bewildered at this new condition.
posted by ebesan to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
As people are, they require fewer calories. People may also store far differently. Spot training the stomach is unlikely to do much. Full body strength training may restore some of his previous metabolism and reduce the gut. But body changes are a normal part of aging in general.
posted by Kalmya at 2:30 PM on April 9, 2019 [9 favorites]

Has his weight changed or stayed the same?
posted by ocherdraco at 2:30 PM on April 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

When's the last time he went to the doctor? Wouldn't hurt to get a checkup and make sure everything is ok.
posted by bleep at 2:30 PM on April 9, 2019 [21 favorites]

How physically active is he? As people age, they tend to lose muscle mass (it's called "sarcopenia"). It can be slowed, halted, or even reversed by weight training, but even people who are reasonably active walkers, runners, cyclists, etc. will lose muscles that don't get much use. It starts in the 40s but gets faster in one's 50s.

As you lose muscle mass, you require fewer calories to fuel your body, and if you keep eating the same amount, you'll get more fat.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:44 PM on April 9, 2019 [7 favorites]

Nthing: age alone can and often does this, even when activity and diet stay constant. He’s lucky it took this long really, many of us hit this transition at 40, and plenty even deal with it at 30!
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:48 PM on April 9, 2019 [11 favorites]

I've been fighting this particular battle since my 40s. I'm in my 70s now. My weight has fluxuated in a 20-30 pound range during this time, most of which is that belly. It takes a lot of work to make most of it disappear, and then it gradually comes back. I think changing metabolism is a big part of the problem. But I also think there are just genetic body type differences. My father had the same belly, my brother and sister do as well. Eat less, exercise more, is the general prescription that works.
posted by beagle at 3:06 PM on April 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Does your husband sit a lot hunched over a computer? In addition to previous ideas, he may be sitting longer than he used to and losing abdominal tone.
posted by Elsie at 3:08 PM on April 9, 2019

Next time he goes to the doctor he could bring up insulin resistance and whether he should consider a fasting glucose test. It’s a pretty common condition, often results in abdominal weight gain, and can lead to diabetes.
posted by sallybrown at 3:11 PM on April 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

He is up maybe 10 lbs the last year, after holding the same for a long time. This seems to have happened kinda quickly!
posted by ebesan at 3:14 PM on April 9, 2019

165 lbs. What is a good calorie range?
posted by ebesan at 3:32 PM on April 9, 2019

Does he have glass of wine or a few beers in the evening? If so, that can make a difference. Try cutting back there and see what happens.
posted by 41swans at 3:42 PM on April 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Stress generates cortisol, which encourages belly fat. Stress management may not really resolve the belly fat, but is generally a good idea.
posted by theora55 at 4:04 PM on April 9, 2019 [5 favorites]

When he first got the belly, would you say the fat was right under the skin, or did it seem to be more inside?

In other words, was it subcutaneous or visceral?

Visceral fat is easier to get rid of, according to that link, and also more dangerous.
posted by jamjam at 4:25 PM on April 9, 2019

I’m much younger and gained a gross belly by not being active and getting into craft beer. I wouldn’t consider 10lbs worrying.
posted by geoff. at 4:25 PM on April 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

What is a good calorie range?

That depends on how active he is. This calorie calculator can help you figure it out, at least as a target. The rest of the site can be pretty goofy, but the calculator is useful.
posted by brianogilvie at 4:33 PM on April 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

ten pounds in a year is not unusual. putting on that weight requires only an excess of 95 calories a day. it is possible that your partner, like me, stores their excess calories at the belly.

(there are other explanations, but i just wanted to say that putting on ten pounds in a year for most people isn't a big jump).
posted by zippy at 4:47 PM on April 9, 2019 [7 favorites]

I put on that amount over the Christmas eating/drinking season and take it off when I start riding to work again. This amount is almost at the level of noise and can be affected by only small lifestyle changes.
posted by deadwax at 5:58 PM on April 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Are his arms, legs and face getting thinner? Any appearance of muscle wasting? If so please visit a physician who will check him out and do labs to check for liver damage. Abdominal swelling with fluid (ascites) is a classic sign of liver disease.

Don't panic! This might not be the reason. However, people can have liver disease for decades and have no symptoms . . . until they do. The liver is a resilient organ that compensates well, and many causes of liver disease can be very slowly progressing. Best to involve a physician to rule liver problems out.
posted by citygirl at 6:41 PM on April 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

Last year, I complained to my doctor that I was having a lot more trouble keeping weight off than I used to. She looked at my chart, said, "Oh, have you noticed that you turned 50 this year?" and I laughed. "Men are always surprised when they start to gain weight around 50-60," she said. So there's that.
posted by xingcat at 5:42 AM on April 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Just putting this out there -- are you positive he is not eating when he is not at home and not reporting it accurately to you? Has anything in your non-food life changed? People stress eat and sometimes hide it if they are trying to mask the stress from loved ones. People stress graze throughout the day and don't even realize it.
posted by archimago at 7:58 AM on April 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Testosterone production changes and drops as men get older. He could ask his doctor about that, since this is an extremely common side effect.
posted by Enid Lareg at 8:01 AM on April 10, 2019

Exercise probably won't help. It's usually a diet based issue. Not to stray out onto the fringe but he should look into eating something besides the SAD (standard American diet) {you can Google that...} and what it causes as we age.

I was having a similar issue and started looking around for other ways to eat. I settled on a primal/paleo diet and have much success. Check out Mark's Daily Apple and look at the `success stories`.

I think too many people are afraid of trying something very different from their previous norm. It's fun to play around with different ways of eating and see how effects us, both physiologically and psychologically. We're really looking for something that makes us feel good and also feel good about ourselves.

Best of Luck with the process !

posted by sandpine at 8:27 AM on April 10, 2019

Getting a general physical is never a bad ideal.

People can have different notions of what "eating healthy" means. If your idea of eating healthy includes significant carbohydrates, even if they're whole grain, it may be worth experimenting with dialing them back significantly.
posted by Sublimity at 5:37 PM on April 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

So unexplained weight gain or loss is something to bring up to his doctor. It is probably nothing but there are a few things for which they can be a warning sign. Once you have done that search online for a "Macro Calculator". most will help you work out his caloric needs based on age weight and activity level. These can also be a starting point for deciding on possible changes in eating depending on his goals. Lastly while aging does present some challenges to maintaining a healthy body I recommend against just chalking it up to general aging. Maintaining ones health into ones senior years is a fight you can't always win but still should be fought hard.
Well that's my 2 cents anyways.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 10:07 AM on April 12, 2019

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