The Real Causes of Weight Gain After 50

Like this post? Share it with your friends...

Do you think you gain weight because you are eating too much? You might be but not for the reasons you think. The real causes of weight gain after 50 may surprise you.

In my experience of being a life coach for women who want to lose weight; the reasons we gain weight are more complex and often a result of our confusing and misleading diet culture.

The second big reason I see is that most women are overworking and overdoing and have little energy left for preparing healthy food or moving their body.

So many of you believe a diet will fix it all!

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to let go of the idea that a diet can fix things.

When you truly let go of the imaginary diet you are going to go on and be successful at, you will start to address how you eat in a more positive way.

When I talk to women, most believe that the problem they have, is overeating and that overeating/weight gain is why they are unhappy.

However, I see it a different way.

In my experience, overeating is always a symptom of something else.

If you are overeating in general or overeating specific foods, there is a reason why.

Picture of woman with her arms crossed and the words: 5 reasons you gain weight in midlife and what you can do about it

The Reasons You Overeat

And that reason is not that because you lack willpower or discipline or any of that nonsense.

Many women tell me that they are so confused because of all the information out there. There are literally thousands of diets, doctor’s opinions, and of course people like me making suggestions.

The real problems are the ones that are more difficult for you to pinpoint yourself. Not because you can’t. But because you have never been taught to look at food, eating, and your weight in a different way.

Traditionally, we’ve been taught we need to diet to lose weight.

Let me tell you friends. Your biological body is designed to NOT diet. It is designed to eat food whenever it gets a chance. Eating when you could, as many calories as you can, meant actual survival.

This was the case until recently. My mom grew up in the thirties and forties and she did not have food security. Her family didn’t worry about balanced meals or carbs. They just needed to eat to survive.

Another thing that might surprise you is that most of you have been trying to follow the guidelines that are available to the public. But there is so much evidence that these are just not founded on good science.

Here’s the interesting (and confusing) part. The reason is not usually one thing that we can point at and say, “AHA that’s why!” The reasons we eat in certain ways are a combination of 5 things.

What Causes You to Gain Weight After 50?

  • Your feelings/emotions/desires/urges
  • The thoughts you think and your beliefs
  • The physical effect of certain foods in your body
  • The way certain foods affect your brain
  • Current eating habits that undermine your efforts

To have lifelong sustainable results all of these must be addressed.

The Benefits of Not Dieting

Most women want the promise of a quick diet. There is the idea that if we can just suffer enough for a few months, we’ll have the weight off and we’ll never overeat again. If only…

I personally do not want to fight urges to overeat, count calories, points, or macros, only eat the “healthy” options at restaurants, and obsess about food in any way ever again.

That’s freedom.

It doesn’t happen overnight.

But when you work with all the factors above—it does happen. Here are the results you can get.

In addition to weight loss, here is what happens to you in this process.

  • Food will not control you anymore
  • You won’t have overwhelming cravings
  • You will be amazed at how easy it becomes for you
  • You will lose weight eating foods you like
  • You will stop eating foods you don’t like because you are “supposed to”
  • You will trust your body
  • Your body will trust you

It’s so different than everything we’ve been told.

The diet industry has set the bar low for long-term success. Long-term success from following a diet is so low to be almost non-existent.

Diets say you have to be perfect to lose weight.

Perfect is where weight loss efforts go to die. It just isn’t sustainable; it’s not even a worthy goal.

In simple terms, a diet means that you will eventually not be on a diet. If you have not learned to eat in a way that you really can do forever—it’s just not going to work.

How many times have you eaten something you hadn’t planned to, and you just throw away the rest of the day? Or week? Or months?

Can You Lose Weight Without a Diet After 50?

My clients range in age from 50 to 70. All of them are able to lose weight, eating foods they like, without depriving themselves.

I am one of those women! I live by the words I write and it works.

This might sound too good to be true. That’s because we have been conditioned to believe that weight loss is hard and that you need something outside of yourself.

As I’ve written about for years, there are certain things that work for most people. But if you don’t address the five reasons you overeat certain foods, it’s really hard to stick to a diet.

You don’t have to give up all the things you enjoy either. Eating foods you love is possible and even better is that you can actually enjoy them instead of thinking of them as bad, a cheat, or making you fat.

No one food is making you fat or overweight. Our bodies are the result of consistent actions taken over a long period of time.

That chocolate cake you had at your niece’s birthday is not the problem!

The problem is that you didn’t know that there is no magic diet; there is simply learning to eat, like it, and consistently make choices that support your mental, spiritual, and physical health.

When you think about having chocolate cake, are you telling yourself it’s okay because it IS okay?

Or are you telling yourself that it is okay because you will make up for it tomorrow, with a hard workout, or when you start your diet?

Most women tell themselves they can eat what they want because they are going to start a diet later.

Later just doesn’t happen. And with feeling hopeless comes more unhelpful eating.

My clients that want to eat cake. And pizza. They eat the things that they really want. I have one client that loves the burritos in her hometown when she visits.

Pizza night or a hometown favorite are not the problem.

There is a problem when we tell ourselves that these foods are a problem or that they are wrecking our diet.

One of the best things about not being on a diet is that you can’t wreck it.

What Does Cause Weight Gain After 50?

Here is what I do consider the five real causes of weight gain in women.

Your feelings/emotions/desires/urges

If you are eating when you aren’t hungry; you are eating because of something that you feel. Our bodies speak to us through our emotions. These can feel very powerful, especially when we try to resist them.

This feeling is often so strong you feel incapable of fighting it. Here’s the reason why.

Your brain knows that the quickest and most efficient way to make you feel better is to suggest that you eat something. And in that first bite, you absolutely will feel relief.

In those moments, you are actually training your brain to use food to feel better.

But we all know, that feeling better is only temporary.

Another way we use food is when we are feeling bad, sad, or tired. (or discouraged, frustrated, lonely, bored, etc.) Food also helps us live in a life that we aren’t happy with.

Food is powerful my friends!

It’s not all-powerful though. Your brain and body are way more powerful. Even old established habits can be changed with intention and practice.

The thoughts you think and your beliefs

In the section above, I introduced you to a new way of thinking about your cravings. All feelings start with your thoughts.

If you believe that food is all-powerful, it will continue to be so, especially when you don’t understand the emotional component.

A huge part of why I continue to write is that I want women to have hope.

I also plant thoughts that diets are BS and a waste of your energy. I also love the thought that you can have a great relationship with food and be comfortable in your body.

These are not the kinds of thoughts that most women share with me! It is considered normal to hate our bodies and to be terrified of food and eating.

The physical effect of certain foods in your body

Some of what is happening in your body is math. The old way of thinking was that it was about calories in. That was the math we used.

How many calories a day are the right amount for a woman?

Raise your hand if you thought 1200.

Now you can forget about calories because that isn’t the math we are talking about. 1200 calories is arbitrary and made up and not applicable.

And we don’t need the same amount of calories every day.

However, food does affect our bodies and you don’t have to learn a bunch of science to understand this.

There are three macro nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Yes, FATS are a nutrient! We need all three.

That is part of the equation. The other part is when do you eat your foods. Timing can make a difference. For most women snacking around the clock creates problems.

Here’s the thing. We can overeat any kind of food. By now most of you know that “carbs” are the problem. But carbohydrates are also a nutrient and absolutely needed by the body. Only in certain medical conditions do carbohydrates need to be severely limited.

For most women, carbs are enjoyable and good for you. But not all carbs are created equally.

Processed foods and sugar-based foods are super concentrated. For the amount you eat, you get a huge dose of carbohydrates minus fiber and nutrition, unless it is added in the factory.

Weight gain comes from too much sugar in the bloodstream. Excess sugar in your bloodstream comes primarily from sweets and grains (all bread, pasta, and whole grains).

After 50, your body may have lost its ability to clear the excess sugar like it did when you were young. So, this excess sugar gets stored as fat.

Fat is not the culprit! It is processed foods, sugar, and grains. Eating more fat can actually help curb cravings and makes food taste better.

The way certain foods affect your brain

One of the big reasons that it is so difficult to get into a good place with food is that so many things in the grocery store are not really food.

Oh, we call them food. And the stores devote huge amounts of space to them. But in terms of what your body experiences, they are not actually food.

All processed foods are designed to taste good in a way that our bodies are not capable of making sense of. They are concentrated flavors of sweetness, salt, and fat.

They are designed to override your natural hunger cues and to create cravings.

Your body is truly designed to tell you when it’s time to eat and to tell you when you have had enough.

Yet, all processed foods are created to override your body’s natural processes.

Look around at all the pick who are literally sick because of what they eat. And yet they cannot quit!

That is how powerful the effect food has on your brain. I believe it actually changes your brain chemistry.

That’s scary to think that you can be sick and even then, not be able to control your eating.

Current eating habits that undermine your efforts

In my experience, most women are eating fairly well much of the time. Yet, everyone seems to have the thing that throws them off.

However, at some point, the weight becomes a problem and the old ways of fixing it don’t work. The old math of eating less and exercising more just don’t cut it.

And here’s the kicker. Most of the time, these eating habits are the ones that provide comfort in some way. You are either avoiding something or trying to feel something.

I see this show up in a couple of different ways…

  • Snacking or compulsive eating at night
  • Grazing throughout the day

Sometimes I see it show up as overeating at meals but that is not as common.

Our bodies use this extra food for energy and the rest is stored as fat. Your body is keeping you alive by removing the excess sugar from your blood and if there is too much, it is stored as fat.

So as much as you hate your extra fat; it is a part of the human body’s survival mechanism.

If fat were the only problem, I wouldn’t be here.

But the modern way of getting fat by eating excess sugar and processed foods also creates inflammation, which in turn can create disease.

Thin Does Not Mean Healthy

I want to be clear here. What you may consider overweight may not be a health problem. Thin does not mean you are healthy.

Our bodies can be different sizes and still be healthy. My 90-year-old mom, who still lives independently has been rocking a size 16-18 body for as long as I can remember. She had a loving marriage, friends, and full life. And her health!

Research also backs this up. Our culture says that thin and muscular is healthy. But the group of women where I saw the most cancer diagnoses was in a group where super thin and athletic was the norm.

It struck me as so odd that this young group of women had so many cases of cancer that I began to start reevaluating my own beliefs.

That experience led me to look at the difference between what we think is true and what is actually true. Almost everything you think you know about eating and your weight is based on weak science which is false about 80% of the time.

The headlines you see that are presented as facts are opinions based on poor science. All the guidelines are also based on this faulty science.

What Can You Trust?

I believe that the best food to eat is food that does not manipulate your brain or have dangerous effects on your body.

Traditionally humans have eaten meat, vegetables, fruits, and fats (which used to mostly come from animals). As humans gathered in more structured communities, they began to cultivate grains, dairy, and beans. Sugar was in the form of honey, maple syrup, and fruit. Sugar wasn’t the norm, and it was seasonal and rarer.

For me, when I’m sticking to these types of foods, I feel like I am doing the best I can to take care of my body.

These foods provide nutrition, and they don’t hijack my brain.

I try to eat like that about 80% of the time. That allows me to enjoy some less optimal food too.

There really are no magic tricks to losing weight. In the end, the basic math comes down to how much and how often you raise your insulin.

Things You Can Do Today to Get Started Losing Weight

Here are a few things you can do right now.

Start eating enough at your meals. Most women that I work with do not eat enough at their meals to get them to the next meal. Start training your body to eat enough at your meals. This will help so much with snacking.

Quit looking at processed foods as foods. These foods can be eaten but you truly don’t need them. There are so many other real foods to eat and enjoy.

See fat as a nutrient. Fat doesn’t make you fat. It is an actual nutrient and needs to be a part of every meal. Butter, olive oil, avocado oil, avocados, nuts, and olives are all fats that not only can be good for you but make your food delicious.

Meals are way more enjoyable when you are allowing yourself a couple of TABLESPOONS of fat or oil.

Start think of adding things rather than depriving yourself. Diets taught you to deprive yourself. Now you have a chance to start feeding yourself well.

This is the best foundation for living a life without dreading the scale, dinner out, or a special occasion.

Wait to eat until you feel hungry. Stop eating when you feel full.

Make time to eat a real meal. There are many of you that do not make time to eat a real meal. A surprising number of you.

This is not a good thing. If you have a job, put lunch on your calendar every single day. A full half hour at least. I can almost guarantee you that you will not only feel better, but you will not get anymore behind than you feel that you already are.

The Next Steps for Losing Weight

I’m serious about eating real meals. You can get started on that right away.

Read more of my blog posts

Here are three posts that can really help as well. I’ve written about 50 posts on weight loss for women after 50, but these three provide a lot of great information that you can use right away.

Ten Powerful Tips to Lose Weight After 50

How to Make Peace with Food

Good Goals for Weight Loss

Get on my email list

I write to my readers about once a week. Sometimes twice. I am so passionate about wanting all my readers to love their lives that I share my best practices as much as possible. You can opt out at any time.

Coach with Me

I work with clients one-on-one. The initial commitment is six months but most of my clients continue to work with me for longer because it is so effective. I know our culture says we need to do everything on our own, but this process is a lot more enjoyable with a life coach who’s got your back.

Okay my friends. I know it is so frustrating to feel like you’ve tried everything, and it hasn’t worked. But there is a way to make peace with food, your weight, and your body.

Like this post? Share it with your friends...

Keep showing up my friends,



I'm a certified life and weight loss coach who helps women feel better and get the most out of their lives! The process of life coaching teaches you to love yourself and gain self confidence in a safe effective way.

Ready to find out more?

Schedule a free consultation today.

Leave a Comment

Coach with Me!

Picture of Sara


Hi, I'm Sara Garska and I'm so happy you're here! Big changes can happen with a shift in thinking. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having. As a certified life and weight loss coach, I can help you create a life you love. Click here to schedule a free 50-minute coaching session.