Adopting a wellness mindset is key
There’s a lot of literature out there about how to lose weight as we age. There are tips and tricks, and eating and exercise plans. But it really boils down to two things:
1. As we age, gaining weight is easier, and losing it is more difficult. But why? For starters, fat cells actually creep into muscle tissue, settling in for the long haul. Metabolism slows once we hit about 60. We lose muscle mass (5-10% per decade after 50) which means we burn calories more slowly. And activity decreases. Women have an extra hiccup thanks to hormonal changes, which affects weight and the way fat is distributed.
2. Once we recognize the challenges we’re up against, we can figure out how to fight them. This means focusing on being healthier overall than ever before. Many tips we’ve heard all our lives still hold true, but become even more important. Accept the fact that being healthy requires more intention and effort than when you were younger, and that adopting and adhering to an overall healthy lifestyle (perhaps with fewer “cheat days” or stints of no exercise) is what’s required.
So let’s get started.
Reduce your sugar intake (including drinks!). It’s easy to cut back on eating cookies or ice cream, or adding a bunch of sugar to your cereal, but the sugar we consume in liquid form often goes unnoticed. Pop and soda, alcohol, sugar in our coffee, even fruit juice, can add a huge amount of calories (sometimes 200 calories per bevy) without you even realizing it – all while providing zero nutritional value. Easily cut out unnecessary calories by sticking with water.
Eating more fruits and veggies, whole grains, and beans/legumes all help you stick to a healthy weight, while providing tons of nutrition and energy for all the exercise you’re going to be doing. (More on that later!) The protein and fibre in beans and legumes have been shown to help keep weight down by helping you feel fuller longer, by as much as 31%. Adding beans to your diet means you’re also upping your protein intake (another good tip!), which provides essential amino acids and helps build muscle.
Snack smarter. Swap empty-calorie foods for yummy snacks that feed your body and fill you up. Instead of chips, try popcorn with nuts. Instead of crackers, opt for carrot and celery sticks with hummus. Craving something sweet? Instead of candy or a chocolate bar, try dried fruit (have you had a date with nut butter and sprinkled with cinnamon?!). Instead of ice cream, try frozen grapes (or ice cream made from frozen bananas!). Use your calories wisely.
Eat out less, cook from home more, and cook from scratch. We know it’s maybe a bit much to expect a from-scratch, homemade meal every night. But aim to do it more often than not. A Harvard study found that the average fast food combo meal contains nearly 1,200 calories (plus 14 grams of saturated fat, 68 grams of sugar, and 2,110 milligrams of sodium. Yikes!) Dining out at a fancier restaurant is a little better, but researchers at The University of Toronto found that the average sit-down dinner was about 1,100 calories (and that does’t include drinks and dessert!). Plan your meals, make a list when you go grocery shopping, and try learning some new recipes, perhaps from a type of cuisine you haven’t tried before.
Give intermittent fasting a go. It may seem extreme, but it simply means choosing certain hours in the day when you eat. (The most common is eating during an eight-hour period, and fasting for 16.) Numerous studies have shown that eating in this way can increase your body’s efficiency, and some animal studies show promise that for older adults, intermittent fasting can increase longevity by slowing cell decline, particularly those cells associated with energy production.
Vary your workouts and include resistance training. Exercise daily, and push your body to move in new ways (also great for brain health), and you’ll stay challenged and interested. Adding weights is a must as we age, providing a long list of benefits. Weight training two to three times a week builds lean muscle mass, which burns more calories (even at rest). It also helps with strength, mobility, and balance, and helps build strong bones, staving off osteoporosis.
Grab a buddy. Working out with a friend keeps you motivated and engaged. Research shows that working out with friends increases commitment, motivation, and offers inspiration and friendly competition. One study found that 95% of people on a weight-loss program with friends completed the program, compared to 76% of those who exercised alone. So go on daily walks together, see who can do more laps in the pool, sharpen your golf game, or hit the gym! Working out with a friend is extra important for older adults, as it combats loneliness in an age group that more often lives alone.
Find an activity you love, helping to ensure the likelihood that you’ll keep doing it. That said, it’s also important to try new things. Grab a buddy and get up the nerve to do something active you both have always wanted to do. Water aerobics? Line dancing? Badminton?
Practise yoga and meditation to increase mobility and decrease stress (which contributes to weight gain), and it can also influence mental and emotional wellness. (More on that below!)
Listen to Your Body
Mindfulness is a hot topic for a multitude of reasons. Meditation and mindfulness can help reduce stress (an enemy of weightless), and mindful eating helps us eat fewer calories. How? Well, being mindful about food includes focusing on your food when you eat. You pay attention to the tastes, smells and textures; you turn off the TV and put down your phone. You’re intentional about what and when you eat, you pay attention to hunger cues, and you truly enjoy your food (try to eat sitting down, choose healthy foods, and notice when you’re no longer hungry – and stop eating when you are). A story in Medical News Today reports a UK study where participants in a mindfulness and weight loss program lost an average of 6.6 pounds over six months.
Check your body composition (like with our Dara Smart Scale), to determine fat vs muscle mass, one of 17 body measurements you can track with our scale.
Get enough sleep. When you’re tired, it’s time to go to bed. Stick to a regular sleep routine, try try to get seven to eight hours, and make an effort to exercise outside, as natural light promotes better sleep patterns. A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that, compared to those sleeping an average of seven to eight hours per night, a sleep duration of less than five hours upped the odds of obesity by 3.7 times in men and twice as much in women.
If you feel sluggish or low-energy, you may need a supplement. Vitamin B12 and folate are particularly important as they boost energy (among many other things), allowing you to get that workout in.
Bring in the pros. Especially when you’re getting started on a new exercise program or eating plan, it’s wise to check with your doctor. Get a physical, perhaps see a dietician, or hire a personal trainer. And when you see your GP, have them double-check any medications you’re on. Many meds can cause weight gain, including anti-depressants, steroids, and diabetes medications.
The bottom line? Ditch diets, fads and outdated thinking about weight. You’ve come to a time in life where you can and should appreciate your body for what it can do (and all it has done!), instead of obsessing about the size of your jeans. Adopt a wellness mentality – one that encompasses physical health, as well as mental, emotional and spiritual wellness – and your overall health (including your weight) should fall into place.