More than two-thirds of Americans are considered overweight or obese. That’s an astonishing figure, and the numbers are slightly higher for people over sixty. What’s somewhat different is the approach that doctors take towards seniors regarding weight loss and what’s considered a healthy weight. The fact is that older people need to maintain a higher level of body fat for a many reasons. Because their metabolism has slowed, it’s harder for seniors to maintain a healthy body temperature, and having a bit of extra fat on the body helps. It’s also beneficial when working against the weight loss resulting from chronic illness, cancer, and other diseases that plague older populations. Fat also helps us metabolize essential nutrients like Vitamins A, D, and E, vital to senior health.
Nonetheless, it’s still critical for seniors to maintain a weight that doesn’t put undue stress on joints and vital organs or create a higher risk of serious health threats like hypertension, diabetes, and respiratory issues. Working with a physician is the best way to make sure you and your loved ones strike that critical balance of healthy fat versus danger zone. There’s also a lot you can do on your own.
Here are some great strategies for shedding pounds safely after sixty-five:
Don’t Focus on the Scale
Think less about the numbers and more about daily diet and exercise, and eating only when you’re hungry. Your physician can better evaluate how your numbers look in the context of other health factors.
Pick Healthy Proteins
Lean proteins are a critical part of senior diets for several reasons. Seniors start losing muscle mass rapidly after age fifty; any weight loss will continue that trend. Supplementing your diet with lean proteins like chicken, yogurt, and egg whites will help work against this loss and build muscle tissue. High protein foods also take longer to metabolize and keep you sated for longer periods, making you less likely to reach for empty-calorie snacks.
Practice Portion Control
As we age, we need about 100 daily calories less per decade to keep our metabolism going – and yet many people tend to eat the way they did in their 30s and 40s. Portion control is especially challenging when we’re eating out or on vacation. Try ordering one scoop of ice cream instead of two and swap out the french fries for a side salad. Start measuring out your meal portions at home until you have a sense of what, say, a half a cup of cereal looks like. You might be shocked at how much you’ve been adding to your daily intake without even knowing it.
Start Strength Training
Aerobic exercise is critical for seniors, with the CDC recommending 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity each week. But strength training is also important to combat muscle mass erosion, improve joint health, and increase metabolism. Consult with a trainer before starting on any weightlifting, with the goal of steadily increasing the amount you lift as your body adjusts. Many senior centers and gyms offer weight and resistance training designed for people sixty-five and older.
Weight loss over sixty-five is less about shedding pounds and more about incremental change. Don’t compare your routine with the workouts and diet you followed in your thirties! Instead, set realistic goals that will get actual results over several months. And, of course, always consult with your physician before embarking on any weight loss journey.