AGE MAY JUST be just a number, but lets face it—some things just feel harder in your middle age. That includes weight loss. The good news: It’s not impossible—and the determination you’ve developed over the years, along with a few helpful tips, can get you to where you want to be.
There are several reasons losing weight after 50 may be more challenging than when you were young. Our metabolism slows a bit as we age. It can be harder to create the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss. Additionally, muscle loss (sarcopenia) occurs, further reducing calorie-burning capacity.
Plus, hormonal changes can affect appetite and fat distribution, often favoring abdominal fat gain. Reduced physical activity, changes in dietary habits, and the potential for emotional factors like stress or emotional eating can also contribute to weight gain. Health conditions and medications may cause complications, too.
Plus, life gets in the way sometimes. Between work obligations, family life, and responsibilities, commute time sitting in the car, etc. there isn’t as much free time left for exercise and physical activity.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get the ball rolling on weight loss when you’re older. With a balanced diet, regular exercise, proper medical guidance, and a patient, sustainable approach, weight loss is still possible and beneficial in your middle age.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
To lose weight, one approach is to take in fewer calories than you expend. Instead of focusing on what to eat less of, let’s talk about what to eat more of. First up, fruits and vegetables. In a study from Harvard, people who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables lost weight, especially if they ate more berries, apples, pears, soy, or cauliflower. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories but rich in important vitamins and minerals that you need more of as you age, including fiber, which can keep you full between meals.
We recommend piling vegetables over half your plate at every meal. Keep frozen vegetables in your freezer so you never run outand get creative with your salads by adding olives, cheese, or sliced oranges to make them more interesting.
Befriend Your Bathroom Scale
Weigh yourself each morning so you notice right away if the number is trending up instead of down. If you gain weight, and if you focus on it early and it’s only a few pounds, you can lose it quickly, but if you let it stay, basically it reprograms your body at a higher weight and it makes it hard to lose because you get hungry. If you want to lose weigh, it’s especially useful to jump on any gain right away.
Track it, Too
Speaking of focusing on food, tracking what you eat might help you realize where exactly these spare calories are sneaking in.
Why do it? The benefits of tracking your food intake are outstanding as, most often, this increases awareness around food choices, serving sizes, and mindless snacking and grazing.
A large 2019 study showed individuals who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records— might be worth a try.
Mix Up Your Workouts
If you’ve been leaning on one type of exercise up to this point, now is the time to mix it up. In a recent study from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Iowa State University, older people who did a combination of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and 30 minutes of resistance exercise three days per week reduced their body fat percentage and gained muscle. (They also showed improvements in blood pressure and cardiorespiratory fitness, which are important boosts to an aging heart.)
Resistance training is particularly effective in helping you build muscle, which burns more calories than fat, and aerobic training is particularly effective for helping you lose fat. Together, they lead to a favorable body composition change and increasing strength and fitness with aging leads to a better quality of life and maintained independence.
For strength, focus training on the legs and large muscle groups of the upper body with compound lifts, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and pull-ups. These lifts engage more muscle groups than isolated lifts and typically lead to a greater increase in muscle gains while stimulating fat metabolism.. For cardio, find something you enjoy, whether it’s running, cycling, swimming, or walking.
Even better than a steady-state cardio workout is interval training, which combines periods of intense work followed by periods of lighter activity. If it’s been a while since you worked out, consult a personal trainer to assess your mobility so you know where to start.
Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting might sound intense, but it just means that you eat methodically during a certain period of the day instead of eating whenever you want. That naturally limits the amount you eat, and some experts think no-food windows are good for your health, too.
You might start by just going eight or nine hours—including your sleeping hours—without eating. So from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., you don’t eat. Simple enough, right? Then you can gradually train yourself to go 12 hours without food. This type of eating pattern isn’t for everyone, however, so ask your doctor first.
Don’t Restrict Yourself
Well, at least when it comes to healthy, whole foods.
Focus on a well-rounded, nutrient-dense diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. This will provide essential nutrients while helping you feel full and satisfied. Seeing our body change as we age can be stressful, and we can easily fall into a restrictive pattern to lose weight quickly. Severely restricting your calories can cause your muscle mass to breakdown. This makes it more difficult to maintain your weight loss in the long term.
It’s worth noting, too, that not eating enough calories can disturb hormone levels and bone health, which may increase the risk of fractures To prevent the natural decline of bone health with age, it is essential to ensure you are getting the right amount of protein, fats, calcium and vitamin D, which can only be achieved by following a healthy and balanced diet.
Cooking your own food, for the majority of what you eat, is so helpful when it comes to weight loss, appreciation, and satisfaction with meals. It can make a big difference, especially when you think of all the calories, salt, and excess fat you save by DIY-ing your own dinner (or breakfast, or lunch).
When we take the time to prepare the food we eat, there is a sense of ownership there, taking control of our health, and that results in a more meaningful meal where we know what is in the food.
Work With A Professional
Working with a certified personal trainer and or registered dietitian nutritionist to help create personalized exercise and diet plans can dramatically improve the likelihood you lose weight after 50.
Working with qualified professionals can help mitigate unwanted weight gain and help with body fat loss for individuals aging.
A personal trainer can help plan an effective exercise regimen that can help improve cardiovascular health and functional fitness. They can also help create a strength training plan, which helps you maintain and gain muscle mass.
A registered dietitian can help create an individualized program that is effectively tailored towards your needs and body composition goals. Note, though, that a “nutritionist” is not always a credentialed provider.