Studies show that people of any age, including seniors, who make a commitment to improving their health are far more likely to follow through on that commitment than those who vaguely admit they should do something.
The challenge for most is forming the plan to follow up on that commitment. Here is some information that may help senior adults lose weight in a healthy way.
Why is It So Hard to Lose Weight?
Due to a loss of muscle mass, seniors do not require as many calories to maintain a given weight as younger people do. Muscle burns far more calories than fat, thus the rate at which seniors burn calories (called the metabolic rate) slows. In addition, decades of eating habits and preferences are hard to change.
Many adults tend to gain a few pounds a year, allowing us to stay in denial until the cumulative weight gain becomes significant and potentially harmful to our health.
Therefore, if the loss of muscle mass and the ability to burn calories are the primary problems, then building muscles and consuming foods that are lower in calories but higher in nutritional value are the obvious solutions.
Weight Loss for Seniors: Where to Begin
Those who would benefit from losing a significant amount of weight and are living with a chronic condition like diabetes, hypertension, or cardiovascular disease, should consult his or her physician before making diet changes. In fact, a regular visit to your doctor is advisable even if you are in relatively good health.
Your doctor can advise you on how much weight to lose, as well as how your medications and medical conditions may affect your diet plans. You may also be referred to a registered dietitian to assist you with a plan.
Diet Plan Overload
The shelves of any bookstore are filled with books on diet plans. Some diet plans are good and healthy, and some are an odd assortment of pills, potions, and promises that you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight. As you determine the best diet plan for you or your loved one, you may want to avoid:
- Plans that advise taking a lot of supplements
- Extreme diets like ultra-high protein plans
- Diets that severely restrict food choices
- Plans that profess to know a “secret” to weight loss
- Plans without a follow-up maintenance program
- Crash diets promising fast, easy, and huge weight losses
Keep in mind there are diet plans that nutrition experts highly recommend, including the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and Mediterranean diets with their emphasis on a balanced variety of healthy food options, which can also improve blood sugar and heart health.
In addition, you can pursue the MyPlate plan, which provides a wealth of nutrition information, including the five basic food groups and the size of a healthy portion on a dinner plate.
Choosing a Diet That Works for You
Does the diet you are contemplating look like it is something you can maintain? Are there enough foods in it that you enjoy? You need to think of your diet as a permanent lifestyle and not something you do for a few weeks to lose weight. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for a relapse.
The plan has to be realistic. Go slow, and don’t become discouraged. You shouldn’t lose more than a pound or two per week, and sometimes your body will resist even that.
Ask yourself if the food is healthy for you. If you don’t know for sure, contact a registered dietitian. Remember senior caloric requirements are lower than younger people. You need to get as much nutrition as you can from the food that you eat.
When you slip up and indulge in some food that is not on your plan, give yourself a break and quickly get back on the diet track. Occasionally allow yourself some limited portions of your favorite foods. The most important thing is to not become obsessed with guilt and give up.
Exercise is Important
Remember muscle burns more calories and can have a real impact on healthy weight loss for seniors. Your doctor can also refer you to a physical therapist, who can help you put together an exercise program.
Many seniors exercise regularly, and many do not. If you have not exercised in a long time, start slow and easy. Walking is a great exercise. Strength training is also recommended for seniors, as well as balance exercises.
The key is to keep moving, even if it is for a few minutes at a time. Find activities you enjoy, such as gardening or dancing, and set aside regular times each week to be involved in them. Join a walking club. Find an exercise partner to keep you focused when you are exercising. Look for fitness activities that fit your lifestyle as well as keep you healthy.
The Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle
The health benefits of proper diet and exercise for improving health and preventing the onset of diseases are many. Greater strength, stamina, balance, and the ability to engage in more activities with increased confidence are some.
Along your weight-loss journey, reward yourself for your accomplishments. Set realistic weight-loss goals in a manageable timeframe, and celebrate when you reach them! Perhaps you purchase an article of clothing for the new, smaller you. Just make sure you take the time to take pride in your accomplishment. You will have earned it.
Find more senior health and wellness tips on Bethesda’s blog.