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Weight Loss After 50: What Works and What Doesn’t

Remember the days when you could just cut back on your food intake, exercise a little more, and a few weeks later you’re ten pounds leaner? That is definitely not how it works for weight loss after 50. However, there are some things that work well and some things that will absolutely not work.

Why is Weight Loss After 50 So Difficult?

Many things change as we get older, especially our level of physical activity. And when we decrease activity, we begin to lose muscle mass. After age 50 your muscle mass decreases by about 1-2% per year. Since muscle is metabolically active, this means your metabolism slows. So, it is clear that exercise is really important to help maintain muscle and bone mass.

Here is What Works

EXERCISE

This one is not negotiable. You must stay committed to exercise to maintain muscle mass and overall health. Choose any regular cardiovascular exercise you like, but think about decreasing duration and spending more time on strength workouts. Functional exercises like squats, push-ups, and step-ups on a stair are good options because they keep you in shape for everyday activities. Stay consistent to see the best results.

BREAKFAST (AND PROTEIN)

Be sure to eat breakfast every day containing adequate protein. This sets up your metabolism for the day and supports energy, tissue repair, hormone production, and blood sugar regulation. For successful weight loss after 50, you need to have adequate protein to maintain healthy muscle mass. To get an estimate of your protein needs, take your body weight in kilograms (weight divided by 2.2) and multiply by 1.0 (or 1.5 if you are really active) and that will give you the approximate protein grams needed daily.

NO ALCOHOL

By the time we are in our 50s, the liver is tired, worn out, and probably toxic. If you want to succeed with weight loss after 50, then avoid alcohol completely. Alcohol depletes nutrients, dehydrates tissues, and impairs liver function. Nourish your liver with plenty of vegetables and fruits to increase antioxidants.

AN OVERNIGHT FAST

Stop eating at least two hours before bedtime and fast for 12 hours before eating a healthy breakfast the next day. This is a prime time for your body to repair and regenerate, provided you are sleeping well.

REFRESHING SLEEP

Poor sleep may decrease your resting metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories while at rest) and can increase your appetite. Sleep deprivation is also a risk factor for blood sugar disorders and metabolic disease. If you are not sleeping well, work on this as a priority.

MEDITATION

Meditation helps you become more aware of your thoughts and actions, including those that relate to food. Some research shows that it also helps with emotional and binge eating. Meditation can help you to better manage stress and focus on healthy habits.

NEW HABITS

The same food behavior habits you had when younger can be detrimental for weight loss after 50, like skipping meals, eating late at night, and snacking while watching television. Think about habits you know you need to change and focus on creating new ones, like taking a 10-minute walk after dinner, mindful eating, and choosing healthier foods for snacking.

CONSISTENCY

In order to succeed with weight loss after 50, you must be consistent for a longer period. Forget a 10-day detox, juice cleanse, or soup diet. While these may be ways to jump start weight loss, what you do consistently over a longer period (six months to a year) is what matters most.

What Doesn’t Work

Here is a short list of things that generally will not work for weight loss after age 50:

  • Any restrictive diet. You need better nutrition as you age not more food limitations. With all the diet trends, there is now something “wrong” with just about every food.
  • Cutting out carbohydrates. Remember that carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source. While it’s true that we should limit processed carbohydrates and sugars, healthy carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes are important for overall health. In fact, too low of a carbohydrate intake can disrupt gut bacteria and interfere with thyroid function.
  • Stepping on the scale daily. Weigh yourself only once a week, on the same day, and under the same conditions (first thing in the morning). Day to day water fluctuations can make your weight change drastically, which may be detrimental to your ongoing level of motivation.
  • Skipping meals or starving yourself. This may negatively affect your metabolism or your muscle mass. Balanced nutrition works.

Learn From Someone Over 50 Who is in Great Shape

Do you know anyone over age 50 who is in good physical condition and in good health? Here are some things you may notice:

  • The person probably never “went on a diet” but instead created healthy habits.
  • The person exercises regularly and often includes some really physically challenging things.
  • The person has a positive attitude and body image.
  • The person takes time to meditate or engages in some quiet time.
  • The person is consistent with healthy habits and has made it a lifestyle rather than a trend.
  • The person has a good relationship with food, knowing it nourishes us but also is meant to be enjoyed.

So, while weight loss over 50 is definitely more difficult, it’s not impossible. We like to blame it on other things since that is easier. But while many factors can affect our ability to lose weight effectively, it is often enlightening to learn that it often comes down to awareness and consistency. Stick with it and what you’ll find is a balanced diet is not only realistic, but it works.

Read how a handy phone app helped me lose weight at age 58.

  1. Sandie vaisnoras says:

    Hi Sue,
    This is great. Thank you.
    You and I talked briefly about fasting when I was at Sanoviv last year.
    I was doing longer fasts… like 17-18 hours.
    Is that not good over 50? I usually don’t get hungry until about 11. Usually fine with dinner by 6:30.
    Hope you are well.
    Sandie

    • Showit User says:

      I personally feel that skipping breakfast is a mistake over age 50, and perhaps in general. If you want a longer fast (and even just once a week) I suggest eating an earlier dinner (more in line with our body’s circadian rhythm). If you are doing a 17-18 hour fast, you may not have enough time in your eating window to eat all the calories you need for optimal health. However, I think that’s OK to do occasionally, maybe once a week. I have seen better results for my clients with the overnight fast and sometimes extended just a couple of hours.

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