Aging and Losing Weight
watching weight slowly creep on over the years and told yourself you’d lose that
extra 10…15…20 pounds someday. Well, now you’ve saved it for your older years.
Turns out that wasn’t such a good idea. Various challenges complicate even the
best of efforts.
Your metabolism has naturally slowed down. Perhaps health
issues have caused you to be more sedentary. Maybe medication is affecting
weight gain. And it doesn’t help to learn that studies have shown that when a
20-year-old and a 60-year-old eat the same meal and then participate in the same
exercise, they not only burn different amounts of calories, but the 20-year-old
will burn significantly more. That answers the question of why you’re putting on
weight even though you’re not eating that much differently than you always have.
SeniorJournal.com reported that in 2006, government statistics
indicated that about 30 percent of American adults could be classified as obese.
It noted a Gallup Poll that year showed that 56 percent of Americans said they
want to lose weight. In the 50-to-64 age group, 65 percent of people expressed a
desire to lose weight; in the 65-to-74 age group, 55 percent wanted to lose
weight; while only 40 percent of people 75 and older were interested.
Books, tapes, and Web sites touting the latest, greatest diets
and exercise programs can be very confusing. What may work for your best friend
may not work for you. And some medications may react with certain foods, so any
diet you want to try needs to get your physician’s approval first.
If you understand why you tend to gain weight more easily as
you get older, it may be easier for you to do something about it. Beginning as
early as your mid-20s, body fat begins to increase while muscle mass decreases.
And less muscle mass translates into a slower metabolic rate. You’re going to
burn less calories in your 60s than you did doing the same activities in your
20s. So you have no choice but to adjust your food intake, start exercising, and
generally become more physically active.
Knowing how many calories you need each day will help you
manage your weight. Most experts say that 2,000 to 2,600 calories a day should
meet the energy needs of men older than 50 who are lightly to moderately active.
Women over 50 who are lightly to moderately active need 1,600 to 1,800 calories
a day. However, individual calorie needs can differ greatly depending on muscle
mass, physical activity, and genetic differences.
Even though reducing calories helps with weight loss, it’s
important that you not cut back too much on calories. If you go too low (below
1,600 calories a day), you won’t get enough nutrients, you’ll be fatigued, and
your body will compensate by slowing its metabolic rate even further, which
actually doesn’t lead to the weight loss you’re expecting.
In addition, some older adults are on restricted diets because
of certain health conditions. Kidney disease is just one example of a condition
that often requires restrictions of certain foods or fluids. In these cases, you
will need to follow the advice of your doctor or nutritionist.
Instead of worrying about which diet is best, focus on healthy
eating. If you use the food pyramid as a guideline, you may also be helping to
prevent or delay some of the diseases associated with growing older. (See Tufts
University’s “Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults,”)
For example, by cutting down on fats, you will be reducing your risk of getting
cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure. By increasing the amount of
fruits and vegetables you eat, you will be lowering your risk of getting some
types of cancer.
The other part of the weight battle is uncovering the triggers
that make you overeat and learning how to manage them. Usually it’s emotions and
cravings, not hunger, that drive overeating. Anger, stress, boredom, depression,
and even happiness (as in celebrating) can make you fat. Click here for tips on managing
Don’t let all this discourage you. You can rise above it. Eat in
moderation, introduce activity into your life – from playing with the grandkids
to yoga. There are exercises for all levels of health and ability. For tips on
losing weight, visit Mother Nature,
or Senior Health.
Published April 18, 2008
Silver Planet Staff