Losing weight is never easy, but it becomes even more difficult as we age. Even maintaining a healthy weight can be a challenge after 50—and weight isn’t the only issue. Our weight is tied to our overall health and mobility, which are important for enjoying retirement. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to meet your weight loss goals and improve your overall health and quality of life.
In this article, we’ll share information about how your body changes to make weight loss efforts more challenging after 60 and what you can do to create a weight loss plan that can work!
Many factors make losing weight after 60 more difficult. Physical changes in our bodies and common lifestyle changes for people who are 60 or older play a role in our health and our ability to lose weight. Knowing how these changes can affect you will help you to get moving in the right direction on your weight loss journey.
Metabolism is the rate at which your body turns food into energy. In childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, our metabolism tends to be higher as we continue to grow. As we age, our bodies are no longer trying to grow, and our metabolism slows down. Your body now needs fewer calories to maintain daily function. This means that the cheeseburger and fries you enjoyed for lunch in your teenage years that didn’t cause an ounce of weight gain will have a much different effect on your body now.
Just like your metabolism, your hormones change as you age. Men and women begin to produce less testosterone and estrogen as early as their mid-thirties. This decline in hormone production can eventually lead to weight gain. In menopause, women’s estrogen levels drop significantly, causing an increase in fat storage in the abdomen. Men and women both produce less testosterone, which causes a loss of muscle mass and energy loss. Lower muscle and energy levels make maintaining and losing weight more challenging.
Stress and anxiety can affect your health and weight at any age. However, certain circumstances can make stress and anxiety more prevalent as we age. Most people look forward to retirement, but even if you have been planning for years, adjusting to life after retirement can be stressful. Many people even choose to unretire after getting bored during retirement!
As we get older, we also experience loss of friends and family. Grief and losing loved ones cause stress and make focusing on your health and wellness more difficult. Stress causes a rise in cortisol and the hormone ghrelin. High cortisol levels cause your body to hold on to weight, while ghrelin increases hunger. Any type of stress can increase emotional eating. Managing stress and anxiety will improve your ability to lose weight.
Sleep allows your body to reset and restore itself. Low-quality sleep results in low energy and high blood pressure. Without proper rest, your body is not in a state that allows for weight loss. Lack of sleep makes it more difficult to find the motivation to continue your healthy diet and exercise plan. Many factors can affect our sleep, including stress, chronic back and pain, and mid-night bathroom breaks—all of which can be common as we age.
The typical American diet consists of excess calories, fat, and sugar and lacks vital nutrients. Most of us don’t focus on healthy eating habits that ensure we get enough protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A balanced diet is essential for weight loss. While basic calories in and calories out matter, the quality of the calories you consume should be a top priority as you age.
Certain medications can cause or contribute to weight gain. Many antidepressants have side effects that can cause weight gain. Medications for diabetes and high blood pressure may also contribute to weight gain. While some medications are necessary, it may be possible to make some changes to improve your ability to lose weight. Talking to your doctor or healthcare provider about your medications and possible side effects can help determine if you should change up your prescriptions.
While it may seem like the deck is stacked against you, there are several things you can do to lose weight after 60. A few minor adjustments may be all that you need to drop those stubborn pounds. Here are some strategies to help you lose weight and improve your health.
Many people feel that exercise is the hardest part of losing weight, but it can be much simpler than you realize. Even if you are starting from a completely sedentary lifestyle, you can begin an exercise program to fit your needs. A good mix of cardiovascular exercise, weight training, and flexibility exercises can aid weight loss and help improve your mobility.
Walking briskly is an excellent start for anyone who wants to lose weight. Starting with just 10 minutes of walking will improve your fitness and weight loss. As you get more in shape, you can add time until you can walk for 30-60 minutes at a time.
Weight and resistance training helps to build muscle mass which is crucial to losing weight. Muscle mass helps you burn more calories than body fat, so more muscle results in a higher metabolism. Weight and resistance training also helps build and maintain healthy bones.
Stretching and flexibility work will help maintain your long-term mobility and will allow you to avoid injuries so that you can keep exercising. Simple yoga exercises for older adults and beginners that can be done on the floor or in a chair. These movements can go a long way in helping you maintain strength and flexibility. They can also help with mindfulness and mental health! Working with a physical therapist or personal trainer can help you find the best exercise regimen for your fitness level and goals.
Staying well hydrated improves your digestion and metabolism. Dehydration can make you feel hungry when you aren’t, result in injuries, and reduce your energy levels. Drinking plenty of water helps improve all of your body’s functions. Avoiding alcohol and sugary drinks (like soda and juice) is critical for enhancing weight loss. These “empty calories” can make it too easy to exceed your maximum daily calorie intake.
The average American diet is high in carbohydrates and fats and low in protein. Protein helps build muscle and makes you feel full for longer. Protein found in lean meats and plant-based foods, such as lentils and quinoa, is easy to add to any meal of the day. Aiming for 25-30 mg of protein per meal will help you to reach your necessary daily protein intake.
Eat your veggies! Vegetables and most fruits are excellent sources of fiber and nutrients unavailable in other food sources. Fiber helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome which improves your digestion and can help with metabolism. Fiber also allows you to feel full longer. While you still get vitamins and nutrients from fruit and vegetable juices, you won’t get the fiber you need if you’re not eating the whole fruit. Getting 25-30 grams of fiber daily will help you reach your weight loss goals.
Proper sleep has been associated with more significant weight loss. It helps improve your body functions and assists in hormone regulation. Good sleep also increases your energy, making it easier to get out and exercise. Having a regular bedtime routine can help you sleep better. Going to bed at the same time every night, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, limiting screen exposure for two hours before bed, and practicing a nighttime meditation or reading a book can help you fall asleep faster. These activities can also improve your sleep quality!
Even on days when you can’t exercise, you can increase your activity level by making minor adjustments in your daily routines. Parking farther away from the door when shopping is a great way to increase your daily step count. Using a step counter can help you monitor your daily steps. Hobbies and social activities can also help you get out of the house, which will help you get more steps.
Losing weight is challenging at any age, and it can feel like a constant uphill battle. Setting goals, incorporating lifestyle changes, and building healthy habits can help you make steady progress toward your weight loss goals.
Maintaining a healthy weight is incredibly important because it will help you improve overall health and prevent some common illnesses. Speak to your healthcare provider to ask questions about medications and other changes you can make to help get you to your weight loss goals.