11 Ways to Lose Weight in Your 50s and 60s

You don't need a restrictive diet to slim down and change your body

fit middle aged couple
Stay active to stay healthy. Compassionate Eye Foundation/Andrew Olney/ Digital Vision/ Getty Images

Have you noticed that your body has started to change now that you've hit middle age? You're not alone. It's common to see changes on the scale and in the way your clothes fit as you get older. But you don't have to throw in the towel and let your appearance slide. That may have been the case in your grandparent's generation, but it's not the case anymore.

Today, men and women are using targeted physical activity, a healthy diet and progressive medical approaches to stay fit as they age.

While you can't necessarily stop or reverse all of the changes that come with aging, there are simple things you can do to reach and maintain a healthy weight in middle age and beyond.

11 Tips to Help You Lose Weight in Middle Age

1.  Know your numbers. Your doctor may calculate your BMI and you might weight yourself on the scale at home, but there are other numbers that can affect they way you look as you age, like waist circumference and body fat percent.

  • Waist circumference.  Your waistline may get bigger, even though you are not gaining weight.  Aging expert Dr. Florence Comite says that hormonal changes don't necessarily cause weight gain, but they can change the way you carry weight on your body.  Comite is a New York City endocrinologist who helps both men and women maintain their vitality as they age. “Women tend to see weight gain in their middle," she says, "and men - especially those who don’t go to the gym - wear their belt a little lower to accommodate a bigger belly.”
  • Body fat percent: Your body composition is likely to change as you get older. Lower testosterone levels in both men and women cause a decrease in muscle mass as we age.  So even if your weight stays the same you might feel and look more “fatty” if you’ve lost muscle and gained fat.

2.  Evaluate your family health history. A family history is the “poor man’s genetic test,” says Dr. Comite.

In her private practice she conducts extensive tests to help her patients target and treat specific issues that affect their appearance and vitality as they age.  But she says that simply knowing your family health history is the next best thing. "If you are starting to look like your Aunt Sally who has the big belly and you know that there is a history of diabetes in your family, then you know to ask your doctor to screen for that condition."

3.  Become your own personal health expert. Once you know your health history then connect with your doctor to get personalized advice to improve your health and appearance. For example, if you found out that you have a family history of high blood pressure, find out how changes to your lifestyle can help you avoid medication in the future. In many cases, maintaining a healthy weight can reduce or prevent disease. Understanding the specific benefits of a healthy weight can serve as motivation to slim down.

4.  Manage your eating habits. You may not need to go on a full-scale diet to lose weight.

  According to Dr. Comite, you can simply start with the basic stuff. Stop eating sweets and avoid foods with a high glycemic index, she says.  Recent research supports that approach. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that overweight and obese postmenopausal women who ate fewer desserts, less fried food and fewer sugar-sweetened beverages were able to lose weight and keep it off.

5.  Boost your daily activity level. Have you stopped doing daily chores like carrying groceries, shoveling snow or mowing the lawn? That probably means that you burn fewer calories every day. Dr. Comite says that even though hormones play a role in the aging process, lifestyle comes into play as well.  You can burn more calories without exercise by increasing your non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT. Simple daily chores and activities boost your NEAT and contribute to a healthier metabolism.

6.  Evaluate your lifestyle and interests. As you near or reach retirement, have your interests shifted to more leisurely activities? Do you spend more time reading, eating in restaurants, cooking indulgent meals or entertaining friends? These shifts can cause weight gain. To lose the weight, you don't necessarily need to give up your hobbies, but you may want to make simple adjustments to change your energy balance. For example, if you like to travel, choose an active vacation instead of a food-centered cruise. If you like to cook, invest in a healthy cooking class. 

7.  Watch your alcohol intake. Increased travel, eating in restaurants more often and entertaining with friends might mean that you drink alcohol more often. Calories from booze add up quickly.  In addition, we don't always make the best food choices when we drink.  You can simply cut back on drinking or eliminate alcohol altogether to lose weight.

8.  Balance your workouts.  It’s great if you do any exercise on a daily basis.

But as we age, a balanced workout program becomes more important.  According to Dr. Comite, a varied program can offset hormonal and body composition changes that happen as we get older.  Make sure your program includes these elements.

  • Strength training.  Do resistance or strength training exercises to build and maintain muscle and to keep your metabolism healthy.
  • Aerobic training.  Do cardiovascular activity on a regular basis to offset the decrease in metabolism that comes with age and to improve your heart health.
  • Flexibility training. Do stretching exercises to increase the range of motion in your joints.  This helps your body stay limber and comfortable through activities of daily living.

9.  Eat enough protein.  In Dr. Comite’s book Keep It Up she lists the benefits of eating the right amount of protein.  She says that it not only helps you to feel full longer, but it also helps to build and repair your body’s tissues.

And did you know that the process of eating protein burns more calories?  She recommends eating 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

10.  Do functional stability training.  Nothing makes you look old faster than a hunched posture and a shuffle-style walk.  Keep a strong, stable, youthful-looking body by adding functional training exercises to your daily routine.

Simple stability exercises take just minutes to perform but help to improve your balance, your posture and your appearance.

11.  Stay connected with active friends.  Not sure that you will stick to your exercise or eating plan?  Then connect with friends who will hold you accountable and who share your interest in an active lifestyle.  Social support is one of the best predictors of adherence to an exercise program.  Meet new friends at the gym, connect with the community at church or organize a few neighbors for workouts or healthy recipe exchanges.

Of course, you don't want to make all of these changes at once. Dr. Comite recommends making no more than three changes per month so that you don't get overwhelmed and quit your program altogether.  She also reminds us that everyone ages differently. “There are so many factors that come into play but it’s important to note the each person is unique."

Be kind to yourself as you age and as your body changes, but don't throw in the towel just because you're getting older.

Stay smart and stay active to keep your body strong and lean. 

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