There are many things that change about your body and your lifestyle as you age. That’s part of the reason that weight loss for seniors is such a complex issue. The same theory of burning more calories than you consume, which may have worked during your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, applies during your golden years. But if you tried to lose weight in the past as a senior, you know that the reality is more difficult than it sounds. Once you reach your senior years, the truth is, it becomes even more challenging to drop those extra pounds.
Some seniors simply don’t know very much about nutrition or how to go about losing weight. Others don’t have access to healthy food choices and opt for fast food or processed foods that add pounds on quickly. And many don’t have the energy they did when they were 25, or even 45, making it hard to keep up with regular exercise. From diet to lifestyle to natural changes, with so many challenges, losing weight as a senior can feel like an uphill battle.
Reasons Weight Loss for Seniors Is More Difficult
Losing weight at any age isn’t easy for most people. If it were, obesity wouldn’t be at epidemic proportions in this country. Even when you’re younger, losing weight is difficult and often fraught with failure. Between the ages of 29 and 39, women average 7 pounds of weight gain while men average a 15-pound increase.
As you age, your body changes and it gets even more difficult to shed excess weight. By the time you reach your senior years, you might wonder why you can’t lose a single pound even when you’re eating next to nothing. Some of the reasons you might be having trouble include:
- A slowing metabolism
- Joint disease
- Loss of hormones
- Decreased muscle mass
- Diabetes and insulin resistance
- Fewer exercise options
Weight gain is a problem for seniors because it increases their risk for numerous health conditions as they age. The strength of the association between obesity and mortality risk increases with each year that you get older. That’s why keeping your weight under control during your golden years is so important. Some serious health conditions that obesity is a risk factor for include:
- Heart Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Gallbladder Disease
- Respiratory Problems
- Some Types of Cancer
- Mental Illness
Developing any of these conditions can lower your quality of life and shorten your lifespan. While losing weight might be more difficult during the later years in life, it’s important enough to make the added effort.
The Best Diets for Seniors
Most seniors who are overweight have already tried to lose weight by dieting at some point. Fad diets and weight loss supplements often don’t work at all, or they only result in short-term weight loss. When these methods of weight loss are used, you often end up gaining back more weight than you lost in the first place.
For younger adults trying to follow a healthier eating plan that reduces their overall calorie consumption, the challenge is in eating fewer of the right kinds of food. For seniors, both the types of food and the number of calories they eat matter. Ideally, they need to get more nutrition from less food. Every calorie isn’t the same and just counting them isn’t enough to help them lose weight. Fortunately, some of the most popular diets for weight loss today are well-suited to seniors.
Weight Loss for Seniors – Choosing the Best Diet
The best weight loss diets for seniors not only facilitate weight loss, but they also aid with some of the health conditions that are common in seniors. The best diets for seniors help make them healthier and don’t increase their risk of developing dangerous health conditions.
Anyone’s calories need to go down as they age. For senior women, eating a diet of 1,600 to 2,200 calories per day is usually adequate for weight maintenance. For senior men, a diet of 2,000 to 2,800 calories per day is ideal. From these calories, they need to get more protein than they did when they were younger. A diet that is higher in protein supports their immune system and reduces their risk of developing osteoarthritis. That doesn’t necessarily mean eating more meat. Diets that include lentils and beans are great sources of protein that doesn’t increase your fat intake.
The Dash Diet was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to either prevent or stop hypertension (high blood pressure.) The diet supports eating healthy, fiber-filled fruits and vegetables, which make you feel fuller even if you reduce your overall calorie intake. Many people adjust to the bland, low-salt foods by adding herbs and spices for more flavor.
The Mediterranean Diet is based on the eating habits of people living along the Mediterranean Sea. It supports weight loss for seniors while also protecting them from cancer and cardiovascular ailments. Followers eat little red meat, sugar, and saturated fat, opting instead for produce, nuts, fish, olives, and other healthy foods. One thing that is different about this diet is that it isn’t a single eating method. Different variations include different foods. One thing that a lot of people like about the diet is that it allows you to enjoy a glass of wine.
The Ornish Diet
This diet is low in fat, refined carbohydrates, and animal protein. The Ornish Diet and the Mediterranean Diet put a strong emphasis on exercise to aid in weight loss and improved health. The Ornish Diet also focuses on managing stress and relationships. It organizes foods into five groups with group one being the healthiest and group five being the least healthy.
The Ornish Diet is best known for its ability to reverse heart disease. In fact, it’s the only eating program that is scientifically proven to accomplish this important feat without the use of drugs or surgery. It greatly reduces fat intake, nearly eliminates saturated fat, and allows up to 2 ounces of alcohol each day. It also helps achieve moderate weight loss for seniors.
This diet is great for people who like the idea of “substituting” healthier food choices for low-nutrient ones. Recommended stress reduction techniques include yoga, meditation, and deep breathing. These methods also include general fitness activities that most seniors can accomplish with ease.
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Diet
The National Institute of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program, or NIHNCEP, created the TLC as a means of cutting cholesterol from the diet and supporting heart health. The diet requires you to eat lots of vegetables, fruit, breads, cereals, pasta, and lean meat. It’s government-endorsed and low-fat.
This diet is a great introduction to healthy eating for those seniors who have never monitored their diets. It teaches you what types of foods to eat and which ones to avoid. Following it can help you transition to a healthy eating lifestyle that becomes second nature.
WW has a long history of success for weight loss in all ages of men and women. The WW diet plan uses a points system that assigns different numbers of points to different foods. It requires more input into deciding what to eat but also allows more versatility in your foods.
One of the biggest benefits of Weight Watchers is the support offered to members. Phone apps, in-person meetings, and lots of support tools help keep people on-track for longer. There aren’t any foods that are off-limits so you have the flexibility to shape your own diet. That same feature can be problematic to some seniors who prefer an easy-to-follow program.
The Flexitarian Diet
The name of this diet reflects the hybrid of the flexible and vegetarian diets. Developed by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, the diet is only mostly vegetarian instead of requiring followers to give up meat altogether. This is important when dieting for weight loss for seniors since they need more protein in their diets, not less.
The diet promotes weight loss, along with a reduced rate of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. The diet is touted as a way to enjoy a better quality of life and to live longer too!
Although these are good diets, weight loss for seniors doesn’t always mean following a specific program. Some seniors can achieve weight loss by cutting back on certain types of calories such as those that come from sweets. Making a little effort to substitute healthy choices for high-carbohydrate or high-fat ones might be enough to help. It depends on how much you have to lose or whether you are looking for a way to simply maintain your weight.
Don’t Forget the Exercise
What you eat is only half of the weight loss formula for seniors. Although you probably aren’t as active as you used to be, it doesn’t take a lot of movement to boost weight loss. If you’ve been living a sedentary lifestyle, start slow. Walking is a good way to add physical activity to your routine at your own level and without the need for any expensive exercise equipment.
A low-impact fitness class is also a good way to re-introduce exercise into your life without feeling overwhelmed or getting bored. Match your method of exercise to your physical ability and build slowly. Taking a low-impact fitness class once or twice a week combined with a 15 to 30-minute walk each day can make a big difference in weight loss for seniors. It also adds to the health benefits that you will gain from your new healthy diet.
The Right Attitude for Successful Weight Loss
One of the biggest mistakes many of us make when trying to lose weight is in starting too aggressively. Seniors with a lot of weight to lose sometimes start too strong and feel like they can’t keep up the pace. Nothing is more discouraging than falling off the plan within the first few days. Your odds of success are a lot greater if you start slowly and ease into the changes in diet and activity. It’s also a good idea to think of your new habits as lifelong changes, not short-term fixes to get rid of a few pounds. Otherwise, you may end up failing and making the situation worse than it was before.
Another important issue for seniors is avoiding getting dehydrated. The elderly are especially vulnerable to dehydration due to some of the age-related changes they go through. Seniors don’t always realize they aren’t getting enough fluids. It’s important to drink plenty of water, especially when you increase your activity level. Experts generally recommend drinking eight 8-oz glasses of water each day. But some recommend even more with 3 liters for men and 2.2 liters for women.
When you drink water also matters. Start the day by drinking two glasses right after waking up to help activate your internal organs. Drink another glass before eating each meal for better digestion. Drinking water before a bath helps lower blood pressure. Drinking a glass of water before bedtime can prevent nocturnal leg cramps, but think twice if you’re prone to getting up for trips to the bathroom after drinking liquids.
The Unexpected Benefits of Dieting and Exercising for Weight Loss
One of the unexpected benefits of eating a healthy diet like any of those listed above is how much better it makes you feel. Getting more essential nutrients and eliminating harmful ingredients from your diet can have a positive impact on your overall well-being early on. The right diet will reduce soreness and stiffness in your joints, increase energy, and reduce or eliminate some of your aches and pains.
Weight loss for seniors is doable as long as you take a realistic approach that matches your abilities. Always start by talking about your weight loss goals with your doctor before starting a diet or fitness plan. Your doctor can help you develop a weight loss plan that is appropriate for your health.
If you have diabetes, ask about managing your blood sugar during and after exercise. Ask about supportive treatments and therapy to address existing issues like joint disease. You might also want to hire a personal trainer to help you adapt your fitness routine to your special needs.
Get support through a workout partner or by joining an exercise class. You’ll feel more comfortable with a class of other people with the same needs as yours. Weight loss for seniors is always a little easier when you have a strong support team.
Park Terrace at Greenway
Park Terrace offers resort-style senior living that supports all areas of a healthier lifestyle. Our all-inclusive dining includes a menu of healthy choices prepared by our resident chef. Enjoy a range of exercise classes, which include chair yoga, aerobic boogie, and water aerobics. There are also walking paths, two outdoor pools, a fitness room, and tennis courts to accommodate a wide range of fitness levels. Contact us today to schedule a tour and see how easy it is to live healthier and happier.