Tips for Managing Weight as you Age
The gradual or sometimes sudden weight gain that occurs with age can be overwhelming and often very challenging to manage. Some of the weight gain can be attributed to a slight slowing of the metabolism each year and decade, and some to changes in hormones, but typically not as much as what would account for the shocking spike on the scale. So, what else has changed? Could it be the extra glass of wine you enjoy now that the kids don’t need your taxi service? The change in your activity intensity from running to golf and yoga? Or possibly the more frequent dinners out with your more flexible disposable income? Whatever the reason, weight gain can pose a health risk and should be managed.
When it comes to weight loss, the first place I start with my clients is energy. If your energy levels are fluctuating throughout the day due to inconsistent eating times and lack of structure you need to start here. When you wait too long to eat, your energy level drops which not only affects your ability to concentrate but also causes your body to use muscle for fuel. If you consistently skip meals this can lead to the loss of muscle mass and a reduction in metabolism. Skipping meals or snacks will also leave you feeling hungry and may leave you with food cravings and increased risk for overeating.
What to do? Start by eating breakfast within an hour of waking up. Plan to eat again every 3-4 hours during the day. Pack a snack for the car or golf bag and think ahead to lunch and dinner.
Often when trying to lose weight my clients say they are constantly hungry. Although I remind them that feeling a little hungry as you approach your next meal or snack time is a good thing, feeling starved all the time is uncomfortable and not necessary. There are several things you can do to improve satiety (feeling full and satisfied).
First, get enough protein. Protein acts like an anchor for your carbohydrate energy and makes it last longer. It takes longer to digest and slows the absorption of carbohydrates when eaten together. Great protein foods to include are hard boiled eggs or nut butters on whole grain toast, protein powders in smoothies, grilled chicken on a salad or lentils in a vegetable soup.
Second, fill up on fibre. Fibre not only adds bulk without calories, it also slows the absorption of glucose in the blood and fuels the good bacteria in your colon. Aim to cover half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. This means half the plate is salad and the other half is the ½ sandwich. For dinner you can add a couple cooked vegetables in addition to a side salad to help fill you up and eat less of all the other stuff. In addition to vegetables and fruit, select whole grains over refined and add legumes and nuts for nutrient dense fibre sources.
Third is Fluid. Drinking water throughout the day will help keep your body hydrated, removes waste and lubricates joints. It also helps fill you up. Drink a glass of water before you eat or with your meal. The addition of a vegetable soup before dinner can help reduce the amount of food you eat at the meal.
Watch the extras; the extra glass of wine (140 kcal), the extra square of chocolate (70 kcal), the odd serving of fries (900 kcal) or the special coffee with whip (400 kcal) can all add up. You don’t need to be perfect and I certainly don’t expect complete abstinence from your favorite foods. It’s important to allow yourself indulgences in order to stay sane and committed to long term success. Just be mindful of your portions and don’t do it every day.
As we get older we start to notice more aches and pains after intense activity. Recovery from injuries can take longer and the need to modify our activity choice may lead to selecting different sports to stay fit. Keep in mind that if you have replaced running with walking or hockey for golf you don’t need as much fuel as you once did. Your potions might need revisiting. If you have never really been a fitness fanatic, it’s not too late to start. For weight loss I recommend 4-5 cardio workouts (which may be brisk walking for some or spinning for others) and 2 strength workouts per week. Lifting weights not only helps build muscle which increases metabolism, but it also helps improve bone health.
The Bottom Line: Although there are some things we can’t change when it comes to aging and weight gain, there are many things you can change without too much effort. Select one goal at a time, make it a habit and choose another.