If you’re overweight, and 50 or older, you may have been on more than one diet. In fact, you could have been on nearly all of them! Have you lost out after trying South Beach, Weight Watchers, Mediterranean, Zone, Paleo, Volumetrics the Raw Food Diet, Nutrisystem, a Macrobiotic diet or Jenny Craig? If you think losing weight when you’re more than 50 years old is harder than it used to be, you’re absolutely correct. It is harder. This issue helps you with the nutrition information you need, and our next issue will help you with the activity information you need.


There are a number of reasons why losing weight becomes more difficult as we age.

  1. Lack of sleep. Whether it is work stress, or snoring or other causes, lack of sleep is a contributor to weight gain. When you’re tired, you may grab that sugary snack for a quick energy boost. One study found that inadequate sleep actually makes your brain crave fattening, high-calorie foods.
  2. Lower metabolism. Your metabolism slows down (if you change nothing) by 5% every decade. This means that an extra 100 calories a day, 365 days a year, with a slowing metabolism, is up to 10 pounds of weight you can possibly gain per year.
  3. You’re hungry. It’s not your imagination. After age 40 estrogen levels fall, which causes changes in the blood sugar and thyroid, increasing your appetite.  In other words, your hormones could cause you to eat that extra 100 calories per day.
  4. Loss of muscle mass. You’ve heard that muscles burn calories even when you’re sleeping – right? It’s true. Muscles burn three times more calories than fat. Unless you are actively working to keep your muscles, you’ll be losing them.  Muscle loss is like shutting down your calorie-burning engine.

    If you’re 50 years old or older, you can lose weight. Your weight loss will depend about 80% on what you eat
    (or don’t eat) and 20% on what you do in terms of activity and weight training. Let’s look at the food part first.

    Have you tried the popular fad diets? Or worse yet, have you tried diet pills, energy pills or meal supplements?

    If they work at all, it is often a short term solution. The best nutrition approach is to make a life-long change to healthy eating. Meanwhile, you can avoid weight loss scams by learning how to spot them.
    • The mythical percentage boast. Often you’ll see a percentage in big letters. A product (or program) may claim, “...clinically proven to burn more fat...” or “...backed by science...” or “...laboratory tested to provide weight loss results...” But what clinic? Backed by what science? Which laboratory tested it?
    • Long lists of studies. If you see a long list of studies (dubious quality, or performed only on mice) you are justified in wondering why so many studies are needed. In some cases the study can actually contradict the results that are claimed, but the study is on the list anyway. A long list of studies is often camouflage.
    • Significant results. Statistic ally speaking – a significant result can be very very small. Scientists use statistical formulas to determine if research results qualify as “significant.” So, a very small, microscopic or even fractional result might be “significant” according to technical scientific standards.
    • Fancy words. “...breakthrough treatment...” or “...first of its kind...” or “...exclusive compound...” or “...secret formula...” are the sort of fancy hyped up words that should be a tip off that the claim is a rip off.
    • Read the fine print. If you can’t get your money back, or it’s hard to get your money back, the manufacturer is not standing by the quality of their product. This is another warning sign.

    1. Go to the grocery store armed with a shopping list. Go after you’ve eaten. Get only what’s on the list. According to the United States Department of Agriculture  a 50+ year old woman should be eating (per day):
    • 1.5 cups of fruit
    • 2 cups of vegetables
    • 5 ounces of grains
    • 5 ounces of lean protein
    • 3 cups of dairy
    • 5 teaspoons of healthy oils 
    2.  Eat only what you bought at the store. Notice that there are not any pre-packaged items on the grocery list. It is all whole food which you can cook or eat raw.

    3.  Keep a food journal. According to many sources, this is one of the most important activities you can do – other than exercise. It keeps you honest, and allows you to celebrate your successes.

    4.  Ask for support. Let your friends and family members know that you’re doing this so they can avoid tempting you, and can encourage your success.

    5.  Get up when you fall off the wagon. If you fail at breakfast, make sure you succeed at lunch and dinner and your remaining daily snacks.

    6.  No alcohol. You won’t have to give it up forever, but you will need to give it up to lose weight. You can add it back in slowly when you’ve hit your goal weight – and you may find out that it has lesser appeal.
    Next issue we’ll look at the fitness side of weight loss after 50. September is Healthy Aging Month, so you may want to check out additional tips to stay active and be healthy. Good luck!


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