Weight loss for women over 50

Photo: Getty Images.

(It looks a little different than it does for 20-and 30-somethings)

While 50 may be the new 30, there are some physiological truths that can still make you look and feel like 50—especially when it comes to losing weight. I recently attended a weight management class at my local hospital. I captured the most useful information to share with my readers:

We lose muscle mass as we age at an average of 3 to 5 percent every 10 years past 35, which also impacts the way our bodies burn fat. Your body goes into its aging stage as it leaves the growing one. “When this happens, your body doesn’t need as much energy (aka food) as it used to.

Then there’s the issue of our ever-slowing metabolisms. Your resting metabolic rate (the ability to burn calories while doing nothing) decreases by about 1 to 2 percent per decade, thanks to a decrease in the amount of muscle you carry around (muscle burns calories) and increased fat mass (which is metabolically inactive). In addition, our diets often don’t change enough to account for this metabolic slow-down, meaning weight can creep up slowly but surely with every birthday. I am a victim of this.

The follwing tips, courtesy of some of the world’s best weight loss experts, nutritionists, and physical trainers, can help you drop those extra pounds—and keep them off for good.

First, talk to your doctor.

It’s never a good idea to create a weight loss plan for yourself without speaking to your physician first — especially if you have any preexisting health conditions. Be clear with your doctor what you hope to achieve, and ask for suggestions regarding diet and exercise. Your doc may even be able to recommend a physical therapist or personal trainer for you. My doc did.

Get your hormones checked

As we age, progesterone, testosterone, and other hormones decline, which sets the body up for storing instead of losing weight. Simply getting your thyroid, adrenal glands, and other hormone levels checked—and then taking the appropriate steps to bring them back into balance—can go a long way toward helping people in their 50s lose weight.

Few people are aware of the importance of sufficient testosterone levels, which can help a woman slim down. In fact, research shows that balanced testosterone levels reduce blood glucose levels, which may help promote weight loss and shrink stubborn belly fat. Gotta check on this one.

Set realistic goals

Declaring that you’re going to lose 20 pounds in 1 month is unrealistic. If your ultimate goal is to shed 20 pounds, strive to drop around 1 pound a week. Small achievements amount to large goals achieved. This is way I always failed at dieting. I wanted to lose 5 pounds a week. Didn’t work, so I gave up – the first week.

Follow a structured plan

Medically supervised programs have over 75 percent success rate in helping you keep your weight off. It has been proven that individual support programs can encourage a significant change in behavior and reinforce long-term success. Programs that include weekly visits can also provide accountability and continued support to keep the momentum going.

Embrace weight training

If you find it tough to make it to the gym at all, let alone brave a weight room filled with buff 20-somethings, here’s a little motivation: Once you hit 50, you’ve got about 20 percent less muscle mass than you did when you were 20. And because muscle is so metabolically active, muscle loss equals a slower metabolism.

That makes you much more likely to put on (and hold on to) extra pounds. The good news is you can turn all of this around with a well-structured weight-training routine. This can increase your muscle mass and help you regain the ability to lose weight like you were able to 20 years ago. Back to pumping iron, dear readers!

Choose cardio activities that are easy on the joints

Personal trainers say they gets the best results among 50-somethings when they do some cross-training in the pool. Water exercise is easy on the joints and can boost range of motion as well. In addition, caloric expenditure is about 30 percent greater in the water than on land due to the resistance water creates. If only I could find a cute bathing suit that looks good on me…

Walking is another great, low-impact cardiovascular exercise, as are cycling, kayaking, yoga, and dancing. I do all of these, except for kayaking. I end up falling out of the kayak much more than I’m in it. I’ll pass.

See a physical therapist

Make an appointment with a physical therapist—particularly if an aching back, knee, or other body part has kept you from working out on a regular basis.

After 50, many people have sustained injuries and don’t know what their activity options are. This makes it tough to exercise in ways we used to, and getting advice from a professional can truly help. Physical therapy can help you rehabilitate an old injury or ease joint and muscle pain, setting you up for pain-free workouts. I was just referred to one; sometime my back makes it impossible for me to enjoy any exercise.

Overhaul your diet

Remember that metabolic slow-down? It can mean that you’re burning about 250 fewer calories each day. If you continue to eat like you’re in your 30s—and don’t increase your exercise—you’ll gain weight, plain and simple.

To lose weight when you get older, you have to eat fewer calories and replace the junk food in your diet with loads of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can make cutting calories painless. No chips. No pizza. No ice cream. I’m scared.

Also, stay away from fad diets. No crazy fasts, cleanses, cutting out fats, or complex carbohydrates or proteins. No problem here. I have lost 30 pounds at least 5 times in my life with fad diets, only to gain all my weight (and then some) back. Sigh…

For Barbara Bishop’s complete list, go online to smmirror.com.

Get your stress in check

Schedule your workouts like they’re doctor’s appointments. Sticking to a consistent routine can not only help ease stress but also help people stay on track with their diets.

Mindfulness can aid in stress relief, which is important because many people eat or put off exercise when they are anxious. Michaels suggests practicing 5-10 minutes of meditation daily to maintain your brain’s neuroplasticity and stress management.

Get your sleep

Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night is key. In addition to leaving you feeling rested two hormones that regulate appetite — leptin and ghrelin — go into overdrive without it. “This can trigger excessive hunger and lead to poor food choices and weight gain at any age.

Let go of old “rules” about weight loss and cultivate a mindset of wellness.

Create a mindset of wellness. Being over 50 is not a death sentence—in fact, many of us now have more time to take care of ourselves. We are not getting any younger, but we ain’t dead yet!