If you’re carrying extra pounds, losing weight can improve your health and quality of life. However, after 60, losing weight becomes more complicated. The basic principles of weight loss still apply, but seniors’ nutrient needs mean dieting isn’t as simple as cutting back.
The Basics of Weight Loss
To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume in food and drinks. You can lose weight eating anything — even junk food — as long you count calories. However, if you want to lose weight and maintain good health, your best choice is a balanced diet that’s based on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and meat.
Using a TDEE calculator like the one at Healthy Eater can help you estimate how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. Your TDEE is your total daily energy expenditure, or the amount of calories you burn in a normal day based on your age, sex, weight, and activity level. Once you know your TDEE, you can decide how much to cut back. However, seniors should be wary of restricting too severely — sustainable weight loss comes through slow and steady change, not crash diets.
Senior Nutrition Needs
Maintaining proper nutrition through weight loss is especially important for seniors. Seniors’ calorie requirements are lower than younger adults’ because muscle mass and activity levels diminish with age. Seniors also have increased needs for certain nutrients, including vitamin B12, B6, and D, calcium, and fiber. To meet those nutrition needs without over-consuming calories, you need to build your diet around nutrient-dense foods.
Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, fish, and lean meat are examples of nutrient-dense food. Sweetened beverages, fried foods, and refined grains are high in calories but low in nutritional value.
Exercise for Seniors
Of course, exercise is an important component of any weight loss plan. Since exercise burns calories, adding exercise to your weight loss plan allows you to lose weight without making drastic changes to your diet.
Weight loss isn’t the only reason for seniors to exercise. An active lifestyle helps prevent many chronic diseases and strengthens the immune system. Regular exercise also fights against falls; when you’re strong and confident on your feet, you’re less likely to trip and fall. And if you do, your increased bone density due to strength training makes broken bones less likely. You can learn more about the importance of exercise for older adults at AgingCare.
You don’t need to join a gym or take up running to reap the benefits of physical activity. For many seniors, the safest place to exercise is at home, not a crowded gym. You can build a simple home gym and meet all your fitness needs in the privacy of your house. However, due to the risk of injury, you should work with a personal trainer to develop a safe exercise regimen that’s appropriate for your ability and comfort level.
Sustainable Weight Loss
For many, the decision to lose weight is easy — it’s following through and maintaining weight loss that’s hard. Rather than making drastic changes to your diet, focus on small changes that you can sustain for the long-term. Replacing soda with sparkling water, cooking at home instead of eating out, and giving vegetables more real estate on your plate are three changes that are easy to sustain, and they can make a big difference in your weight loss.
Losing weight is challenging no matter your age, but after 60, it can feel near impossible. However, it’s possible to lose weight at any age — and even in your senior years, weight loss makes a difference for your health. If you’re ready to make a change, talk to your doctor about how you can implement these tips for safe and healthy weight loss.
Article written by Hazel Bridges