Losing weight over fifty can happen if you stay focused and realize that it’s not going to happen as fast as it did when you were younger. Things have changed, namely your metabolism. It’s a harsh reality but you can get the scale moving down instead of up. Let me answer the top questions I see from my clients:
Your body starts slowing down by fifty. You’re losing muscle. You have less free time for personal care and you probably don’t have the energy you did when you were in your twenties. Combine that with a slower metabolism and eating habits that haven’t changed much in three decades and you have a recipe for weight gain that goes head to head with your best efforts to lose weight.
To lose weight over fifty you’ll need to balance how much energy you are putting out with how many calories you are taking in, improve the quality of what you eat, and make sure your hormones aren’t blocking your success.
More bad news: most women burn about 150 fewer calories every decade after their twenties when muscles start breaking down and the body accumulates more fat. Most active women in their 50s can eat between 1600 and 2200 calories to maintain their weight.
But if you want to lose a pound a week, no matter what age you are, you’ll need to burn an extra 500 calories a day. You can create that deficit by exercising and or changing your diet. For most women, 80-90% of weight loss comes from changing their diets. Everyone’s body responds differently though, so finding what works best for you may take a little time and effort. The willingness to keep trying until you start to see success is what I call stick-to- itiveness.
Finally, an easy answer! Strength train by lifting weights, swinging kettlebells, doing yoga, doing bodyweight exercises like pushups, planks, squats, and lunges, or any other weight bearing exercise that makes you use your muscles in a strenuous way. Every decade after thirty, women lose up to 5% of their lean muscle mass and their resting metabolic rate (or the ability to burn calories doing nothing) decreases by 1-2%. That’s your fat burning engine shrinking! Weight bearing exercise is the cure.
When you strength train, you break down your muscles through exercise and then your body spends extra calories to rebuild those muscles over the next 24-48 hours. That means you get an immediate metabolism boost from a strength workout and a lasting metabolism boost from the new muscle you are building.
The best exercise for a woman over 50 is any exercise she’ll stick to at least five days a week! The important thing is to choose a workout routine that makes you happy. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a group fitness class, or cardio machines, pick an exercise you enjoy and do it at least thirty minutes a day five days a week. Don’t forget to strength train at least two of those days!
There are some food groups like protein and fiber that are essential to losing weight after fifty; they keep you fueled and full. But my single best piece of advice is to start eating clean. There is no faster way to drop weight than to clean up your diet. The sooner you start eating whole, unprocessed foods, the sooner you’ll see the numbers on your scale dip.
Loads of fresh vegetables and lean protein like grilled chicken, fish, and pork should be the base of your diet. Vegetarians should focus on protein from clean sources like beans, seeds, and nuts. Healthy carbohydrates like quinoa, buckwheat, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, plus fresh fruit make up your second tier of clean eating. And healthy fats like avocado and coconut, olive, and peanut oils round out your diet. These foods, prepared simply at home with fresh herbs and spices are the keys to sustainable weight loss at any age.
Hormones tell your body how to respond to food, exercise, stress, and sleep. When your hormones are out of whack, your ability to process food and burn it as fuel goes haywire. After 50 your hormones can be particularly unhelpful when it comes to weight loss, especially if you’re under stress.
Stress fat is real! Stress triggers the production of the hormone cortisol which tells your body it needs energy so you feel hungry for sweet, salty, high carb, high fat, pleasure stimulating foods that make you “feel better” but pack on pounds. Plus all that cortisol pumping out of your adrenal glands tells your body to hold back on testosterone production and testosterone is the hormone that helps you build muscle and lean out. If you want to lose weight, you’ve got to de-stress!
To make sure that hormones aren’t preventing you from losing weight, get your thyroid, adrenal glands, and other hormones checked and then take your doctor’s recommendations to get them back in balance. Over 50, women worry a lot about estrogen loss but making sure you have ample testosterone is key to building lean muscle and losing weight.
Want more? Check out my Clean Eating Transition Kit. Healthy eating at your fingertips.