Smiling senior man stepping on a scale standing next to a doctor.

How To Lose Weight After Sixty

For many people, it’s true what they say about gaining weight as you age. The foods you once ate and never gained a pound seem to suddenly start showing up around the midsection no matter how hard you may work to keep it off. After the age of 60, losing weight can be especially hard and there are a lot of reasons why this may be true.

Age Brings Hormonal and Metabolic Changes

As we age, our bodies begin to become less efficient in producing the key hormones necessary to maintain metabolic health. As metabolism slows, so too does the body’s ability to convert food into energy and, as we know all too well, if the food we eat isn’t being converted to energy, it is likely being stored as fat. 

Dr. Chi-Hao Lee, a professor of genetics and complex diseases at Harvard University’s School of Public Health says that a  slowing metabolism directly impacts a person’s ability to lose weight.  “A slow metabolism burns fewer calories, which means more get stored as fat in the body; that’s why some people have difficulty losing weight by just cutting calories,” he explained.

While the tendency to eat less foods, limit certain types of foods or count calories is the typical reaction to weight loss, this strategy alone will not counteract the effects of a slowing metabolism.

Lifestyle Changes Often Add Up to Weight Gain

Another reason why people of 60 start packing on pounds is found in the corresponding lifestyle changes they may be going through with age. A lack of activity contributes to both a slower metabolism and calorie burn, which culminates in additional weight. In addition, you may be finding yourself with more time to socialize, which often includes eating and that can also contribute to weight gain.

Explore Potential Medical Causes of Weight Gain

Just because you are over 60, sudden and rapid weight gain (or loss!) can be an indication there is an underlying medical condition that needs to be examined. For women, menopause alone can lead to weight gain because of the hormonal changes discussed earlier. Those who are depressed may turn to food for comfort. Some common ailments that are often associated with weight gain are hypothyroidism (where the thyroid loses function), congestive heart failure, and even diabetes (which influences the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin). 

It is always a good idea to have a thorough medical checkup to explore any issues that may be contributing to changes in weight. It is also advisable to discuss any dietary changes, exercise regimen, or weight loss program with your doctor first.

Tips for Losing Weight After 60

So, what should you do if dropping pounds is necessary and you have hit the age where health issues and metabolism are working against you? There are a few realistic ways to approach weight loss that are suited for aging individuals.

  • Limit Carbs and Sugars. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded that aging and a diet rich in fats and sugars can directly contribute not only to weight gain, but also to the development of other chronic diseases and even cognitive decline. Further, individuals over age 60 often have a higher blood sugar due to insulin resistance and this condition can eventually lead to pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes. Paying close attention to carbs and sugars after age 60 is important, because it helps reduce blood sugar, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Drink More Water. It goes without saying that drinking water helps fill the stomach, making you feel full and less hungry. But, that isn’t the only reason you should drink lots of water, especially if you are over 60. The body undergoes changes as we age that leave us with less water in our bodies. Medications taken can contribute to dehydration. Older individuals may also avoid drinking water to help limit their day and night time trips to the bathroom.

    It remains really important to push copious amounts of water every day, because water is needed for proper digestion and metabolism. How much should you drink? The National Council on Aging says as a general rule, you should take one-third of your body weight and drink that number of ounces in fluids. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, try to drink 50 ounces of water each day. As with any dietary or lifestyle change, be sure to check with your doctor first.
  • Enjoy the Sunshine. Don’t forget about Vitamin D! Not only does sun help mood, it also provides necessary vitamins that are correlated with hunger or appetite satiation. Studies have shown that Vitamin D works alongside our body’s hormones to regulate the signals that make us feel hungry. Denny Hemingson, a functional diagnostic nutritionist explains, “When Vitamin D is deficient, this process malfunctions causing people to overeat.”
  • Manage Stress and Anxiety. For most of us, stress and worry can lead to overeating. Finding ways to control stress can go a long way to keeping you out of the refrigerator and avoiding the habit of using food as a crutch. The Mayo Clinic says those who are under stress often eat to fulfill emotional needs. They recommend finding ways to manage that stress, such as meditation, yoga, prayer rather than turning to food for comfort (which in turn leads to weight gain).
  • Get Adequate Rest. You may be asking yourself why sleep has anything to do with losing or gaining weight, but just like other important body functions, getting enough rest contributes to overall health and wellness. Much like food is energy for your body, sleep is like nutrition for your brain. WebMD says that too little sleep triggers a rapid increase in cortisol, a hormone that signals your body to conserve energy (thus burning less fat and contributing to weight gain).
  • Get More Exercise. You knew this was coming. Most of us would rather eat than exercise, but there isn’t any reason why you can’t do both if you make it a daily habit for the good of your health. At a minimum, you should do some form of strength training to help burn body fat and reverse muscle loss. All that is really necessary is a two- or three-day regimen that might include hand weights, standing on one leg or doing push ups against the wall.

Join a Community That Helps Keep You Focused on Good Health

Retirement living should include staying active, healthy and fit. One of the best ways to set yourself up for success is to join a community that cares about you and your success.  SageLife’s Echo Lake Senior Living Community provides access to age-appropriate exercise and activities that are both fun and beneficial. Best of all, they include friends and caregivers able to support you every step of the way. Give us a call to talk about making an active lifestyle part of your retirement living plans.