Most of us has struggled to lose a little weight in our lifetimes. The pounds sometimes creep up on us, and suddenly we can’t fit into our clothing the way we used to. As we get older, it becomes more difficult to lose the weight than it ever did before. We begin to lose muscle mass, and it gets replaced with fat, which can adversely affect our health.
Being overweight or obese has dire consequences for many people. According to the World Health Organization, at least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Obesity is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. It can even affect cognition, or the ability to think. Studies have shown that a 5 to 10 percent decrease in body weight can significantly reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.
If you know you need to lose weight, don’t start until you talk to your doctor. If you have an underlying condition, your doctor will be able to tell you what type of diet to follow. People with diabetes or kidney disease have different diet needs than those with heart disease. Also ask your doctor about what types of exercise are safe for you and your specific needs.
In general, good nutrition means eating a balanced diet from all food groups. Each meal should have a protein, a fruit, a dairy, a grain and a vegetable. Learn to read labels on packaged foods, and consider keeping a food diary to count your calories, sodium, fats and proteins.
Once your doctor has cleared you, make sure to get all the nutrients you need for a healthy lifestyle, while reducing your calorie intake. Avoid fad diets, or any diet or supplement that promises weight loss without being independently evaluated by doctors. If you are unsure, ask your doctor or a registered dietician who has specific experience working with older adults. One way to know is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Exercise is vital for people in all stages of life. The benefits of exercise are immense. It makes you feel better physically and mentally, and it helps prevent high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as depression and anxiety.
In older adults, exercise should be considered carefully. If you can, buy a few sessions with a personal trainer who can show you some exercises you can do safely. If you have trouble with balance, a trainer might be able to show you some moves that can help with that. If your knees are bad, you can do exercises to strengthen the muscles around them. Weight-bearing exercise can also help prevent bone loss, as well as rebuild lost muscle and burn calories.
Not everyone enjoys going to the gym. If this is you, consider bringing the gym to you. That doesn’t mean you have to spend thousands of dollars to buy a bunch of equipment. You can start with buying one piece of equipment per month until you have all the things you need. Start with a yoga mat, then add a few light dumbbells, some resistance bands, a bosu ball, a stability ball and a foam roller. These items don’t take up a lot of room, so you can easily use them in your living room.
However you start your weight-loss journey, make sure it’s one that you enjoy. Consider walking with a friend outdoors or in a mall in the morning. If you can only go a few steps at first, that’s OK. Stick with it, and you’ll find that it gets easier and you’ll feel better each time. You owe it to yourself to take care of your body and enjoy the best part of your life.