Trying to lose weight over 50? It can seem complicated because of so much conflicting information floating around.
But it doesn’t have to be so complicated! You can make it simple by NOT worrying about stuff like:
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You’ve heard a million of these things over the years.
Truth is, after 50 staying healthy becomes an even bigger priority.
But it can be harder to begin or maintain a healthy lifestyle at this age.
Why? Well, for one (BIG) reason, we’ve had a lot more years to fall into bad habits and unhelpful default ways of thinking.
Another? So many conflicting theories and recommendations have been thrown at us over the decades that we have no real idea what to believe or how to begin.
That’s going to change right here! Keep reading to learn the three best ways to lose weight when you’re over 50!
We’re gonna keep it real, and keep it simple. So you can finally get a handle on the goals you want for your body and health.
We’re going to focus on the food you eat, the way you move, and one more that may surprise you! Read on to find out…
Losing Weight Over 50…The Food You Eat
Who remembers the funniest line from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie?
Captain Barbossa says to Miss Turner, “And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.”
That’s how I think about healthy eating. Not some “diet,” if by diet we mean a restrictive way of eating that never lasts.
But guidelines that make up the greatest percentage of your eating habits.
We all know what those guidelines are, of course.
Focus on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, along with lean protein. Some low fat dairy for calcium. Reduce unhealthy fats and sugars.
It can even include a glass or two of wine (I’m a Chardonnay gal myself).
The overwhelming emphasis is on plant-based foods (no paleo here) like vegetables, fruits and grains, rounded out with a bit of fish and poultry and occasional lean meats.
Olive oil is the fat of choice, but in moderation, of course.
Sounds a lot like the Mediterranean diet!
Check out the sources below to get started.
Why Eat Like The Mediterranean Diet?
Why not keto or paleo? Truth be told, as long as you’re eating generally healthy foods in moderate portions, and avoiding large quantities of unhealthful foods, you’re going to be good.
I don’t believe there’s any certain “magical” diet out there that’s going to succeed for everyone.
Truthfully, fad diets are just that…fads, and they can do more harm than good.
We’ve seen gajillions of them come and go, and for the most part they all share a common denominator: they’re impossible to maintain forever.
Sure, you can lose a dramatic amount of weight quickly on some of them, but big deal.
Anyone remember the modified protein sparing fast swill from the seventies?
What’s the point if you can’t keep the weight off long-term?
Just focus on nutrient density and greatly reduce empty, processed calories. This is they key to supercharging your diet.
Weight Loss 101
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to lose weight. Not usually a huge amount, but 10-25 pounds, for like, ever.
Sure, I’ve reached a weight and level of fitness a time or two that I was thrilled with, but never seemed to be able to stay there for more than a couple of years.
I’d gain a few pounds here and there, and ease up on my fitness routine.
Sometimes because of laziness, and sometimes life got in the way for a while.
I recognize that many of you may have a large amount of weight to lose. Or you may never have really exercised in your life.
And even though your mindset and habits are absolutely critical to improving your health and fitness, it’s also true that you have to eat a healthy diet to both lose weight and maintain excellent health.
Just What IS A Healthy Diet?
But what IS a healthy diet? If you’ve lived as long as I have, you know we’ve been through a lot of phases on this subject.
What hasn’t changed, however, is the emphasis on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and reducing added sugars, refined carbohydrates, and reducing sodium.
Within those guidelines, of course you could choose to be vegetarian, flexitarian, nutritarian, or Mediterranean (or whatever other -ian word you can dream up)!
Note: I want to state here that losing weight even over 50 really is as simple as calories in, calories out (also known as CICO). You can eat crappy junk all the live-long day and lose weight as long as you’re under your maintenance calorie amount. Trust me. People do this all the time.
(And yes, I know that all calories are not equal and that other things affect how we metabolize food, etc. I’m talking in generalities, here).
This is actually good news! It means if you really, really, really want to eat that whole pizza🍕, you can. You just need to account for it in that particular day, or 3-day period, or week, or whatever.
Same goes for the special celebration dessert, or 2 glasses of wine, or prime rib, or whatever. If you don’t deprive yourself of this stuff and instead intelligently account for them, you’re much better able to stick to reasonably healthy food most of the time at a calorie deficit (if you’re trying to lose weight).
Losing Weight Over 50…How You Move Your Body
I’ve said this before and I’m gonna say it again (and again). Exercising over 50 is NOT. AN. OPTION. Got that? It’s not optional.
It’s crucial. Say it with me: exercise after 50 is not optional.
Okay, that said, what the heck do I mean? How much exercise? What kind of exercise? What if I don’t know how/have never exercised/have bad knees/insert your
excuse reason here?
Setting aside any serious medical conditions, broken legs, etc., if you’re reasonably healthy and you have your medical professional’s okay to exercise, here are my recommendations.
If You’re A Beginner to Exericse
If you’re either just starting out, or haven’t exercised in forever, walking is the hands-down way to go. It’s easy, we can all do it, it’s accessible, and you can walk in place if you have nowhere to walk that’s safe.
I could just stop there, but it’d be pretty boring to just walk in place for 10,000 steps every day! Not that you’d begin at 10K, but that’s your goal minimum.
I wrote a whole post on walking for weight loss where you can read all about it!
You Need Some Strength Training, Too
This is the other non-optional part of exercise if you’re over 50. And I’m not talking about looking like this!
No, your garden-variety strength training will not do this to you! But hey, if you want to look like that, go ahead. I’m just saying you don’t need to worry you’ll look like that if you pick up a few weights!
What you’re looking for is keeping yourself strong and fit so you can handle what life throws at you over the next few decades.
And you’re looking to ward off the usual results of aging, many of which are totally avoidable either altogether, or at least until well into your 80s or 90s.
When I was in my 40s and 50s, I used mostly workout DVDs from Cathe Friedrich. She has some great ones, but they’re fairly advanced, and also really long.
She did just recently come out with a set called “Perfect 30” and as the name implies, all the workouts are 30 minutes long, which is much more doable.
you can totally do this on your own
You just need either dumbbells, or a resistance band set, which is what I recommend for beginners.
Why? Well, for one, they’re way easier to store and transport, and they cost less than dumbbells. There’s a bit of a learning curve to using them correctly and efficiently, but the same is true of dumbbells to really get the most out of them and avoid injury.
But if you have dumbbells already, of course use those (I personally use both).
Below is a free Youtube workout from Jessica Smith, my absolute favorite trainer! This is total body strength, no equipment needed, and just 10 minutes.
And this one is another favorite, a 15-minute beginner full body workout using dumbbells.
There are many, many options just on Youtube. I prefer to own my DVD workouts, but it’s just personal preference. Some of my favorites are linked below.
Know for sure that you don’t have to use some pre-programmed workout DVD or video. It’s just that I like to workout with other people, even if they’re only on the screen.
Well, truth be told, this is my preferred way to work out–I don’t like group classes at all. But again, that’s weirdo me.
By all means if getting together with a group keeps you more motivated, go for it! Most large-ish communities have some sort of group fitness classes available. Or, start your own!
Just make sure you exercise regularly! And keep challenging yourself, too. Don’t get complacent.
If You’re A More Advanced Exerciser
Maybe you know a bit about it or you’ve exercised before and dropped off for a while. You may be a beginner (again), but you know what to do, what you like, etc.
Walking is still your best bet, maybe adding some jogging/running intervals when you get some practice under your belt.
You may like Zumba, or spin cycling, or rowing, or stair-stepping. They’re all fine, as is hiking up hills!
But you still need the strength training. Once you have found a decent routine that works all your muscles each week, whether by doing 2 full-body routines, or focusing on upper body one day, lower body another day, etc., as you improve you need to add more weight, more reps, or both.
My suggestions for strength training for an intermediate exerciser include the aforementioned Cathe Friedrich DVDs or her streaming program.
In addition, the books by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove are gold mines. I wrote a review of The New Rules of Lifting For Women.
To me, it’s a bit complicated to follow, but with some judicious use of sticky flags I finally got it more or less figured out. 🏋️♀️ But the contents and recommendations are second-to-none.
Losing Weight Over 50—Sleep!
Surprised about that? What did you think it would be? Reducing stress? Yeah, that can be helpful, but also read about how stress can actually help you lose weight and get healthy.
Nope sleep. Or, more accurately, your sleep quality and length. I really resisted this for a long time.
When I was working full time and trying to write for and work on this website on the side, I got maybe 6 hours of sleep most week nights.
They weren’t all totally great quality hours, either. But it didn’t make sense to me that better sleep could help with weight loss, etc. Here was my thinking:
If you sleep less, and conversely are awake more, you’ll burn more calories and therefore lose weight! Brilliant, right? Alas, turns out this, while it sounds reasonable, it’s not accurate.
How Poor Sleep Hinders Weight Loss
Poor sleep can cause weight gain for a variety of reasons. One has to do with hormone levels of ghrelin and leptin.
These two hormones are sometimes referred to as the “hunger” hormones. Grehlin is thought to signal hunger to your brain, but its total role is not fully understood. Leptin, on the other hand serves to suppress appetite.
Studies have shown that too little sleep can lead to a drop in leptin and increased grehlin production.
Okay, that’s the scientific stuff. But there are other, less difficult to understand consequences of lack of sleep.
Lack of Sufficient Sleep Can Lead to Poor Decision-Making
“Oh, I’ll just swing by the fast-food joint and pick up a bucket of fried chicken and biscuits for dinner.”
Or “well, there’s the pizza place…I can call ahead and get a take-and-bake.”
Because, too tired to cook tonight, and no planning last weekend because I slept in trying to catch up on the sleep I lost last week!
Another reason is thinking that a cup of coffee and donut may be just the thing to jolt you more awake so you don’t fall asleep during that boring meeting about to start.
Sometimes You Just Don’t Think Straight When You’re Tired
When you’re tired, you’re also less likely to exercise. And because of this, of course your resting metabolism will be lower. Yikes! It’s like a triple or quadruple whammy!
So, think about it. Put together the hormonal stuff going on, poor judgment, craving a sugar jolt to keep you alert, and not feeling like working out, it’s no wonder lack of sleep leads to weight gain. What the heck were we thinking???
Other Health Benefits To Better Sleep
Besides avoiding weight gain associated with poor sleep habits, adequate sleep helps keep your blood sugar level stable and gives your muscles more time to repair (from all your strength training!).
It also keeps your blood pressure lower for a longer period of time, giving your heart and blood vessels a bit of rest.
And who would have thought that getting enough sleep regularly can bolster your immune system? But it’s true.
According to the Sleep Foundation, “Sleep is an important period of bodily rest, and studies indicate that sleep plays a crucial role in the robustness of our immune system. In fact, sleep contributes to both innate and adaptive immunity.”
So, sleep…adequate restful sleep is way more important than we ever thought, and it’s one of the cornerstones of supercharging your health.
What Will You Do To Help You Lose Weight Over 50?
Now that you know the main things to focus on to Lose weight and supercharge your health, just major on those and don’t worry about the peripheral things like,
- what about my macros?
- should I do cardio first or strength?
- I can only exercise for 10 minutes! (so it’s not worth it)
All of those things can be dealt with in due time, or completely forgotten about (like the first two, sort of). Don’t let yourself get bogged down in minute details, especially as an excuse to throw in the towel (again).
If you get these three things under control, you will go far…very far…in supercharging your health. Just. start!
Don’t forget to nab your free Weight Loss Made Easy Guide so you can get started on simplified weight loss right away!
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