Weight Management in Your 70s and Beyond!

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I’m 75 years old and lost 25 pounds in a year while eating ice cream, chocolate and wine! I’m genetically at risk for diabetes, and my blood sugar --which had been creeping up -- lowered to normal levels. Plus, I dropped a clothing size.

But how? Here are the details...

According to an August 2021 research study in Science by Herman Pontzer and colleagues, the rate at which people burn calories declines about 0.7% yearly after age 60. Though nutrient needs are comparable, fewer calories are needed. Physical activity and muscle-strengthening activity (muscle burns more calories than fat) also are important.

As a dietitian, I knew I’d be most successful long-term by eating foods I enjoyed. My weight loss pattern was slow but steady (about 1/2 pound per week) and included small gains and plateaus. Stay the course and keep at it!

Rather than a specific plan, these were my strategies to cut calories without feeling deprived.

  • Focus on foods that supply the most nutrients for the calories. Limit added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Remember, there can be too much of a good thing! For example, I like whole-grain pasta; however, I limited pasta to 2-ounce (dry weight) servings -- about 1/2 cup dry uncooked pasta or one cup cooked pasta. 
  • Reduce portion size and/or frequency. I enjoyed a couple of tablespoons of premium ice creams. To avoid overeating luscious desserts, try serving them in a shot glass. A few squares of a 70% or higher dark chocolate bar contented my sweet tooth and contributed potential health benefits. Though I liked sipping wine while cooking, I learned I could be as satisfied drinking wine only with meals. 
  • Use smaller plates to facilitate eating less. 
  • Remove half of a double batch recipe before serving. If the total item is on the table, you’ll likely eat more.  
  • Eat a smaller meal in the evening as it is easier to overdo eating at night. 
  • Keep high-nutrient (especially high-protein) ready-to-eat foods on hand if you get hungry between meals. My protein favorites included no-salt-added nuts, lower-fat yogurts, and string cheese. 

Besides focusing on food, I walked or did another physical activity for about an hour most days and engaged in muscle-strengthening activities twice weekly. These times also were an opportunity to listen to books/podcasts or watch favorite shows/movies.

For more information about food and activity for older adults, visit USDA’s https://www.myplate.gov/life-stages/older-adults

By Alice Henneman, MS, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

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