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Posted: February 11, 2011

Keeping Seniors Healthy

Losing Weight Gets Tougher in Senior Years, Especially for Women

Q. What is the best diet for losing weight? My mother keeps asking me, but I don’t know how to separate hype from truth, especially for someone her age (71).

A. The subtext of this question is, “What’s an easy fix?”

There are no shortcuts that work consistently and healthfully. The answer is simple: The best diet for losing weight gives you fewer calories than you burn. Facing an energy shortage, your body will reach into fat for stored calories and you will drop pounds.

Federal guidelines say that men and active women need about 2,500 calories daily. Other women and inactive men need only about 2,000 calories daily. It is recommended that you consume 300 to 500 fewer calories to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week.

Exercise is important to weight loss, because it burns calories. You should exercise vigorously for a half-hour most days. Walking quickly works. You can do your half-hour all at once, or break it up into shorter sessions.

Any senior will tell you that it’s more difficult to lose weight as you get older. One reason is that metabolism -- the process that converts food into energy -- is slowed by aging. Another reason is that muscle burns up more calories than fat does. As you get older, muscle decreases and fat constitutes more of your weight.

So, seniors get a double whammy that leads to weight gain. And older women get a triple whammy, because of their gender. Women usually have less muscle than men and tend to be smaller than men. A smaller body requires fewer calories.

If you are considering a diet/exercise program, you should consult your doctor first. Before you begin, it would be helpful to find out how much fat you have to lose. What’s important is not weight, but the amount of fat you are carrying. The body mass index (BMI) is a measure of fat that is based upon height and weight.

If you want to calculate your BMI, you divide your weight in pounds by height in inches squared and then multiply by a conversion factor of 703. Here’s an example:

Weight = 175 lbs, Height = 6’1” (73")
Calculation: [175 ÷ (73)2] x 703 = 23.1

A BMI between 19 and 25 is normal. Overweight is 25 to 29.9. Obese is 30 or higher.

If you don’t like math, you can use a simple BMI calculator at www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/

Here are a dozen tips for losing weight that I collected from a variety of reputable sources.

1. Keep track of the food you eat; this prevents overeating.

2. Don’t cut back too much because your body will begin conserving energy and make it difficult to reduce.

3. Begin exercises to develop muscle so your body will burn more calories.

4. Avoid fads. Eat a balanced diet or you may deny yourself important nutrients.

5. Losing weight is difficult so don’t be tempted by reduction plans that make it sound easy.

6. You know what’s fattening without checking a book.  If it tastes heavenly, avoid it as much as possible.

7. Drink water. It has no calories and will help you with your hunger.

8. Eat because you’re hungry, not because you’re bored. Take a walk instead.

9. Eat slowly and savor your food so you don’t feel deprived later.

10. Don’t skip meals or you will become ravenous and then overeat.

11. Alcoholic drinks are loaded with non-filling calories. They also dissolve your inhibitions and make you eat more. Be careful.

12. Seconds? Ain’t gonna’ happen.


Fred Cicetti is a freelance writer who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey. He has written two published novels: Saltwater Taffy, and Local Angles. You can send your health-related questions to Fred at fred@healthygeezer.com.

© 2011 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.
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