Just from quick observation of people, it is probably easy to guess that there are more people who are obese than say 20 years ago. According to Reuters, obesity is responsible for $190 billion a year in excess medical spending which is by far more than even smoking. As you grow older, if you continue to have the same diet all your life coupled with decreased activity and a slower metabolism; it is easy to put on weight. Fortunately if you are ready to make a few lifestyle changes and adopt nutritional changes as a senior, it is possible to maintain a healthy weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as you grow older you need at least 150 minutes of physical activity weekly. While getting 150 minutes of exercise is a good start,weight maintenance is also controlled by good nutrition.
The easiest way you can fight weight gain is by getting more active and adopting a meal plan that takes care of a seniors nutrition needs. As we age, typically our calorie needs go down. More often than not, you don’t need to eat as much as you did when you were in your 20s and 30s. As a personal trainer to seniors, I usually recommend that people eat somewhere in a range of 1400-2200 calories depending on your age and what weight you want to maintain or get to. The biggest problem most people face is that they don’t know how many calories they are eating, which is why I suggest keeping a food journal.
Once you get a good baseline for your daily calorie input, you have to determine how much activity you need to add to your diet to encourage weight loss. I usually recommend about 500 calories over your daily input of food to ensure that your lose 3500 calories a week. 3500 calories is important because that’s what 1 pound of fat weighs. To burn those 500 daily calories, the best two ways for seniors should be to have a full bodied strength program coupled with some aerobic training. Strength training increases your metabolism which helps you burn calories at rest. Aerobic training is great for your heart and helps you burn any additional calories that you may have accumulated through out your day.
While there are many specific things you could cut excess calories out of your diet, I’ll share a few helpful tips. The first thing I would suggest is to eat as many meals at home. While eating at home doesn’t guarantee that it will be healthy, you control the ingredients and the portion sizes. Also limit the amount of foods with empty calories like fizzy drinks, chips, high sugar treats and foods low in cholesterol and fat. You should also make adjustment to your diet to include more of nutrient dense foods but with fewer calories such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats.
Some changes can be outright harmful if you have special conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. As with any major life changes, you should consult with your doctor or primary care physician to help you understand foods that you should avoid and ensure you are eating in a way that takes care of your nutriotional needs as a senior.
About the Author: Eric Daw is an Older Adult specialist and the Owner of Omni-Fitt. Omni-Fitt is committed to the health of seniors through fitness and all areas of wellness. Eric motivates and encourages seniors in Toronto to take responsibility for their independence and health through positive mentoring experiences. You can find his work at Omni-Fitt or follow him on Facebook