One of the most frequently asked questions that I receive from the participants in my group fitness classes, as well as from visitors to this website is, how can I lose weight? Especially "this belly".
Losing weight is challenging for many people over the age of 50, and for some women, it may seem impossible.
Hormonal changes in the body, during and following menopause, make it easier to gain weight and harder to loose.
Speaking from experience, after turning 50, a few pounds a year can easily creep up on you. It may not seem like much at first, but before you realize it, you've gained 10, 15 or more pounds, you're no longer fitting comfortably into your favorite jeans and you're looking and feeling a bit older than you think you should.
Ladies, if anyone tells you it's impossible to lose weight during or after menopause, don't believe it! What worked for me can also work for you.
The good news is that you can lose the weight and it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune or endless hours at the gym (of course if you have the time and money, a good personal trainer in conjunction with a nutritionist or a prepackaged food plan can also work very well).
Whether your goal is to lose those last 7 lbs., or more than 70, my "You Can Do-It! Do it Yourself" weight loss plan can work for you.*
MY PERSONAL STORY
I started my career as a fitness instructor over 30 years ago, when I was in my 20's
I presently design and teach various levels of group fitness, weight loss, and wellness/rehab classes at a major Hospital affiliated Wellness center in Naples, Florida.
Most of the participants in the classes are over 50 (as I am) and many have been attending regularly for years.
When I first started exercising professionally, I lost almost twenty pounds and kept it off for years, until my early fifties when MENOPAUSE became part of my life.
Slowly but surely, even with daily exercise, I started to gain a pound or two each year. This weight wasn’t in the same places that it was when I was younger.
Suddenly (it seemed) I had this belly and cushion on my back, and I wondered, what happened to those very toned abs?
In fact it was almost 8 years & 15 lbs later that I decided that I needed to make some significant changes . . . What worked in the past, just wasn’t working at this stage in my life.
During this period, I was well aware that the weight was creeping up;
I was always trying something to lose it.
Low carbs, no carbs, hi protein, low protein, more Cardio, more weights etc.etc.
These efforts did show positive results, in fact I did lose weight, but it eventually came back.
I was not into junk food; I have maintained a low fat, low sugar, diet my entire adult life, yet I was still gaining weight?
I felt that I needed a different approach, one that would work for me at my age, was safe, and sensible.
There are all kinds of diet plans out there. Most of them will help you to take some weight off initially, but in the long term don’t work very well.
Diets that you follow, "while you're dieting" will usually lead to weight gain when you go off of them & may even contribute to an unhealthy yo-yo pattern of weight loss & gain.
My "Do It Yourself" weight loss plan is not about starvation diets, diet pills or medical procedures but it is about sharing the information that worked for me when I was in my mid 50's and wanted to lose 15 lbs. and keep it off.
Regardless of the amount of weight you would like to lose, you can succeed with this plan but it’s really up to you!
My "You Can Do It" approach to weight loss will work for most people regardless of their age, weight or sex, but is it right for you personally, is a question only you can answer?
If you prefer to accomplish your goals, on your own terms, make your own food choices and meal plans, this plan is a good match for you & I can teach you how to succeed.
On the other hand, if you are more comfortable following a strict menu or having your meals delivered by a diet meal plan, then this "do it yourself" approach may be a bit outside of your comfort zone?
When I realized that I had a successful approach for mid life weight loss, I considered writing a traditional diet plan, one that included my personal daily menus & exercise routines.
I thought about it and realized, that I would be creating a menu plan or "diet" that I was comfortable with, but in fact, it would have been another diet plan that didn't address "your" individual food and exercise preferences.
Like most other diet plans, it would work for a while until you got tired of it & eventually returned to your old habits, which is likely, what contributed to putting on the pounds in the first place.
I then reflected on the old Chinese proverb "If you give a man (or women) a fish you feed him (or her) for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime."
I also believe it is better to teach someone how to achieve their goals so that they can be successful for their lifetime, in their own way and on their own terms.
This is why I refer to my weight loss plan as "You Can Do It! Do It Yourself".
Most of us know that to lose weight, we have to burn more calories than we consume over a given period of time. It doesn't sound very complicated, but why is it so difficult to achieve at this stage in our lives??
For many of us, our metabolism has slowed down & our lifestyle/ activity level is not what it was when we were younger. That alone could add up to a few lbs every few months.
OK let's get started by establishing some goals and a baseline. We need to record our present weight & measurements & set monthly goals. (I would suggest 4-6 lbs a month as a safe target)
In order to better evaluate our efforts & achieve our goals, we should determine how many calories we have been consuming & how much exercise we’ve been doing, or in other words we need to create a baseline as a starting point.
I found using a small notebook was easy & convenient to keep a daily record of everything that I ate and drank.
When recording calories, the calorie counts for packaged foods can be found on the labels, for other items, the first time you record them, you can easily search online for the caloric value of "whatever".
It helps to keep a separate page with the calorie counts of your favorite foods & beverages so that you can add them to your daily log without going online each time.
If you are into statistics an/or numbers in general, you can do the math or use a spreadsheet to determine if the amount of activity/exercise calories burned is more or less than the amount of calories consumed for a given period of time.
For me, just knowing & recording the calories of everything I was eating (each day), in my journal was enough to shed those pounds.
I am convinced that my "food journal" was the key to my success at losing the weight and KEEPING IT OFF.
Every entry in your journal will remind you of the caloric content of everything you eat.
I also found that keeping the journal was educational and creative. It encouraged me to explore interesting & delicious low calorie alternatives. I love to cook but even if you prefer to buy frozen prepared meals you can shed those pounds and achieve your goals by making choices that are lower in calories and salt and recording everything in your journal.
My choice for the journal, was small spiral notebook, it is easy to keep with you when you're out and takes up little space on the kitchen counter when at home.
TIPS TO GET STARTED AND ACHIEVE YOUR WEIGHT LOSS GOAL
Pick a goal weight and a time frame in which to reach it. One to two pounds per week is a healthy and achievable way to lose weight. If you try to speed up the process, by starving yourself, you may not be eating a sufficient amount of calories to keep your metabolism functioning efficiently.
Your objective is not to be hungry and tired as that may lead to overeating and/or lowering your metabolic rate.
To lose one pound per week you will need to reduce your caloric intake and /or increase your caloric burn (with physical activity) by 500 calories per day (More about physical activity later).
Start your journal by recording all of the food that you eat each day and the daily calorie totals for one week before you actually start your weight loss plan. This will give you an idea of how many calories you are currently consuming. It will also shed light on where you need to make adjustments.
Also note the amount of time spent walking and exercising.
The amount of calories you burn for a given exercise varies considerably based on your fitness level, size, weight & age however, you can get a good idea about the number of calories burned for most any activity from online calculators such as:
Creating "your" baseline is important and well worth the effort!
The Importance of Fiber
There is much to be said about the importance of fiber regarding weight loss and general good health.
It has been estimated that Americans consume between 10 and 15 grams of fiber per day, which is about one half of what we should be consuming for good health, weight management and disease prevention.
Researchers at Brigham Young University tracked the eating habits of 252 middle-aged women for nearly two years and found that those who increased their fiber intake lost weight and those who decreased their fiber intake gained weight!
Fiber is generally grouped into 1 of 2 categories, both of which can help you to lose weight.
Insoluble fibers add bulk to your diet, do not dissolve in water (or your gastrointestinal tract) and speed up the passage of food through your system. Good sources include: whole grains, seeds, nuts, carrots, celery, broccoli, and wheat bran.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel that slows the digestive process and in turn can make you feel full for a longer period of time. This gel also interferes with the absorption of sugar and dietary cholesterol. It also helps lower your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease and type 2 diabetes.
Good sources of soluble fiber include: oatmeal, oat bran, psyllium, lentils, apples, oranges, and pears.
I found that starting the day with a serving of oat bran (add 1/3 cup of oat bran to 2/3 cup boiling water) was quick, easy and enough fiber for my size. You may prefer tablets, fiber bars or psyllium capsules.
If your morning source of fiber is breakfast cereal, be sure to check the labels for calories per serving, as many of "high fiber" cereals are also loaded with sugar.
It is generally better to increase your fiber consumption gradually so that your body adapts to this dietary change. Some people may experience intestinal gas if they aren't accustomed to a high fiber diet. Drinking a full glass of water with your fiber supplement is recommended.
Note: Fiber supplements often have dosage recommendations that are intended to provide a laxative effect, which is more fiber than needed for our purpose. If you take fiber supplements (such as psyllium capsules), start with a low dose and evaluate how it's working for you.
Note: Prescription medications should be taken 2 hours before or after fiber supplements as the fiber may slow the absorption of the drug &/or reduce its effectiveness. If you're on medication, check with your doctor or health care provider.
THE GLYCEMIC INDEX OF FOODS
The Glycemic Index is a ranking of foods based on how quickly they raise blood glucose levels. The significance here is that the calories derived from a diet consisting of foods that raise your blood sugar levels very quickly, are more likely to be stored by your body and converted into fat.
High GI foods tend to increase appetite and hunger and therefore make it more likely that you will desire to eat more food & calories and do so more often during the day.
It's not necessary to totally eliminate High GI foods, unless you are diabetic, and if so, please consult with your doctor about changes in diet & exercise.
The important thing to consider when planning your meals is that you should reduce the portion size and frequency of consumption of the High GI foods that are contributing to your weight.
LOW GI FOODS (55 OR LESS)
- 100% stone-ground whole wheat or pumpernickel bread
- Oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, muesli
- Whole wheat pasta, converted rice, barley, bulgar
- Sweet potato, corn, yam, lima/butter beans, peas, legumes and lentils
- Most fruits, non-starchy vegetables and carrots
MEDIUM GI (56-69)
- Whole wheat, rye and pita bread
- Quick oats
- Brown, wild or basmati rice, couscous
HIGH GI (70 OR MORE)
- White bread or bagel
- Corn flakes, puffed rice, bran flakes, instant oatmeal
- Short grain white rice, rice pasta, macaroni and cheese from mix
- Russet potato, pumpkin
- Pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltine crackers
- melons and pineapple
NOTE: If you consume fiber & water before a meal, which is high in calories, and/or consists of high GI foods you can slow the absorption of the sugar and calories and thereby reduce the Glycemic Index of the meal. This trick will also help curb your appetite.
Planning your diet
Once you have established your baseline and evaluated the calorie count of what you've been eating, you can determine what changes you are comfortable making to achieve your goal. A reduction of 500 calories a day will result in losing 1 lb a week.
It is important to make food & food shopping choices that are consistent with your objective to cut calories, but are also choices that you can live with & feel good about.
When shopping, remain focused on your objectives, buy what you need to succeed and do so as quickly as possible.
Favor fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources, low fat dairy, whole grains & fiber rich foods.
Minimize fats & carbohydrates (especially fried foods, refined sugars, corn syrup, white breads & white potatoes).
For those high calorie items that you may wish to eliminate, but can't live without, reduce your serving size and frequency of indulgence. Drinking a full glass of water or seltzer before and during each meal will help you to eat less yet feel full.
Salt is everywhere
Salt is added to almost everything on supermarket shelves and it shouldn't be a surprise that Americans consume much more of it than they should. Salt has no caloric value but it does impact your weight, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.
The salt added to soups, cereals, fast foods, drinks and almost all snack foods, prepackaged/prepared meals adds up and causes our bodies to retain water.
Switching from a higher salt diet to a lower salt diet can very quickly show results as we lose water weight & begin to look & feel leaner.
It is helpful to quantify the amount of salt in our diets by initially reading labels & recording the salt content in our baseline journal entries. Consider garlic powder when seasoning, it is a good substitute for salt.
When planning your meals, remember that veggies are very healthy, low in calories & high in fiber. You can consume larger amounts and still keep the calories down.
If you're like me and enjoy being creative in the kitchen you have the tools to plan your weight loss meals. In time, less planning and effort will be required and you won't think twice about preparing meals that are low calorie, low fat, low sugar, low salt, and tailored to your personal taste.
Cooking Tip: stir-frying veggies in broth instead of oil really reduces the calories. Add some of your favorite spices and you will have a sauce to cover whole grains or brown rice for a very tasty low calorie meal.
Recipe Short Cuts
After weeks of keeping a journal you will find it easy to make food choices to maintain your new weight. You can add some of your favorite guilty pleasures in moderation and determine how much and how often you can indulge without gaining weight.
It's Time to get physical
"How To Burn More Calories Today Than Yesterday"
The first half of the program is all about identifying and reducing the caloric value of what you are consuming.
The second half focuses on simple ways to burn more calories than you were before you started.
Refer to the following, and incorporate what works for you.
- Commit to being more active than you were before you started your weight loss program - Reflect on whatever physical activity you have been doing and do a little more each day. If you do, you'll develop new muscle tissue, a key point for weight loss, looking better, & slowing the aging process!
- Select programs or activities that match your personal style (i.e. indoors or out, solo or group). Start off slowly, then gradually increase your time and/or distance and # of days per week (min. 3x week, 4, 5 or 6x/week is better for quicker results).
- Get a good pair of supportive walking or athletic shoes.
- Walk more & "walk with a purpose", park further away from your destination & appreciate the extra steps as they all contribute to a healthier, slimmer you.
- Visit a local park or just walk around your block or yard on a regular basis.
- Ask a friend, spouse or family member to join you. Many prefer having exercise buddies for motivation & a sense of commitment to each other's success.
- Do you enjoy dancing? If so it's a great way to burn calories & have fun.
Consider joining a wellness center, community center or a health club that offers "age appropriate" fitness programs or try using appropriate exercise videos at home (the easiest way to get started regardless of the weather, *see programs below).
If you focus on the positive & have fun with it, you will be more likely to stay with it.
If you think of exercise as a chore you'd rather avoid, and start feeling sorry for yourself, you're more likely to give up before you reach your goal.
Keep in mind, that exercise & physical activity not only helps you lose weight & look better, but also helps prevent osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and & several forms of cancer.
Find an activity that you enjoy doing enough to keep at it.
Shortcuts to success
- Incorporate balance exercises into everyday routines. Try standing on one leg for 30 seconds at a time, once or twice a day. Gradually increase the time to 1 minute then 2 (this will improve your balance & strengthen & tone your leg muscles).
- Use TV commercial breaks as fitness breaks - Stretch, walk, march in place, or stand and sit several times during commercials & also when you're talking on the phone.
- If you have a basement or 2 story home, climb the steps once or twice a day for no apparent reason (you'll be surprised how this helps firm, tone & burn calories)
- Laugh more, its good for you! Laughing increases circulation, immune system defenses and mental functioning while decreasing stress hormones. Watch comedies or read the comics & laugh out loud!
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, it will also help you lose weight
The Be Fit Over Fifty™ series of exercise DVD's include a combination of low impact cardio, resistance training & stretching.
All of the programs are easy to follow with a soundtrack of upbeat popular music in the background.
"Be Fit Over Fifty programs are like having a personal trainer at home."
For a detailed description, please click on the program below that best suites your needs.
The Tone & Sculpt Program
Tone & Sculpt DVD ($19.95)
is an excellent 45 minute resistance training program designed to firm & tone all major muscle groups &
strengthen your back. This flexible program allows you to vary the intensity to match your comfort level.
It is a good choice for those who prefer to use a walking program or another cardio program on alternate days.
The Cardio-Strengthening Program
is a quick 30 minute program that combines stretching & low-impact, weight-bearing, aerobic movements. This program is a good choice for active adults and when used in conjunction with our Tone & Sculpt program, it can help you prevent and / or reverse the effects of osteoporosis.
Cardio-Strengthening DVD ($19.95)
The Interval Circuit Training Program
Interval Circuit Training DVD ($19.95)
is an excellent combination routine that can help you prevent and or reverse the effects
of osteoporosis. This easy to follow, 45 minute workout, alternates between resistance training,
with hand weights, and brief intervals of low impact, weight-bearing, Cardio movements.
The Personal Fitness Program
is intended for people who prefer a more gentle, seated program due to knee, back or
other weakness. It is well suited for people that are not very active, are older, or overweight.