Food & Fitness After 50: It’s True! Good Things Come in Small Packages

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” George Burns, Comedian

For 38 years, Bo worked in IT for IBM and then “retired” and worked for 3 years in the “best job I ever had.” That job was for the local Chamber of Commerce where “everyday was different, unpredictable, and fun.” But, being the people-person, she is, Bo says the best part was the people she worked with and the interactions with others in her community. Having just celebrated her 69th birthday, Bo is now fully retired, but she spends a good part of every day at the YMCA taking aerobic classes three days a week from Jean the Dancing Queen.”  She also plays pickelball for several hours 4 to 5 days a week.

Healthy Habits to Control Weight

Bo 2Bo has always been petite and the only time she gained weight was during her pregnancies with her 2 boys, but she quickly got back to her usual, healthy weight. While many adults gain weight as they age, Bo manages her weight by eating smaller portions, eating lots of fresh veggies, limiting sweets and sugar, and paying attention to how much and when she eats. “I’m lucky that I like the healthy stuff!” She often finds she doesn’t have much of an appetite, but eating breakfast and a mid-day meal around 2 pm (which she calls a cross between lunch and dinner as “linner”) keeps her fueled without being full. Her only dietary indulgence is a “real Coca-Cola” a couple of times a week. She also pays attention to hydration and is sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to replenish water loss during activity.

Keep moving

As she has gotten older, Bo knows she needs to pay attention to her body and adjust as needed. “Know what you can do and what you can’t do.” TRX is all the rage at our local Y, but she knows that it isn’t for her. “Understand your body, but stay involved and active.” Her words of wisdom are “the more you use it, the better it gets.” Great advice for everyone!

Keep motivated

Many sedentary folks look at active people and think it is easy for them or that it comes naturally, but Bo makes exercise a priority in her life. Bo’s advice is “don’t be lazy; tell yourself you have to go to exercise class, an activity, or for that daily walk. “Feed your body right and use it every day!” Her words reminded me that while I often would prefer to skip morning exercise class and sleep in a bit longer or linger over a second cup of coffee, I have never once said, “I wish I hadn’t exercised today!” We all feel better, physically, mentally, and emotionally after a good workout!

 

Food & Fitness After 50: SOLOS

Last week I was invited to talk to about 25 women who are members of a group called “SOLOS.” The acronym is for Single Outstanding Ladies Offering Support. They asked me talk about my book Food & Fitness After 50 and when I looked around I realized that many of the women were in their 70s, 80s, and beyond. It reminded me of what a wise physician once said, “When I see patients who are 85, I ask their advice!”

Being Well

I quickly learned that the group really is all about supporting each other by coming together monthly for friendship, fellowship, fun, and a little education thrown in, too. While many older adults know the value of eating well and moving well, they might not know as much about the science of being well. Social support is a major part of being well. The Encyclopedia of Sociology goes so far to say that “social support is a powerful predictor of living a healthy and long life.”

Positive Power of Social Support

Early as a species, we survived and prospered by developing social bonds to provide protection and assistance. Social science research shows that being lonely and not having positive social relationships harms the brain’s executive functioning or the mental skills that help the brain organize and act on information. Lack of social support can also impair sleep, and physical and mental well-being. These effects contribute to higher rates of disease and death in lonely older adults.executive-functioning-graphic

During my talk, I discussed the benefit of exercise that improves heart and lung function. Many older adults walk, but I encouraged them to increase their walking pace to get the heart pumping and the lungs working a bit harder than they would during a leisurely stroll. One woman commented that she recently fell and is now concerned about going out for a walk. Immediately, the SOLOS did what they do best, offered support. One suggested using walking poles for balance, another mentioned flat walking paths around the local botanical gardens, and a third talked about a park in the next town with good paths. I’m sure by the end of the meeting, someone had arranged to walk with her to ease her fears.

What Makes Us Happy?

Robert Waldinger, Director of The Harvard Study of Adult Development, describes what makes a good life in his TEDx talk. It isn’t wealth, or even health that make people happy….it is the relationships they develop throughout life that bring them the most joy. I would say the SOLOS have tapped into something powerful to help them to optimal aging.

More tips on being well, including social support, getting restful sleep, and managing stress is found in Food & Fitness After 50, available on Amazon.

 

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Mind the Gap

Mind the gapVisitors to London who ride the subway system see or hear a familiar warning, “Mind the Gap.” The warning began appearing in 1969 to caution passengers while crossing the gap between the station platform and the train. But, when it comes of losing weight, we should all mind the gap.

Sharing Weight Loss Success Stories

In the past few months, weight loss success stories have been featured from Debra, Brad, and, Bill. All of them lost weight using different means, but when it comes to keeping it off, there are some patterns that they share. They all have learned to mind the gap; the energy gap that is.

What’s New in Obesity Treatment

Last week I attended a webinar developed by the Rippe Lifestyle Institute and sponsored by Conagra Brands. The webinar, “What’s New in Obesity Treatment,” was conducted by Dr. James Hill, professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Dr. Hill is also the expert interviewed for Food & Fitness After 50 in the chapter on weight management.

During the webinar, Dr. Hill described his interactions with hundreds of obese patients and their common complaint that their “metabolism is broken.” At first, he didn’t believe that someone’s metabolism could be broken, but the more he and his team studied obesity treatment, he realized that there are metabolic changes after weight loss that make it hard to keep the weight off. Anyone who has lost weight will recognize the challenges:
• Energy expenditure declines (that is, as your body weight decreases, you need fewer calories to support the new body size so you must cut more calories to continue to lose weight).

• There are compensations in hormones that facilitate and/or process fat storage (our bodies want to hang on to fat!)

• Hunger increases (that is so unfair!)

The Energy Gap

These changes led to what Dr. Hill calls the “energy gap.” That is, there is gap between the pre-weight loss metabolic rate and the post-weight loss metabolic rate. To fill the “gap,” a person needs to further reduce food intake (hard to do) or increase exercise or a little of both. Dr. Hill and his colleagues developed  The National Weight Control Registry in the early 1990s; a registry for people who’ve lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off. To date, over 10,000 people who have lost an average of 70 pounds and kept it off over 6 years are included. A common pattern emerged from those who are successful at weight maintenance after losing weight. They report:

• Counting the calories, especially the fat calories

• Monitoring their weight

• Practicing restraint with food intake

• Eating breakfast

• Having high levels of physical activity

Fixing a Broken Metabolism

Dr. Hill believes that the high level of physical activity helps “fix” the broken metabolism. Based on this work, Dr. Hill and his team have developed a 16- week program called State of Slim to help people transform the way they think about weight.

For those of you who have been on the treadmill of losing weight then gaining weight, don’t fall for the next fad diet, but instead learning how to mind the gap. The resources in State of Slim can help you do that.

Disclosure: The webinar sponsored by Congra Brands was free to health professionals; I do not consult or work with Conagra Brands, The Rippe Institute, or State of Slim. I was not compensated nor was I asked to write about the webinar.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: How turning 55 led to losing 55 pounds

When you hear the words “Weight Watchers do you think of women attending group meetings to support each other’s weight loss journey? Or maybe you think of Oprah Winfrey who helped revitalize the brand when she became a client and investor in 2015? You probably wouldn’t picture, Brad, a 57-year old man as a Weight Watchers fan, but he lost 55 pounds following their plan.

The “It’s time to make a change” moment

 

Brad and Mary
Brad, with wife, Mary

When Brad turned 55 he knew he needed to do something. He weighed 255 pounds, but he carried it well on his 6’2” frame. However, the weight was settled right around his middle, the dreaded belly fat, and his body mass index (BMI) was 32.7, placing him the obese category. (To calculate your BMI, enter your height and weight in the BMI calculator.)

 

So, at age 55, Brad decided to drop 55. “My clothes didn’t fit, I was on four medications, and just knew it was time to do something, so I downloaded the Weight Watchers app and went through the food list to find all of the foods assigned zero or one point…. basically, my new free foods.” Using the app taught him the energy (caloric) value of foods and he began logging everything he ate into the app for the first couple months of his weight loss journey. Once he learned the “cost” of foods, he was able to make better choices throughout the day. “One of the biggest changes I made was my night time snacking routine, now I snack on fruit and veggies when I’m hungry.” He gave up sugar-sweetened drinks and switched to Splenda (also known as sucralose) in coffee and tea.

Weight Watchers Makes List as “Best “diet in three categories

Weight Watchers is recognized by U.S. News & World Report’s Best Diet Rankings for 2018 as the best weight loss diet, best fast weight loss diet, and, best commercial diet plan. Why did Brad like it? “I never felt deprived and I learned to make trade-offs. If I want a candy bar, I eat a mini or “fun-size” and still enjoyed the treat without the calories of a regular sized candy bar.

Lessons learned

Brad lost 30 pounds in the first couple of months and then plateaued. That is a common occurrence with weight loss; his smaller body now needed even fewer calories. This is a crucial point and when many people give up, but not Brad. He stuck with the plan and eventually reached his goal of 200 pounds, losing 55 pounds in total. Some of the things Brad learned along the way:

• “Portion control! I can still eat what I want, but I control the portions.”
• “Make substitutions, not sacrifices. I still eat steak but choose a 6-ounce filet instead of 12-ounce ribeye, and I’ve learned to love grilled asparagus.”
• “Maintaining weight loss is a constant negotiation with myself, and I give myself a 5-pound window, but when the scale creeps up, I know I have to cut down.”
• “I started eating breakfast, something I had never done, but I learned that eating something in the morning keeps me going until lunch time and makes me feel better.”
• “I travel a lot for work and I can decode any menu into Weight Watcher’s points and choose a healthy meal!”

Do it for your health and self-satisfaction

Two other factors motivate Brad to keep the weight off. “I bought new clothes and I love running into people I haven’t seen in a while and their reaction to my weight loss is rewarding. I never want to regain the weight and have to face my friends and colleagues at my old weight!” And, his health has improved. He was able to get off two of the four medications he was on, and he hasn’t had acid reflux since he lost the weight.
Brad knows he is in it for the long haul, but as he says, “You can have a bad day, not just a bad month!”

Find more weight loss tips in Food & Fitness After 50, available on Amazon.