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.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Yes, Weight Loss is Possible after 50

I hear it all the time, weight loss isn’t possible after the age of 50. To be fair, it is harder to lose weight as we age. Biology conspires against us. Declining hormone levels, for both men and women, mean more fat is stored in the abdomen (the dreaded belly fat). For women, a pear-shape might get transformed into an apple shape. But, for Debra, now in her early sixties, losing 60 pounds wasn’t hard, but keeping it off was the challenge.

Sound familiar? Debra was at her highest weight when she was age 50 and she managed to lose 60 pounds with a commercial weight loss plan, but she regained half the weight.

It is not uncommon to regain some weight after a big loss, and even if she regained some weight, she was still 30 pounds down from her highest weight. Debra was doing some exercise, but not enough to lose weight. A friend gave her a special gift; a golf lesson and Debra took to golf like a regular Annika Sorenstam. Another friend gave her an even more special gift; the gift of social support. Her friend suggested they diet together though a Spartan regiment of no sugar, grains, nuts, dairy, or potatoes. Their diet consisted of lean meat, green vegetables, apples, and oranges. (I should insert my opinion here as a registered dietitian; I don’t advocate for restrictive diets because key nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, and B-vitamins, can be short supply when grains and dairy foods are eliminated. So, if anyone is thinking about this type of plan, make sure to take a multivitamin-mineral supplement and additional calcium to meet the recommended 1300 milligrams of calcium that women over 50 need each day. Using food tracking apps are great, but they only count calories, carbohydrate, protein, and fat; not vitamins and minerals.) But, this plan worked for her and her friend and they lost weight and motivated each other through the 3-month journey. Debra lost the 30 pounds she had regained, and lost another 20 pounds for a 50-pound total weight loss. She no longer follows the diet as strictly as she did when losing the weight, but she does monitor her weight every day to make sure she doesn’t regain it.

An added benefit of the weight loss was a renewed commitment to exercise. Reducing calories is critical for weight loss, but exercise is important to keep it off. She exercises at the YMCA twice a week, takes a strength training class another two times a week, plays pickleball, and of course, she is an avid golfer. Here is Debra, third from the left, holding the trophy for her club’s team match play event, The Miss Betty Cup.

Debra Dooley

Debra says the keys for her successful weight maintenance are vigilance: daily exercise, monitoring her weight, logging her food intake every day into an app on her phone, drinking lots of water, and making wise choices when she eats out. “I can always find lean meat and substitute green veggies for potatoes.” Her other advice? “Don’t keep the food you don’t want to eat in the house!” That, and have a good friend for social support.

You can find more tips on weight loss after 50 in Food & Fitness After 50 by Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray. Available now on Amazon.

 

 

Diet Books…They are Everywhere!

On a recent trip to Ireland I was browsing in a gift shop when my friend and fellow dietitian said, “check out the diet book section.” Sure enough, just like in the U.S., diet books are big sellers. A quote attributed to Andy Ronney is one of my favorites, “The biggest seller is cookbooks and the second is diet books–how not to eat what you’ve just learned to cook.”
All diet books are basically the same–low calorie meals, encouragement to be physically active, and some secret gimmick that all authors throw in to make you think that their diet is superior to all of the others.
Losing weight isn’t that hard–it is the keeping it off that is the real challenge. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating says we make about 250 food decisions a day. Most of those decisions have little to do with hunger. We eat because we are with others who are eating, we eat for recreation, we eat because we smell freshly baked cookies in the mall, and we eat because it tastes good. By trying to cue into why we eat and pay more attention to hunger and portion control we may have a fighting chance against weight gain, or as I like to call it, weight creep. Face it, no one gains 20 pounds overnight but we do gain a few pounds a year as we age and that can end up as an extra 20 pounds over the years.
Evelyn Tribole, author of Intuitive Eating suggests we make peace with food and honor health. Don’t label foods as good or bad, think about food in terms of health and nourishment. A handful of almonds and a orange for an afternoon snack provides more nourishment than vending machine candy bar–and the almonds and orange taste pretty good, too.
Another strategy is to stop multitasking when eating–don’t text and drive? Well, don’t eat and drive. Distracted dining is a sure fire way to increase calories without enjoying food.
Lastly, we all know weekends are “special.” Dawn Jackson Blatner, Chicago-based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association told me about a 2003 Obesity Research study that showed that we eat 115 more calories each day Friday through Sunday…that is an extra 350 calories each weekend that can result in a 5 pound weight gain a year. So, watch those weekends and don’t go on the Monday diet….that is, don’t eat whatever is in sight all week and they say, “I’ll start my diet on Monday.” Brian Wansink says the “best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.” Couldn’t agree more!

Cancer Survivors and Lifestyle Changes

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I just reached survivor status this month by being cancer-free for 5 years. The American Cancer Society estimates that there are 11 million cancer survivors and by the year 2020 there will be 20 million of us.

Every cancer survivor celebrates beating cancer but also worries about it coming back. The good news is that simple lifestyle changes can stack the odds in your favor. Try these 5 things to help fight your cancer from coming back.

1) Be active every day. Exercise can help control your weight and excess weight increases levels of estrogen and insulin–two hormones that fuel cancer cells. Exercise also fights other chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.

2) Eat and least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables every day. It is easier than it sounds because a small glass of juice, blueberries on your breakfast cereals, a veggie-packed salad at lunch, and an apple gives you the 5 servings needed for good health. One on my favorite quick dinner meals is a saute of veggies (green and red peppers, broccoli, asparagus, and onions) with olive oil and tossed with spaghetti noodles and sprinkled with fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Yummy and a 2 to 3 serving of vegetables meal.

3) Decrease or eliminate processed meats–no more bologna (I grew up on bologna and fried bologna sandwiches were a staple in my family), bacon, sausage or processed luncheon meats.

4) Get more the of the sunshine vitamin–vitamin D. This nutrient is showing promise as a cancer fighting vitamin. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D level to get a baseline before you start supplementing with vitamin D pills. But eat vitamin-D rich foods every day such as fatty fish and dairy foods fortified with vitamin D. Yogurt is a popular dairy food for its calcium and protein but did you know that not all yogurt has vitamin D? Turn the carton over and look for vitamin D and don’t be surprised if you find zero vitamin D in your yogurt. The exception? Yoplait yogurt has 20% of the daily value of vitamin D in a serving so kudos to Yoplait. And, Yoplait also is a big supporter of breast cancer research–their save the lids campaign benefits Susan G. Koman for the Cure and so far they raised over $1.6 million from this year’s campaign. So dig your spoon into that!