Losing Weight After 60 Is Hard – Here Are 9 Ways to Drop the Pounds
Let’s face it – trying to lose weight after your 60 years old is really hard. Back in the day, you could eat whatever you wanted (for the most part). Now, you eat a Hershey’s Kiss, and you gain 2 pounds overnight.
As our bodies age, we lose our ability to eat whatever we want. Suddenly, we have to track calories and steps to stay ahead of the scale.
Before we get into 9 ways you can realistically lose weight, stay in shape, and feel like you’re 25 again, it’s important to understand why keeping the weight off has suddenly become so difficult.
→ If you’re 65+ and are enrolled in Medicare, there are plans that offer free gym memberships as a part of your health insurance. It's never been easier to get motivated and stay in shape! Learn more
Why Is It So Hard to Lose Weight After 60?
Losing and maintaining your weight can start to become an issue as early as age 50, though many experience this annoyance around age 60.
What is going on?
Hormones Are Slowing Down, And So Is Your Metabolism
For starters, your metabolism slows down as you age.
Robert Herbst, a personal trainer and 19-time World Champion in powerlifting explains, “I’m 60, so I know what it means to be 60. The slowing of the metabolism is a function of decreased production of testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH), which causes a loss of muscle mass.”
Don’t worry – that loss of muscle mass can be reversed, and we’ll get to that in the next section.
Carolyn Dean, MD and author of 30 books, including The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health also explains, “The loss of nutrients such as magnesium has decreased the production of metabolism-boosting hormones, so your weight loss efforts are handicapped.”
In essence, this isn’t your fault. With age, your body becomes less efficient with producing the key hormones it needs, which makes losing weight… well, really hard.
Perimenopause and Menopause
For women, perimenopause and menopause are a reality of your 50s and 60s. Because of this shift, you actually burn fewer calories than you used to.
Jill McKay, Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor, explains, “With menstruation, our body temperature would fluctuate, so we would get a bonus calorie burn of about 300 calories per month. It’s not much, but it adds up over time.”
Another issue that comes with both perimenopause and menopause is insulin-resistance, which makes losing weight even more difficult.
This means that the things you used to eat, you can’t eat anymore! That also goes for portions – you might not be able to eat as much as you could before without gaining weight.
You Have More Free Time to Socialize – And Eat!
When you’re nearing retirement, there’s more time. More time to exercise, of course, but is that really how we like to spend our free time?
Jill notes that, generally speaking, older adults often have more opportunities for socializing (and better finances to go to nice dinners).
In fact, we’re more likely to eat more if we’re around other people who are eating. All that socializing is making it harder to stay in shape.
Potential Health Conditions to Be Aware Of
For most people, losing weight after 60 is hard, but that’s normal. However, if losing weight is exceptionally hard, you may want to check with your doctor that you don’t have any health conditions.
The two most common health conditions that can cause weight gain are 1) the thyroid losing function, and 2) insulin becoming less functional.
The common test called hemoglobin A1c can tell you if you’re able to metabolize your sugars well. If not, you could be at risk for diabetes.
For women, these conditions are most common around menopause.
9 Realistic Ways to Lose the Weight After 60
So, losing weight after 60 is a real problem that many men and women face. However, there are some tricks to nudging that weight off so that you can tip the scale in your favor.
1. Strength Training
Strength training, also called resistance training, isn’t usually the first thing older adults think of when they think of exercise. Typically, cardio exercises, like walking on a treadmill or hopping on an elliptical are the most common.
However, Idea Fitness Trainer of the Year, Carol Michaels, worries that many seniors are forgetting about strength training.
“The missing exercise component to help those over 60 lose weight is oftentimes strength training. This is an exercise using weights (or your own body weight) to strengthen and build muscle. It increases the size and strength of the muscle fibers and strengthens the tendons, ligaments, and bones.”
As we age, we lose muscle mass – mainly because of the slowing metabolism, which then contributes to an even slower metabolism, and suddenly, you’re in a vicious cycle.
However, you can stop that cycle of muscle loss by strength training – in fact, you can reverse the muscle loss at any age.
Carol continues, “Since muscle is metabolically active, the more muscle mass that you have, the faster your metabolism. Therefore, strength training can help with weight loss.”
But the benefits of strength training don’t stop at weight loss. Other benefits of strength training include:
- Less risk of injury
- Improved athletic performance
- Better balance
- Better agility
- Better coordination
- Higher energy levels
Who thought exercise could actually energize you?
Robert Herbst offers another way to think about strength training, “The body will build additional muscle which is metabolically active and burns calories, even when at rest. Having this new muscle also raises the metabolism, just like a six cylinder car burns more gas than a four cylinder one, even when idling at a red light.
In essence, your new muscle will help you burn more fat, and you’ve suddenly stopped the vicious cycle of aging, and instead started a cycle of weight loss and weight management.
Should I use machines or free weights?
Now that we’re on the same page – strength training is awesome! – you might be wondering how exactly to go about this.
Carol says that many older adults around age 60 don’t know where to begin. Should you go to the gym and use the machines? Should you buy some free weights?
A few popular machines you can use at the gym
She explains, “Although machines can be helpful for those with balance issues, exercise with free weights has several benefits.
- Free weights allow you to strength train at home, and you can improve by one pound increments.
- Free weights help you learn how to use your body in a way that you would during your day-to-day activities.
- Using free weights allows you to strengthen more major muscle groups without depending on the machine for support.
- Weight machines only work the large muscle groups. They can miss the small, but important stabilizer muscles, which help with balance, coordination, and injury prevention.”
Free weights can be used at home or at the gym
Gyms also have free weights, so if you’d rather pay for a gym membership than buy your own free weights, you have the choice.
How often do you need to strength train?
Sure, strength training sounds nice, but if you think I’m going to do it every single day for 2 hours a day…
Don’t worry. You don’t have to do strength training like a madman to get the benefits.
Carol suggests that you should aim for 2 times per week.
“Strengthen each muscle group, alternating from upper to lower body. Make sure to work the front, back, and side of the body so that you do not create imbalances. If you are new to exercise and over 60, you might start with a very light weight.”
Once you have your exercises planned, Carol suggests doing 5-10 repetitions of that exercise. By the 5-8th repetition, you should start to feel the muscle really working. By the final repetition, you should feel that you’ve worked the muscle, but you’re not exhausted. If you’re exhausted, you’re doing too much weight.
You can call your local gym in order to have a personal trainer show you what exercises to do, but there are a lot of experts online who have strength training programs with pictures and tutorials.
Bodybuilding.com – don’t be scared off by the name – has a huge amount of pre-planning workout regimens. You can sort them by level – beginner, intermediate, and advanced – as well as length, 4, 6, 8, 12 weeks, etc.
You can browse those workout plans here: https://www.bodybuilding.com/workout-plans.
2. Keep Carbs and Sugars Low
Dieting after 60 is confusing – even if carb-heavy meals and delicious desserts have never been an issue for you, you might start to notice your body changing. That daily dessert might cause you gain weight, even if you’ve stayed the same weight for years.
But the bigger problem is that older adults over age 60 tend to have higher blood sugar due to insulin resistance.
Denny Hemingson, a 61-year-old Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner explains, “Insulin signals the liver, muscle, and fat cells to take up glucose out of the blood stream. When those cells become resistant to insulin, glucose doesn't get used and ends up staying in the blood creating high blood sugar. Eventually, this leads to pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and type II diabetes. In this state, it's much harder for the body to release extra pounds.”
The solution? Reducing carbohydrates. Denny goes on to say that focusing on blood sugar retention over 60 is an important reality, and by reducing carbs, you’re reducing your blood sugar, which will make it easier to maintain your weight.
Carolyn Dean is an advocate for the Keto diet, which is a high fat, moderate protein, and low carb diet. “This allows the body to use up carbohydrate stores of sugar called glycogen, and then turn on fat burning to burn excess fat cells as energy.”
The Keto diet is slowly gaining more recognition in the fitness and medical community as a way to burn fat faster than ever before, but it’s still recommended that you talk with your doctor before trying it.
Carolyn says that with the Keto diet, your goal is restrict carbs to 20-50 grams per day.
3. Drink Half Your Body Weight In Ounces of Water
Drinking water doesn’t in itself help you lose weight, but the reality is that many people think they’re hungry when they’re really just thirsty.
The cure? Drink a ton of water.
Carolyn and Denny both advise that you drink half your body weight (in lbs) in ounces of water. Carolyn explains, “Often, people think they are hungry but they are really thirsty.”
So, for example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should drink 100 ounces of water. That’s about 5-6 bottles of water per day.
4. Consider Adding Magnesium to Your Diet
Something you may have never thought of is adding magnesium to your diet.
Magnesium is an energy mineral and weight loss/metabolism-boosting mineral that helps synthesize proteins, carbs, and fats.
Carolyn explains that of the 700-800 magnesium-dependent enzymes, the most important enzyme reaction that magnesium contributes to involves the creation of energy. Magnesium activates adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the fundamental energy storage molecule of the body.
Getting magnesium into your diet is as simple as adding to your water. Carolyn says, “Add sea salt and an absorbable form of magnesium, such as magnesium citrate powder, to your water. This will definitely make following low-carb diet easier, and it will help you avoid the loss of energy, sluggishness, and headachy feeling associated with electrolyte depletion.”
Another thing to note is that sugar stresses the body and depletes magnesium, so staying away from sugar can help neutralize the effects of stress. Who knew?
5. Get Some Sun
OK, don’t get sunburnt or anything, but make sure to get some Vitamin D!
Without Vitamin D, you might find yourself running to the cupboard for more snacks than you need.
Denny explains, “Vitamin D works alongside the hormone leptin to regulate hunger signals. When Vitamin D is deficient, this process malfunctions causing people to overeat.”
Get outside, take in some sunshine, and bask in the fact that you’re controlling your appetite!
6. Manage Stress With Yoga
It’s no secret that stress can cause us to overeat.
When you’re stressed, do you go to the freezer for some chocolate ice cream? You’re not alone.
A great way to manage stress is to relax. And sometimes, you need some prompting.
Denny suggests yoga, which does more than just ease stress. You’ll improve your balance, your core strength, and your mindfulness.
Other ways to manage stress are to consider meditation, prayer, and nature walks.
The app called Simple Habit has free, quick meditations that you can try if you’re interested in giving meditation a shot.
Popular meditations include "Simple Habit Starter" and "Coffee Meditation," which are both only 5 minutes long.
7. Get Quality Sleep
Sleep has incredible effects on your overall health.
Not only will you have more energy for that strength training workout, but when you sleep, your body actually produces the human growth hormone (HGH).
Denny advises that you get 7-8 hours of quality sleep. The best way to make sure your sleep is of quality is to:
- Create a regular bedtime routine by going to sleep at the same time each day.
- Avoid anything with a screen before bedtime (smartphones, computers, TVs).
Sleep brings youthfulness, so don’t skimp on it!
8. Consider Meal Prepping
Meal prepping can force you to eat healthier foods throughout the week, even when you don’t have time to cook. (Or you just don’t feel like it.)
Jill advises, “Stop eating manufactured food. Yes, this is challenging if you live alone. Look into meal prep for the week – that way, you cook larger portions and break them down to smaller meals during the week.”
If you’ve never tried meal prepping before, Thirty Handmade Days has an excellent blog post called Meal Prep Ideas – Why, What, and How.
There, you’ll learn how to do it, and there are even recipes to get you inspired.
9. Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
Finally, don’t be so hard on yourself!
If you go an entire week without losing an ounce, don’t worry! That can be extremely normal.
All of our experts advise that you don’t cut your calorie intake by too much. Jill explains, “Adequate calories are important – don't cut calories too drastically! Fast weight loss leads to muscle loss, and that changes body composition (and can slow the metabolism.”
In other words, all your strength training progress can be lost if you aren’t eating enough.
Finally, don’t push yourself too hard in the gym, either. Jill explains her own pet peeve: “One of my biggest pet peeves is when an inexperienced personal trainer tries to make a Baby Boomer complete a workout that is so challenging that they are so sore the next day that they can barely brush their teeth or get up off the toilet. That is NOT necessary!”
If you need a break, take one! If you feel the weight is too heavy, lighten up! The goal is to keep yourself healthy – not to make yourself miserable.
And there you have it! We hope these tips make your weight loss and weight management journey easier, and a special thanks to all our experts who helped with the article.
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