There is no shortage of before and after photos and stories all over the internet to inspire us to lose weight and get in shape, but you rarely see a woman over 50 highlighted that way.
We are told in our 40s that losing weight after menopause is nearly impossible, and in fact we are told we will gain weight at that time no matter what we do. Faced with these old tapes in our heads, it makes it doubly hard to make the decision to lose weight as an older woman because it sounds like it’s hardly worth attempting!
Because I hadn’t really lost weight in a very long time, I was fairly convinced that I was no longer capable of losing weight at all.
I’m here to tell you that I was wrong. I can lose weight. I am in fact losing weight. And truly, if I, as a 56 year old, formerly inactive and post menopausal woman can, then pretty much anybody can.
Of course, my weight loss and fitness journey is still right in the middle. I’ve lost about 44 pounds since mid October and have about 70 to go. I’m sure that I’m just weeks away from the dreaded plateaus we are also warned about.
But I began to feel healthier after only a couple of weeks of effort on my food choices and exercise program. From that moment on I have felt energized and filled with optimism because I saw that it could be done and that it didn’t really change my lifestyle.
Perhaps if I were younger I might be losing the weight faster, but I have no real complaint in that area. At least not yet.
Here are 10 tips I use to keep my food choices reasonable. I have decided for me that I cannot eat an entirely restricted diet, that I must eat now as I will always eat and therefore I did not eliminate every food I love.
1. Portion control is the key for me. Next time you make spaghetti (you can give up pasta but I refuse to), give yourself about half the normal sized serving of pasta, double the vegetable, and eliminate any bread. Fill yourself up with water during and after the meal. Also cook your pasta until it is just tender. Overcooked pasta sends blood sugar higher than pasta cooked al dente.
2. Speaking of breads, rice, potatoes, pasta. If I have some, I watch the portion size and I only allow it once a day, on rare occasions twice. So if bread at breakfast, then none later. Also I’ve been known to have half a slice of bread with my boiled egg — who says we have to eat the whole slice? Do I tempt myself with muffins and bagels? Nope. I steer clear of them.
3. Eat more protein, especially if you’re exercising hard like me. You need it to repair the muscle. We want muscle! Again, watch portion size, they say our meat serving should be no larger than a deck of cards. Easily done. And remember eggs are our friends. I also eat a fair amount of tofu and other meat replacements because I’m funny about meat sometimes. I never eat beef, but that’s just my own personal choice.
4. I avoid most foods marked “lite” because I feel this might mean they’ve been even more processed than the regular version. I not only use butter, I buy expensive Kerry Irish Butter. I just use it as sparingly as I can. I also eat tacos with corn tortillas that have been fried in peanut oil. I’m not about to give up tacos. But I eat only two of them and I fill them up with tons of lettuce, avocado, salsa, and only a bit of cheese. I usually eat tacos with fake meat, but sometimes make fish or chicken tacos.
5. I will not give up sugar entirely. I think that’s silly. I have one or two cups of coffee a day, and in both of them I use two heaping spoons of plain old white granulated sugar. I will not drink coffee without it. I will not poison myself further with fake sugars. They are getting an awful lot of bad press of late anyway — even the ones that are supposed to be “natural”. A couple of squares of very dark chocolate are the only other sugary thing I ingest.
6. Drink a ton of water. Forget diet drinks of any kind. The water will help you in so many ways including helping to keep you regular.
7. Keep an eye on how many fruits and fruit juice you drink. They are another form of sugar. If I have juice, I use a tiny juice glass. That is an appropriate quantity of juice. Learn about which fruits are best for you, pineapple, for example is terribly sugary while other fruits are less so. Anything in the berry family is a good option. My daily prune also counts as one fruit.
8. I’m no expert nor am I a nutritionist, so I will tell you the following with that disclaimer. I let my mood tell me if I am going to have vegetables or salad that day, and what sort. Let’s face it, we all know by now that a huge salad covered in bleu cheese dressing has more calories than most double patty burgers. So salad is only as good as how you prepare it. I’m funny about vegetables. I eat them fairly regularly but some days I don’t. I don’t sweat it because I simply refuse to be a slave to numbers of this and that I am “supposed” to have in the course of 24 hours. Our bodies are not machines.
9. Eat out less often. This is a huge one. Not only are we tempted to order something we should probably not eat, but the serving size is just simply too big. Perhaps you can share your meal with someone?
10. Don’t skip meals. Feed your engine. But also learn to like the feeling of being a bit hungry. At first it’s kind of uncomfortable, but soon enough you’ll grow to like that feeling much more than being too full. A few times a week I drink a high protein meal replacement simply because I can’t bother to figure out what to eat. I know it’s certainly not optimal or natural, but it’s probably better than not eating anything or munching a bowl of Fritos. Sometimes I don’t want to think about food.
This is merely a short list of some of the things I think about in my own weight loss journey. I don’t plan elaborate meals and I’m certainly not a health nut. I don’t spend much time cooking new things just because they’re supposed to be good for me. For me it was important not to obsess over food. You may be different. Planning your meals and becoming a better cook might be right for you. I love to be fairly spontaneous in deciding what I’m going to eat, so shopping once a week is a terrible idea for me because if I’m not in the mood for it on the day, it will go to waste.
Pick and choose from what I do to create your own weight loss journey. My temperament makes it impossible for me to count calories or eat what anybody else tells me to, whether they are Weight Watchers or Spark People or the latest magazine article. I feel that this is the very reason why I am having success losing weight. I don’t feel deprived at all because I’m eating “my” food. It does help that I have a fair understanding of food and nutrition because, as they say, if you want to know how to lose weight, ask a fat person. We know it all, we just haven’t practiced it enough.
I’m 56 and I’ve lost 2-4 pounds a week for a few months. Granted, I do exercise six days a week, and I’m sure that helps, but diet is the most important aspect of weight loss. One odd way that I feel exercise helps me lose weight is that because I am often slightly sore, I’m more aware of my body and the fact that I am working on improving it.
Turns out, we older women can lose weight and we need to stop reading and listening to experts who make us feel that it’s hardly worth attempting. The rewards of weight loss and a stronger body are almost immediate.
One final word on alcoholic drinks. I’m really lucky that I rarely imbibe because they are generally high in calories. I have decided already, that if the opportunity presents itself, I will not say no to a glass of white wine.
Please tell me what are some of your weight loss techniques. And please follow me on Twitter @movingliquid1