It’s never too late to get healthy and improve your quality of life. For many older adults, this means losing weight. But with all of the weight loss programs out there, the fad diets, pills and supplements, how do you choose a program that is right for you?
As an older adult, there are special considerations to take into account if you want to lose weight. Your lifestyle may have changed over the past several years, you may be living alone and you may have medical issues to consider. Your first step should be to discuss your weight loss goals with your physician.
Next, come up with a healthy plan to improve your eating and exercise regime. I spoke with Dr. Mike Moreno, M.D., best selling author of The 17 Day Diet and The 17 Day Plan to Stop Aging. The practicing family physician talked about simple steps that seniors can take to lose weight and get healthy.
Healthy Diet Advice for Seniors
It’s typical for older adults to have less of an appetite as they age, says Moreno. This often occurs, he says, because people become more sedentary and it becomes harder to stimulate hunger. For this reason, Moreno suggests that a healthy diet for seniors should consist of smaller more frequent meals.
Moreno also suggests that seniors be especially careful to achieve a diet that is nutritionally balanced but provides plenty of protein. For most adults, this means including a source of lean protein at every meal. Sources of protein might include eggs, egg whites, fish, chicken, turkey, and lean cuts of meat.
Fiber is another essential component of a healthy diet for seniors, says Moreno. Fiber helps to regulate digestion, prevents constipation, and may help with weight loss. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends that men over the age of 51 should consume 30 grams of fiber each day, while a woman aged 51 and over should get 21 grams of fiber. Good sources of fiber include raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
In addition, Moreno provides these tips for seniors who want to improve their diet:
- Stay hydrated! Water is imperative for maintaining your energy and feeling good throughout the day.
- If necessary, use supplemental products such as Ensure to help maintain a schedule of regular balanced meals.
- Try not to eat by yourself. Find friends and family to share in meals.
- Add exercise to your regular routine to help stimulate hunger.
Healthy Exercise Advice for Seniors
If you haven’t been active for most of your life, trying to start an exercise program in your senior years may seem overwhelming. But Moreno suggests that you focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t do. “Start simple,” he says. "Walking, for example, gives you every exercise benefit that you need."
To make the walking experience more enjoyable, Moreno suggests walking on flat ground (no hills), and finding walking partners to make the experience more social and pleasant. But if walking is too stressful on your joints, Moreno suggests swimming or performing stretching exercises in a seated position. “Do what you can to move your joints every day,” he says.
Best Tips to Prevent Aging
Even if you don’t consider yourself a senior just yet, you are still aging. “We start aging when we are born,” says Moreno. So anyone can take simple steps to look and feel better as the years tick by. Dr. Moreno’s book, The 17 Day Plan to Stop Aging, details easy changes that you can make - and any stage of your life - to turn back the hands of time.
His best tips for aging well? Moreno suggests these three steps to feel better and get healthy:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Your weight plays a key role in controlling the factors of aging. Get to a healthy number on the scale and stay there.
- Stay hydrated with water. Your body is craving it more than you realize. Water is critical to maintaining your energy level and good daily health.
- Move more. Find an activity that you like and that helps you to maintain a daily movement schedule and stick with it.
Small changes can have a big impact. Try a few of these healthy changes to improve your health and well being.
Mike Moreno, M.D.. Interview. September 14, 2012.
The Life Study. Wake Forest School of Medicine. Accessed: September 17, 2012. https://www.thelifestudy.org/public/index.cfm
The Nutrition Source, Daily Fiber Requirements. Harvard School of Public Health. Accessed: September 17, 2012. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fiber-table/index.html