Many of my patients have told me that as they get older, trying to keep a fast metabolism feels like a full-time job. Now is not the time to throw in the towel though! A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed it’s never too late to start a healthy eating habit. Even if you clean up your diet in middle age or older years, you may still reap the benefit of living longer.
1. Track your steps.
Lack of movement throughout your day can be doing serious harm. Not only may weight creep up but the risk for disease might as well. Studies have found wearable activity tracking technology and applications may help empower you in setting, monitoring and overall committing to your personal health goals.
Devices from FitBit, Garmin, Jawbone and more can help you track activity, calories, hydration and even your quality of sleep (another factor in effective weight loss). A wearable accountability tool may be the push you need.
2. Double up on protein.
After 60, two major lifestyle changes occur: Your muscle mass decreases even further and your protein needs increase. Both of these impact muscle mass and ultimately weight. To combat this, you’ll need to make sure you’re exercising beyond aerobic activities (to build muscle mass, which helps in weight loss and longevity) and you’re doubling the grams of protein you’re consuming.
A 2014 study suggested older adults double their dietary protein needs to help maintain muscle and address other overall health-related issues. One way to accomplish this is to make sure protein is added to every meal. Add protein including chicken, tofu or fish to salads. Start your day with a protein drink, snack on nuts or choose beans over grains at dinner time.
3. Carry a water bottle.
Dehydration can often be masked as hunger, and the risk of dehydration increases after age 65. Therefore, it’s important to stay fully hydrated with both caffeine and sugar-free liquids as well as water-rich fruits and vegetables including watermelon, cauliflower, celery, broccoli and spinach.
4. Focus on your waist, not your weight.
You may never fit back into the jeans you graduated high school in. That’s OK. What’s more important (and science confirms this) is to focus on your waist size instead. Multiple studies have shown central obesity (fat around your middle) is associated with an increased risk of cancer and early death.
5. Find a buddy.
A 2013 study showed exercising with someone else can actually have a contagious effect on motivation.
6. You love probiotics, now embrace prebiotics.
You’ve probably figured out already that white bread and pasta won’t do you any favors in the weight category. Now is the time to take that information to the next level. You can do this by focusing on a prebiotic called resistant starch. Resistant starches literally resist digestion in the small intestine and go directly to the large intestine where they are fermented. Why should this matter? Because studies show this process helps with increasing satiety or fullness through the production of short chain fatty acids, better blood sugar control and more fat-burning capability.
You can find resistant starches in beans, corn, bananas, brown rice, oats and lentils. Interestingly enough, resistant starch content increases after a food is cooled. So if you indulge every once in a while in white bread and potatoes for example, and you choose to cool your food after cooking, the resistant starch increases.
7. Write it down.
Keeping a food diary or journal aids in weight loss because it keeps you aware and accountable for the food choices you make throughout the day. Even if this method does not incorporate calorie counting, overall better food choices will most likely still prevail. A study found individuals who used a food diary daily had double the weight loss compared to people who did not use one.
Losing weight is possible after 60. The key is continuing to make the effort and not giving up on the weight-loss battle!
Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, R.D., is the manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, and the author of "Skinny Liver." Follow her on Twitter @KristinKirkpat.