Recently, I’ve met a few women who are over 50 and believe that it’s too late for them to do anything about their weight. Most of their discouragement stems from the fact that they've been trying to lose weight since their 20s and — apart from a few short-lived successes — they still have no idea how to lose weight and keep it off.
And they think that if they haven’t figured it out by now, surely it's never going to happen?
Of course that's not true. There is nothing stopping a woman in her 50s from losing weight and keeping it off. In fact, I think women in this age group have a huge advantage over a woman in her 20s (more on that soon). If you're in your 50s or 60s and losing weight is a goal, here are a few things to remember:
1. Say no to diets.
Most people focus on a diet-based approach to losing weight. In other words, they focus on drastic deprivation of food for short periods of time to achieve their weight loss goals. This is not the way to maintain a healthy weight. Even if you can get to your goal, once you come off the diet, you'll re-gain the pounds.
2. Never get to a point where you feel deprived.
A common thing I hear from my clients in their 50s is that they're sick of deprivation. They can't stand going on another diet where they have to be miserable. It's something that women in their 20s will tolerate for short periods, but there comes a time in your life when enough is enough.
Good news! You don't have to feel deprived. All that does is make you unlikely to stick with the plan for very long. It will also increase cravings (typically for junk food), which will undermine your weight loss. A sustainable weight loss plan is one in which you don't feel starved.
3. Aim for the tiniest lifestyle changes you can muster.
Anyone who has ever lost weight and kept if off has done so by changing her habits. This is best accomplished by small changes around things like portion sizes, keeping healthier foods at home, and reconnecting with which foods (and amounts) give you the most satisfaction for the fewest calories. The small adjustments you make must be easy and doable for the long-term.
4. Know that progress will be slow.
There’s no getting around this. It’s harder to lose weight quickly after 50. I have clients in their late 40s who can still lose weight relatively fast, but for clients after 50, it becomes the exception rather than the rule.
Is slow weight loss a problem? Only if you think "how quickly you lose weight" is a measure of success. But what’s the point of losing weight quickly if you'll just gain it all back a few weeks later?
5. Expect plateaus to last longer.
This has got to be one of the hardest parts of losing weight in your 50s and 60s. You're likely to go through some extended plateaus. I define "a plateau" as a time when, even though you’re doing all the right things, your weight won't budge. This can be very challenging and it’s a common reason for quitting a weight loss program.
Imagine if your weight didn’t budge for three weeks. Would you give up? For most people, the answer is yes. And this is why most people are overweight. You cannot let a week (or three!) without progress stop you. You have to learn to withstand these times and stay focused on your goal.
6. Appreciate the one big advantage you have over your younger self.
This is a generalization, but most women in their 20s and 30s are impatient to lose weight. They usually have a deadline (like a wedding or a vacation) for which they want to slim down. They therefore focus on short-term methods to get their results, which means they lose weight quickly but gain it back soon after. This results in their weight yoyo-ing.
While women over 50 have deadlines, they also have a much more mature approach to weight loss. They want to get to their goal, but they're also far more open to the idea of fixing the problem once and for all, rather than aiming for quick results and then being back to square one a few weeks later. This is partly because the quick fixes no longer work, so there's no other option.
But this clear-thinking attitude is your advantage. Because you are willing to focus on the long-term, you can make much more sensible decisions and sustainable ones. This is your secret weapon to lasting weight loss success.