Four key factors for managing weight as you age

Thursday, July 6, 2017

By Diana Steele, Registered Dietitian

The gradual (or sometimes sudden) weight gain that occurs with age can be overwhelming and often very challenging to manage. Sometimes weight gain can be attributed to a slight slowing of the metabolism each year and decade, and some to changes in hormones, but these factors are not exclusively responsible for the shocking spike on the scale. So, what else might have contributed? Could it be the extra glass of wine you enjoy with dinner? Or a change in your activity levels or intensity? Or possibly the more frequent dinners out? Whatever the reason, weight gain can pose a health risk and should be managed. Here are four key areas to examine to ensure you are on the right track to manage a healthy weight as you age:

Energy:

When it comes to weight loss, the first place I start with my clients is energy. If your energy levels are fluctuating throughout the day due to inconsistent eating times and lack of structure, you need to start here. When you wait too long to eat, your energy level drops,[i] which not only affects your ability to concentrate but also causes your body to use muscle for fuel.[ii] If you consistently skip meals, this can lead to a loss of muscle mass and a reduction in metabolism. Skipping meals or snacks may also leave you feeling hungry or craving certain foods, putting you ant increased risk for overeating.

What does one do? Start by eating breakfast within an hour of waking up. Plan to eat again every two to three hours during the day. Pack a snack for the car or golf bag and think ahead to lunch and dinner.

Satiety:

When trying to lose weight, my clients often say they are constantly hungry. Although I remind them that feeling a little hungry as you approach your next meal or snack time is a good thing, feeling starved all the time is uncomfortable and unnecessary. There are several things you can do to improve satiety (feeling full and satisfied).

  1. Get enough protein. Protein acts like an anchor for your carbohydrate energy, and makes that energy last longer. It takes longer to digest and slows the absorption of carbohydrates when eaten together.[iii] Great protein foods to include in your diet are hard boiled eggs or nut butters on whole grain toast, protein powders in smoothies, grilled chicken on a salad or lentils in a vegetable soup.
  2. Fill up on fibre. Fibre not only adds bulk, but it also slows the absorption of glucose in the blood and fuels the good bacteria in your colon.[iv] Aim to cover half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner – for example, half of the plate is salad and the other half is a ½ sandwich. For dinner, you can add some cooked vegetables in addition to a side salad to help fill you up and eat less of all the other stuff. In addition to vegetables and fruit, select whole grains over refined, and add legumes and nuts for nutrient-dense fibre sources.
  3. Fuel with fluid. Drinking water throughout the day helps keep your body hydrated, removes waste and lubricates joints. It also helps fill you up! Drink a glass of water before you eat or with your meal. The addition of a vegetable soup before dinner can help reduce the amount of food you eat at the meal.


Extras:

Watch the extras; the extra glass of wine (140 kcal), the extra square of chocolate (70 kcal), the odd serving of fries (900 kcal) or the special coffee with whip (400 kcal) can all add up. You don’t need to be perfect, and I certainly don’t expect complete abstinence from your favorite foods. It’s important to allow yourself indulgences in order to stay sane and committed to long-term success. Just be mindful of your portions and don’t do it every day.

Activity:

As we get older, we might start to notice more aches and pains after intense activity. Recovery from injuries can also take longer, so we may need to modify our activity choice to stay fit. Keep in mind that if you have replaced running with walking, or hockey for golf, you don’t need as much fuel as you once did. Your potion sizes might need revisiting. If you have never really been a fitness fanatic, it’s not too late to start. For weight loss, I recommend four to five cardio workouts (which may be brisk walking for some, or spinning for others) and two strength workouts per week. Lifting weights not only helps build muscle which increases metabolism, but it also helps improve bone health.[v]

The Bottom Line: Although there are some things we can’t change when it comes to aging and weight gain, there are many things you can change without too much effort. Select one goal at a time, make it a habit, and more on to another!

This article has been sponsored by BOOST®, but all comments and opinions are my own.

Diana Steele Registered Dietitian Diana Steele is a Vancouver-based registered dietitian, published author and owner of Eating for Energy, a nutrition consulting company in Metro Vancouver. She has helped over 2,000 individuals, couples and families achieve their nutrition goals, and has conducted more than 500 corporate seminars. Diana holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and is a member of the College of Dietitians of B.C.

 

[i] Harvard Health Publications. “Eating to Boost Energy.” Retrieved from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/eating-to-boost-energy (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[ii] Eat Right Ontario. “Sports nutrition: Facts on carbohydrate, fat and protein.” Retrieved from: https://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Physical-Activity/Sports-nutrition--Facts-on-carbohydrate,-fat-and-p.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[iii] Amercian Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. “Food Order Has a Significant Impact on Postprandial Glucose and Insulin Levels.” Retrieved from: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/38/7/e98 (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[iv] Diabetes Canada. “Fibre.” Retrieved from: http://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/healthy-living-resources/diet-nutrition/fibre (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[v] National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. “Exercise for Your Bone Health.” Retrieved from: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/Bone_Health/Exercise/default.asp (Accessed June 2, 2017)