As women enter the second half of life, hormonal fluctuations combined with the normal aging process slow metabolism, alter our body composition, and change our nutritional needs. Weight loss plans for women over 50, to be effective, must address not only caloric intake, but activity level and proper nutrition as well.
More effective than dieting alone, weight loss plans that emphasize physical activity combined with healthful eating have been shown to lead to permanent weight loss. The American Heart Association recommends taking steps to increase your activity level; consume a balanced diet consisting of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and unsaturated fat; and limit sweets and alcohol. The emphasis of this weight loss plan is on making permanent changes that are realistic, attainable and sustainable.
Emphasis on Nutrition
A balanced diet is essential in any weight loss plan. Women over 50 should beware of diets that emphasize protein intake and reduce carbohydrates. Excess protein can be problematic as we age, because processing the waste products from protein strains the kidneys, according to the Colorado State University Extension. Other considerations include the increased risk of osteoporosis that women experience as estrogen levels drop. Be sure to consume adequate amounts of calcium to help reduce the risk.
Fat begins to replace lean muscle as we age, which lowers metabolism. During perimenopause, women gain an average of a pound a year, according to the Mayo Clinic, and most of this weight settles around the abdominal area. Weight loss plans for women over 50 should include an active lifestyle. At least 30 minutes of moderate activity per day is recommended. Additionally, weight bearing exercise is highly beneficial. It builds lean muscle and increases bone density, which in turn increases metabolism and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
Beware Weight Loss Products
Supplements that claim to boost metabolism by increasing the thermogenic (heat-producing) effect of digestion are widely available and promise a tempting short-cut for burning fat and suppressing appetite. Little evidence exists that these products deliver on the promise, and some cause serious side effects. The Food and Drug Administration urged consumers to stop using one such product in May 2009 following reports of adverse effects.
Watch Hidden Calories
Caloric needs for people beyond their late 40s decrease by about 200 per day, and even in a fairly healthy diet, hidden calories add up. Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., cited coffee as an example. Black coffee has no fat and very few calories, while adding cream and sugar raises calories to 100 and fat to five grams. You can sabotage your weight-loss efforts in spite of your best intentions unless you develop an awareness of hidden calories. Read product labels diligently, and dress your food and beverages sparingly.