Losing weight after turning 70 is a lot like losing weight after turning 30 or 40 or 50: It’s often way harder than you think it is going to be. But it is also very doable, and if your health depends on it, it’s very worth it.
When I say it is much harder, it is because we tend to idealize being younger as a time when things were easier, and to an extent, that is true in most lives. But think back: When you were 30, you probably lamented at how easy it was to lose weight in your 20s. And when you got to your 50s, you probably looked back on your 30s as glory days when the living was easy.
That’s human nature. But the flip side of nostalgia is that even if you thought it was hard in your 30s, you were still able to do it. That’s why you look back on it fondly now. And that means that you’ll be able to lose weight in your 70s with the same hard work and careful living.
There are many reasons to lose weight after 70, but they all boil down to the same thing: living your best possible life. Improved health, better mobility, and more energy mean that you can attack life with a sense of adventure, a sense of joy, and the truth of independence.
We want to make sure that you’re not just looking back at your 70s as the salad days, but are ready to enjoy your 80s and beyond.
Consult Your Doctor About Obesity
To start with, we want to make it clear we aren’t advocating weight loss simply to conform to arbitrary standards and certainly not weight loss for its own sake. Indeed, there are studies that say that for seniors, having a few extra pounds is actually healthy and can be beneficial if facing chemo or a lingering illness. The key, of course, that the ideal weight varies from person to person depending on a number of factors. You should always consult with your doctors about the need to lose weight.
But many people do carry more than a “few pounds.” Indeed, nearly 25% of Americans over 65 qualify as obese (and we admit that these standards aren’t universal). This is up from 14% in 2000.
In fact, most people don’t know this, but Medicare pays for doctors to consult overweight patients. In 2013 (the last year full data was available), only 50,000 of the nation’s 13 million overweight seniors took advantage of it.
The truth is, losing excess fat and gaining strength can be a good idea, no matter your age, if it will benefit your health.
What Are the Health Benefits of Losing Weight After 70?
Some of the health benefits of losing weight after 70 include:
- Increased mobility. More movement means less reliance on others, which means more independence.
- Lower chances of heart attack or stroke. Heart and circulation troubles are a leading killer of older adults. You can lower the risk of both by losing weight.
- Lower risk of diabetes. 25% of older adults have diabetes, and the incidence rate is higher in African-American and Hispanic communities. It’s vital to lower this epidemic.
- Lower risk of inflammation. Obesity can lead to painful skin conditions.
- Lower cost of living. Less medicine, fewer doctor’s visits. This also results in more time to do what you would like.
- Less burden on caregivers. A blunt fact of life: It is harder for caregivers to move and care for obese patients, especially during senility. Independence and aging at home can be maintained longer if you are in better health and that includes weight loss.
- Lower rates of depression. It’s a cruel shame, but obesity can lead to isolation, a lowered sense of self, and raised rates of depression. Losing weight can help overcome that, a vital need when senior depression rates are already tragically high.
Healthy Diet and Exercise Tips for Aging Adults
If you haven’t been a regular exerciser or dieter, it may seem hard to just jump in. But there are ways to get going.
- Start with walking. There is conflict over whether walking is as good for you as running, but everyone agrees walking regularly at even a moderate pace is extremely healthy. In fact, the pace of a brisk walk “for one to 2.5 hours every week lowers your risk of death by 25%.” And if you’re in the Bay Area, there are a lot of great senior-friendly places to walk.
- Regular exercise. If you start feeling better, regular exercise can be extremely valuable. There are classes all over the area for aging adults, including senior group fitness classes for people who want structure and companionship. This is especially important for older adults who are nervous about going to a gym.
- Portion control. You need about 100 fewer calories a day every decade of your life, generally. Chances are if you didn’t know that, you may have been eating in way that isn’t commensurate with biological reality or the reality of your lifestyle. Lowering portions balances your intake with reduced activity.
- Eat the right foods. Part of losing weight is gaining muscle for strength and balance. But you need the energy to do so and to continue exercising. Reducing fatty foods while increasing protein is a way to eat healthy while living a healthy lifestyle. This means adopting fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats into your everyday diet. Don’t crash diet while increasing your activity. That is unhealthy and is what leads to yo-yo diets.
- Keep eating nutritiously. A key to losing weight and keeping it off is adopting healthy eating as a lifestyle. We live in a great time for healthy eating, as there are more and more healthy options in restaurants and grocery stores. Still, it can be very easy to eat unhealthily, so it is a choice every individual must make.
Most of life is a choice. If your health and independence depend on it, then managing your weight is an important choice to make that can allow you to live longer and happier. Losing weight after 70 is embracing the possibilities of aging instead of accepting their limitations. When it is needed, it isn’t losing weight. It is gaining life.
At Institute on Aging, our mission is to help older adults thrive while aging at home. We offer services, including home care and financial services, as well as social programs, to help aging adults do just that. Contact us today to learn more.