For older adults, losing weight after age 60 may be a challenge. In fact, it tends to become more difficult even earlier than that due to a variety of lifestyle and physiological factors.1 According to William Yancy, Jr., M.D., Director of the Duke Lifestyle and Weight Management Center in Durham, North Carolina, there are several hurdles for seniors to overcome to maintain a healthy weight. These include arthritis, other health conditions that affect mobility and stamina, sleep issues and more.2 The good news is that people over 60 who eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and make important lifestyle changes may not have to accept weight gain as an inevitable part of growing older.3
Basics for weight loss over age 60
While it may be challenging for seniors to drop extra pounds, it’s not impossible if they follow the “golden rules” of dieting and weight loss.4 These simple, common-sense basics may provide a solid foundation for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight over age 60.5
- Burn more calories than are taken in during the day.
- Choose healthier foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and low-fat dairy.
- Make sure meat and poultry are as lean as possible.
- Cut out sugars and foods of little or no nutritional value.
- Steer clear of fad diets with results that don't last.
How to lose weight after age 60
In addition to following the golden rules above, here are 4 more things older adults can do to lose weight and keep it off.6
- Maintain muscle mass.
Seniors may offset the loss of muscle mass by doing strength training. Lifting weights in the gym, practicing yoga or doing Pilates are just a few of the ways to maintain muscle mass, which, according to Joanna Li, RD and nutritionist at Foodtrainers in New York, is key to burning more calories.7
- Add protein to the diet.
Including 1 gram of protein per kilo (2.2 lbs.) of body weight in the diet can also help prevent loss of muscle mass.8 Foods like whole eggs, grass-fed beef and wild salmon also keep people full for longer, which helps promotes weight loss.9
- Drink more water.
Since thirst can mimic hunger, it’s recommended for older adults to drink 64 ounces of water per day.10 Seniors may also stay hydrated by eating water-rich foods like cucumbers and tomatoes.
- Compensate for slower metabolism.
With a slower metabolism, older adults are advised to eat more small meals and snacks and not go much longer than 3 hours without eating.11 Seniors may also need fewer calories than when they were younger. A visit with the doctor or a registered dietician can help older adults determine what’s right for them.
Weight loss after 60: foods to avoid
When modifying their diet for weight loss after 60, there are certain foods for seniors to avoid. Steering clear of the examples below may help older adults make better food choices.12
Fried snacks, pastries, cookies, soft drinks and candy may be filling, but they’re full of empty calories and don’t provide much nutritional value. Plus, they’re often high in added sugar, refined carbohydrates, saturated fat and sodium.
Raw or unpasteurized foods
Older adults are particularly at risk for listeria, a potentially life-threatening, food-borne illness. It’s the third leading cause of death from food poisoning in the U.S., and more than 50% of all cases of listeria affect people 65 and over.13 Here are foods for seniors to keep an eye on in order to lower their risk:14
- Unpasteurized dairy products
- Raw bean sprouts
- Soft cheeses
- Meat spreads requiring refrigeration
- Melons kept in the fridge for more than 7 days
- Smoked fish that’s not shelf-stable or canned
Grapefruit (fresh or juice)
Though it’s healthy and delicious, this breakfast favorite may interfere with medications that older adults take for high blood pressure, anxiety and insomnia.15
Beer, wine and distilled spirits16
Alcoholic beverages may reduce sleep quality, raise blood pressure and cause hypoglycemia in older adults with diabetes. It may also interfere with some medications. Seniors should check with their doctors to determine acceptable levels in their diets.
Caffeine in coffee, tea and some soft drinks may boost anxiety levels in older adults. It may also increase heart rate, which could be dangerous for older adults with a cardiac condition.
French fries, donuts, egg rolls and other fried foods are often loaded with calories and are a source of unhealthy trans fats, hydrogenated oils and tropical oils, which raise cholesterol and are linked to heart disease, diabetes and cancer.18
Weight loss tips for older adults: developing healthy eating habits
For seniors interested in losing weight after age 60, knowing what to eat is extremely important. But knowing how to eat may be very beneficial as well. Here are some tips for developing healthy eating habits that can contribute to weight loss success.19
- Avoid mealtime distractions (turn off the TV or cell phone).
- Take the time to enjoy food instead of eating too fast.
- Make a habit of reading Nutrition Facts labels on food packages.
- Try to eat healthy while traveling and dining out.
- Vary daily meals and snacks with new foods and flavors.
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1Kimberly Goad, “How to Succeed at Weight Loss After Age 50,” AARP, last accessed March 16, 2023, https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2021/weight-loss-after-50.htmlOpens in new window.
2Goad, “How to Succeed at Weight Loss After Age 50.”
3Goad, “How to Succeed at Weight Loss After Age 50.”
4Katherine Tweed, “Dieting After 60: 4 Things You Need to Know,” Compass by WebMD, last accessed March 16, 2023, https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/dieting-tips-older-adultsOpens in new window.
5“Dieting After 60: 4 Things You Need to Know.”
6“Dieting After 60: 4 Things You Need to Know.”
7“Dieting After 60: 4 Things You Need to Know.”
8“Dieting After 60: 4 Things You Need to Know.”
9“Dieting After 60: 4 Things You Need to Know.”
10“Dieting After 60: 4 Things You Need to Know.”
11“Dieting After 60: 4 Things You Need to Know.”
12"8 Ways to Make Better Food Choices For Older Adults," National Council on Aging, last accessed March 24, https://www.ncoa.org/article/8-ways-to-make-better-food-choices-for-older-adultsOpens in new window.
13“People at Risk – Older Adults,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed March 16, 2023, https://www.cdc.gov/listeria/risk-groups/elderly.htmlOpens in new window.
14"8 Ways to Make Better Food Choices For Older Adults."
15"8 Ways to Make Better Food Choices For Older Adults."
16"8 Ways to Make Better Food Choices For Older Adults."
17"8 Ways to Make Better Food Choices For Older Adults."
18“The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between,” Harvard Health Publishing, last accessed March 16, 2023, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-goodOpens in new window.
19"Healthy Weight Starts with Good Nutrition," National Council on Aging, last accessed March 24, 2023, https://ncoa.org/article/healthy-weight-starts-with-good-nutritionOpens in new window.
Consult your doctor before beginning any new diet or exercise regimen.
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