The most common thing I hear from women over 50 who are trying to lose weight is that diets that used to work (at least in the short-term) in their twenties, thirties and forties stop working once they’re into their fifties.
Does this mean that women over 50 can’t lose weight? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that you need to change your approach.
1. Understand what successful weight loss really is.
The fact is, as people get older, it takes longer to lose weight. If you’re 53, you can’t expect to lose weight at the same rate as a 23 year old. That might seem like a bad thing, but it’s really not.
Because losing weight fast is not the key to success. Losing weight and keeping it off is the real aim. Who cares if someone loses 10 pounds in a week, if they gain it all back (plus interest!) a week later?
When we change the focus from speed to sustainability, it levels the playing field. Women over 50 are just as capable of losing weight and keeping it off as women under 50.
2. Be realistic about weight loss (in a good way).
Once you accept that speed of weight loss is not the aim, your next step should be to abandon all deadlines.
It might sound like a good idea to aim to lose weight in the three months before your holiday, but this kind of deadline just creates pressure. And often these deadlines are just plain unrealistic.
If you’re trying to lose weight under the pump of a strict deadline, it stresses you out and makes you feel tempted to do short-term unhealthy things like starve yourself, instead of focussing on a more long-term approach.
3. Fit the weight loss around your life, not your life around the weight loss.
How many times have you started diets that meant you had to shop at totally different stores to find totally new ingredients?
How many times have you been on diets that meant you had to prepare different meals for yourself and different meals for the rest of the family?
And how many times have you been on a diet that made it difficult to go on holiday because the recommendations were so strict?
In each of these three situations, your chances of success are reduced, because you have to change your life to fit the diet, instead of fitting the diet into your life.
Remember, the aim is to make changes that you can stick to for life. That’s how you can lose weight and keep it off. So you have to make sure that any changes you make are ones that you are happy doing, for the long-term.
4. Keep away from drastic changes.
It’s a very commonly believed myth that weight loss is all about “no pain, no gain”. And for women in their twenties, depriving themselves can lead to some quick (but temporary) weight loss.
But deprivation is not the key to weight loss for women over 50. In fact, deprivation makes it less likely you will stick to the changes that you make.
Instead, you need to focus on making small gradual changes. And you would be surprised by how small these changes need to be.
A couple of good examples are stopping second servings or cutting down portion size by 5-10%. They don’t seem like much, but little steps like this added up over time can make a huge difference
5. Know that it won’t be perfect first time.
Some people assume that if they go on a diet, they should stick to it perfectly. Any time, they stray off the diet it’s like failure. And then they feel guilty and miserable.
But this is the wrong way to think about losing weight. Your aim is not to be perfect. And when you think about it as learning a new way of life it’s hard to imagine it can be done without a few (or a lot) of mistakes.
Think of a child learning to walk. Do we expect the child to walk without ever falling over? Of course not. So why are we so hard on ourselves when trying to lose weight?
Things don’t go smoothly when losing weight. For anyone. And that’s ok. Learn from your mistakes and just keep going.
The opposite of dieting
Nothing that I’ve said here should seem controversial to you. And yet, in many ways the advice that most women over 50 receive from diets is the complete opposite of this.
The ultimate lesson to be taken from this is to always focus on the long-term. Take your time, and make lasting, small changes that you know you will be able to stick with.