How to Lose Weight After 50

IN THIS UNFAIR game of life, gaining weight is always easy, but losing weight is far more difficult—especially as you age.“Unfortunately, our metabolism (the ability of your body to burn calories—or not) can work against us as we age,” says Mary Wirtz, M.S., R.D., board certified sports dietitian. “This is partly because muscle mass decreases approximately 3 to 8 percent per decade after the age of 30 years old, and this rate can increase beyond that after the age of 60.” With these notable muscle-mass losses comes a decrease in basal metabolic rate, or the rate of calorie burn at rest. Powering muscle takes more energy than powering fat. As your muscle mass decreases with aging, you burn fewer calories. This makes weight gain easier, and weight loss harder—and is one of the reasons why optimizing food choices and increasing physical activity, including weight-bearing exercises such as strength training, is imperative as you age. But, it’s not always that easy. “This loss of muscle mass can also make it more difficult to exercise, which is a key component of any successful weight loss program,” says Mary Sabat M.S., R.D.N., owner of BodyDesigns. Hormone changes that occur may also create some issues with our weight. Plus, getting older means many years of settling deep into old habits. Men’s Health Weight Loss After 40+Men’s Health Weight Loss After 40+What’s more, as you age, the quality of muscle starts to change from being mostly muscle fibers to a combination of fat and muscle within the muscle fiber, says Stephen Anton, Ph.D., associate professor and chief of the Division of Clinical Research at the University of Florida College of Medicine’s Department of Aging and Geriatric Research. “After age 50, the process of your muscles being infiltrated by fat accelerates,” he says. The result? You may feel more easily fatigued. Your metabolism starts to slow down, and you lose muscle mass, making it harder to keep fat from piling on. In fact, a 50-year-old man requires about 100 fewer calories a day than a 20-year-old guy of the same weight, calculates Steven Heymsfield, M.D., of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. If you don’t change your habits to compensate for those numbers, you will likely gain some weight. “Everything just gets a little less efficient,” says Katherine L. Tucker, Ph.D., professor of nutritional epidemiology and director of the Center for Population Health at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. You now need fewer calories than ever just to maintain your body mass, let alone reduce it. Compensating for it doesn’t have to be a total downer: Next time you reach for seconds, load your plate with more veggies than main dish and you’ve already given yourself a good start. The bottom line is that you can still lose weight after age 50 (and beyond)—but you will have to put in a more deliberate effort than you used to. Deliberate, yes. Impossibly hard? Not at all. Use these simple strategies to shed the extra pounds.1. Eat More Fruits and VegetablesTo lose weight, one approach is to take in fewer calories than you expend. Instead of focusing on what to eat less of, let’s talk about what to eat more of. First up, fruits and vegetables. In a study from Harvard, people who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables lost weight, especially if they ate more berries, apples, pears, soy, or cauliflower. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories but rich in important vitamins and minerals that you need more of as you age, including fiber, which can keep you full between meals, says Tucker. She recommends piling vegetables over half your plate at every meal. Keep frozen vegetables in your freezer so you never run out (here’s the best way to freeze extra veggies yourself), and get creative with your salads by adding olives, cheese, or sliced oranges to make them more interesting. Check out our favorite breakfast salads—yes, breakfast salads—for more inspiration (sweet potato, spinach, and an egg is definitely breakfast!). Holly F. Lofton, M.D., director of the Medical Weight Management Program at NYU Langone Health, recommends “easy” vegetables: “Try ones you can just wash, cook, and eat, like asparagus and broccoli,” she says. Of course, you don’t even have to cook baby carrots. 2. Use Beans as a BaseBeans are packed with filling fiber and protein, and as they travel through your digestive system, their roughage and resistant starch feeds the good bacteria in your gut, says Tucker. These bacteria in turn create short-chain fatty acids, which are helpful in protecting your metabolism. A study review from Canada shows that people who ate a serving of legumes every day as part of a weight-loss effort lost a couple of pounds in an average of six weeks. Try making beans or lentils in an Instant Pot, which allows you to stew legumes with vegetables and other flavorful components and make enough for the whole family. Expand your repertoire by trying new types of beans—discover your healthiest choices here. 3. Befriend Your Bathroom ScaleWeigh yourself each morning so you notice right away if the number is trending up instead of down. “If you gain weight, and if you focus on it early and it’s only a few pounds, you can lose it quickly, but if you let it stay, basically it reprograms your body at a higher weight and it makes it hard to lose because you get hungry,” Tucker says. If you want to lose weight over 50, it’s especially useful to jump on any gain right away. Learn more about the benefits of weighing yourself daily. 4) Focus on Your FoodBetween 15 conference calls, appointments with your accountant, and all the other obligations facing the modern 50-something man, you might not be giving your meals the respect they deserve. “People on the go tend to overeat,” says Bettina Mittendorfer, Ph.D., a research associate professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, but eating slowly and mindfully can help your weight-loss efforts.Instead of shoveling in lunch between meetings, plate your food, take a seat, and chew slowly so that you enjoy each bite. Adding crunchy elements to your meal, such as sliced jicama or cabbage, can also help you slow down and eat less. One more thing: Use Netflix as an after-dinner treat. Eating in front of the TV is associated with weight gain, according to research published in the journal Obesity. ImagesTraveling is another danger zone for mindless eating, especially if you’re one of those people who eats when food is presented to you, says Dr. Lofton. She recommends that you carry with you something easy that you usually eat once a day—so pack your standard breakfast or something easy and nutritious for lunch. (See how one guy who drove 15,000 miles in 4 months stayed healthy.) “This creates some structure when you’re in situations where you don’t have as much control over meals,” she says. 5. Track it, TooSpeaking of focusing on food, tracking what you eat might help you realize where exactly these spare calories are sneaking in. “This can be done via a food tracking app,” Wirtz says, ticking off a few options such as My Fitness Pal, Calorie King, or Noom, “or even old-school paper and pencil.” Why do it? The benefits of tracking your food intake are outstanding as, most often, this increases awareness around food choices, serving sizes, and mindless snacking and grazing. A large 2019 study showed individuals who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records— might be worth a try. 6. Stop Drinking SugarSugary foods and drinks fill you with calories—about 150 calories in a can of Pepsi, for example—but they don’t satisfy your appetite, which men over 50 undoubtedly have figured out by now. “A soda goes down quickly,” says Mittendorfer. “Eat the equivalent in a salad, and you’ll stay full longer.” (You’d have to eat more kale than you can stomach to hit 150 calories.) Among the benefits: People who stop drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages gain less weight over time than those who do, a study review from Australia suggests. Even smoothies and juices can contribute lots of sugar to your body, Dr. Lofton points out. (Unless it’s one of these healthy weight loss smoothies, but you still have to plan for them.) It’s better to have the whole fruit than just the juice. 7. Mix Up Your Workouts If you’ve been leaning on one type of exercise up to this point, now is the time to mix it up. In a recent study from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Iowa State University, older people who did a combination of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and 30 minutes of resistance exercise three days per week reduced their body fat percentage and gained muscle. (They also showed improvements in blood pressure and cardiorespiratory fitness, which are important boosts to an aging heart.) Resistance training is particularly effective in helping you build muscle, which burns more calories than fat, and aerobic training is particularly effective for helping you lose fat, says study author Elizabeth Schroeder, a doctoral candidate. “Together, they lead to a favorable body composition change and increasing strength and fitness with aging leads to a better quality of life and maintained independence,” she says. For strength, “focus training on the legs and large muscle groups of the upper body with compound lifts, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and pull-ups,” Anton says. “These lifts engage more muscle groups than isolated lifts and typically lead to a greater increase in muscle gains while stimulating fat metabolism.” (And check out our guide to resistance training for beginners.) For cardio, find something you enjoy, whether it’s running, cycling, swimming, or walking. Branch out and check out the best cardio workouts that aren’t running. Even better than a steady-state cardio workout is interval training, which combines periods of intense work followed by periods of lighter activity. If it’s been a while since you worked out, consult a personal trainer to assess your mobility so you know where to start.8. Discover a New Way to EatHere’s a different way to think about how much you eat: Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D.N., consultant for integrative and lifestyle medicine for the Cleveland Clinic, recommends this to her clients: Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry. Not when you’re “full.” This could be a game changer. Learn more about it here. 9. Try Intermittent FastingIntermittent fasting might sound intense, but it just means that you eat methodically during a certain period of the day instead of eating whenever you want. That naturally limits the amount you eat, and some experts think no-food windows are good for your health, too. You might start by just going eight or nine hours—including your sleeping hours—without eating. So from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., you don’t eat. Simple enough, right? Then you can gradually train yourself to go 12 hours without food. “A few good male friends and family members who have practiced intermittent fasting have raved about the benefits in terms of reducing belly fat and improving energy levels,” Anton says. This type of eating pattern isn’t for everyone, however, so ask your doctor first.Jeremy Maude//Getty Images10. Start a Yoga PracticeYoga can help you enhance and maintain mobility when you’re over 50, and its calming effect can be beneficial when you’re trying to lose weight, Anton says. You probably won’t meet your weight loss goals with yoga alone, but it can be a helpful habit in tandem with others. Researchers in China found that older people who practiced yoga for a year shed about a centimeter off their waist circumference—a key marker of belly fat.11. Check What You’re Taking”Many men over 50 are on some type of medication,” says Dr. Lofton. “It’s good to review the weight-gain potential of medicines you are taking with your health care provider,” she says, if you feel you’re doing everything and still not losing. Sometimes, your meds can be changed to avoid that side effect. 12. Choose NutsMake nuts your go-to snack, and you might fend off age-related weight creep, suggests research from Harvard. “What we observed was that on average, adults tend to gradually gain weight over time,” says Deirdre K Tobias, Sc.D., an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. “However, those who added nuts to their diet had less long-term gradual weight gain and were ultimately at a lower risk of developing obesity.” For every half serving of nuts people ate per day, they gained less weight over the next four years and had a lower risk of obesity over the next 20 to 24 years. If you’re nuts about nuts and can’t stop at a serving, you’re going to want to pass on this one. 13. Opt for Whole GrainsOats, barley, quinoa—they’re all good. In a Tufts University study, when people between ages 40 and 65 ate whole grains instead of refined grains such as white bread, they burned more calories and excreted more fat (yes, in their poop). Whole grains contain fiber, which promotes the growth of a diverse mix of bacteria in your gut, which may help your metabolism. If you’re not in love with the flavor of whole grains, try different brands of whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, whole-grain rice, and more until you find the right fit. “My best strategy for this is to eat the new food you want to learn to like when you are hungry, says study author Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D., Director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. “You don’t have to eat huge amounts at first, but your hunger will accelerate changing taste preferences so that soon, the stronger taste is something you really enjoy.” 14. Work With A Professional Working with a certified personal trainer and or registered dietitian nutritionist to help create personalized exercise and diet plans can dramatically improve the likelihood you lose weight after 50. “Working with qualified professionals can help mitigate unwanted weight gain and help with body fat loss for individuals aging,” says Wirtz. A personal trainer can help plan an effective exercise regimen that can help improve cardiovascular health and functional fitness. They can also help create a strength training plan, which will help you maintain and gain muscle mass.A registered dietitian can help create an individualized program that is effectively tailored towards your needs and body composition goals. Note, though, that a “nutritionist” is not always a credentialed provider. If you’re not sure what kind of person to look for, read up more iconThe triangle icon that indicates to playMen’s healthMen’s health Lettermark logoJulie Stewart is a writer and content strategist whose work has also appeared in Health, and Women’s Health, Everyday Health, Vice, and Shape.Marty Munson, currently the health director of Men’s Health, has been a health editor at properties including Marie Claire, Prevention, Shape and RealAge. She’s also certified as a swim and triathlon coach.Perri is a New York City-born and -based writer; she holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Columbia University and is also a culinary school graduate of the plant-based Natural Gourmet Institute, which is now the Natural Gourmet Center at the Institute of Culinary Education. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, Oprah Daily,, Architectural Digest, Southern Living, and more. She’s probably seen Dave Matthews Band in your hometown, and she’ll never turn down a bloody mary. Learn more at

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