Let's get the off-putting facts out of the way first. Your metabolism slows down with age, meaning that your body burns fewer calories than it used to. Prior to menopause, estrogen directs fat storage into the hips and thighs. Once estrogen is gone, storage starts occuring in the belly creating the pesky "mena-pot".
While these things are true, they don't have to mean anything. Is it possible to lose weight and keep it off later in life? Absolutely.
Over the years, some of my most successful long term weight patients have been over 50. When new clients tell me that they are worried about their inability to lose because of age, I show them a picture of my mother who had a major weight loss in her mid 80s and continues to control her weight now at age 93. Because of two bad knees, exercise was out. She also had an underactive thyroid. She's always had trouble losing weight. Nevertheless, she did it. And you can too.
Weight control after fifty is only a challenge if you misunderstand the basics. If you believe that weight loss and maintenance is achieved by starving and running the marathon, you will be justified in seeing major impediments as you age. Many people give up on trying to stay at a healthy weight because of just such thinking.
So let's return to those basics, because the fundamentals become even more important when someone is older or post-menopausal.
Overweight occurs when your body stores fat (that's a normal physiologic function) but then is unable to burn it off again (that's not normal). If everything is going just right, your fat cells should be open at all times, able to store fat and then release it again freely when it is needed for moment to moment energy needs. If you are making too much of the hormone insulin, your calories will go into fat storage but they won't be able to get out. It's a one way valve. If you are able to lower insulin levels, fat will flow freely out of the fat cells. (And for those of you who have not read me before, insulin starts flowing when you eat sugar, starches or grain).
One of the most important considerations for those over 50 is not lowered metabolism, but that fact that we all become increasingly insulin resistant with age. Insulin resistance means that we make more insulin when we eat carbs than we used to and that insulin levels tend to stay higher throughout the day. Thus, more trapped fat. More difficulty losing.
For those with weight problems over 50, the adoption of a diet that eliminates carbohydrate (except for fruits and vegetables) is key. Understood this way, you can see that the number of calories burned a day (metabolism) is secondary to the way calories are utilized. Essentially, you cannot utilize calories properly if you are making alot of insulin. Similarly, that excess fat that lands in the belly is not impossible to control. You should aim to release fat and avoid storing it again. To do this, focus on your dietary components rather than abdominal crunches.
Here's one piece of very good news. I have found that it is often more possible for my patients over 50 to make the necessary changes in their eating habits than it is for younger patients. If you have been eating bread, pasta, potatoes and sweets for a whole lifetime, it's often now possible to take a "been there, done that" attitude. At 50 plus, all of us become concerned about our longevity and more specifically, about living out the rest of our years in optimal health. With the greater knowledge we have, and with a lifetime of accomplishments already behind us, we know that we are competent. Suddenly, it becomes ok to try something new. Then too, the more mature we are, the less interest we have in conforming. This makes it easier to tell friends and family that we simply don't eat certain foods any more. Implement this simple dietary change and you will be amazed at the results. Let me know how you do.
Dr. Barbara Berkeley also blogs on her own website, www.refusetoregain.com, and has written the book "Refuse to Regain: 12 Tough Rules to Maintain the Body You've Earned."