If you’re wondering how to lose weight after 60, you aren’t alone. Many older adults feel as though their weight loss journey plateaus at a certain age.
The good news is that healthy weight loss is possible at any age, and understanding barriers to losing weight can help you to take thoughtful steps forward. Stick with us for weight loss tips for aging adults, including eating to lose weight after 60.
The Importance of Weight Management After 60
Although not the sole indicator of health, body weight can give you and your healthcare providers clues about your overall level of wellness. Individuals who fall within a body mass index (BMI) indicating overweight or obese statuses may be prone to serious health problems, such as:
- Certain cancers
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
On the other hand, staying at a healthy weight is linked with many health benefits. It’s associated with preventing and managing many diseases. Factors such as diet, exercise, and sleep all play an important role in maintaining a healthy weight.
It’s important to note that some older adults are underweight, experiencing unwanted or unintended weight loss, or struggling with appetite or obtaining food. For these individuals, weight loss may not be warranted. Health issues, like cancer, may also cause complications that make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight.
In any case, working with a doctor or dietitian can help you to determine what weight category you fall within. They can also help you decide if weight loss is safe or necessary for your situation.
Challenges of Weight Loss After 60
Adults ages 60 and older face some unique challenges regarding weight loss. Weight management may be more difficult as you age for many reasons.
Older adults tend to have a slower metabolism. During the aging process, the body becomes less efficient at creating energy from food. While this is unfortunate (and influenced by factors like genetics), it doesn’t necessarily mean weight gain is inevitable.
Hormones, aptly considered the body’s chemical messengers, can influence how fat is stored in the body. Most notably, hormonal changes during the years surrounding menopause may cause weight changes in women. Men may also experience weight gain with age as testosterone declines.
Muscle Mass Declines
Somewhat surprisingly, muscle mass begins to decline around age 30. By age 60, this rate has accelerated. Without a healthy diet and exercise regimen (one that includes resistance training) muscle mass can quickly decline.
This phenomenon is believed to be a leading cause of disability since maintaining muscle mass plays a big role in physical ability, strength, and quality of life.
How Proper Nutrition Influences Weight Loss and Management
As you may have guessed, healthy eating is important in weight management. Without proper nutrition, weight gain can easily occur. However, it’s more than just calorie restriction that makes a difference when it comes to weight loss.
A healthy eating plan can help you to sustain positive changes in the long term—lasting changes that make a difference to the inside of your body and not just what it looks like on the outside.
For example, rearranging your diet to include more protein may help you to feel fuller throughout the day and can help to support muscle mass maintenance and metabolism. Ultimately, a diet focused on healthy weight loss takes a closer look at the type of fuel you’re putting in your body.
Tips to Customize Your Meal Plan for Weight Loss
In general, the adage “eat less, move more” is true for older adults looking to lose weight. However, your own weight loss journey may be more nuanced than that, so here are some tips to help.
Work With an Expert
As mentioned above, adding a dietitian to your healthcare team can help you tailor your meal program to individual needs, goals, and preferences. They can also help you to meet your daily nutrient requirements while cutting the appropriate number of calories.
Identify & Overcome Barriers
Like any worthwhile effort, changing your diet doesn’t come without challenges or barriers to overcome. If you’re dealing with dental or digestive problems, you may be wondering how to achieve healthy eating while struggling to eat certain foods.
Fortunately, diet isn’t “one-size-fits-all,” and many diets can qualify as healthy! For example, a soft foods diet can be nutritionally adequate, tailored to weight loss, and address gastrointestinal issues.
Address Health Conditions
Fortunately, food can help you to address certain health conditions. For example, thoughtfully choosing blood sugar-friendly foods can help you to manage your diabetes and may even help you avoid related health conditions (like heart disease) in the process.
Eating to Lose Weight After 60
Don’t know where to start when losing weight after 60? Try these tips.
Balance Your Meals
Balance is key when it comes to creating meals. Aim to include foods from different food groups whenever possible. To promote a feeling of fullness, focus on foods with plenty of fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
Be sure to strike a balance with portion sizes, too. You may be surprised to find that while being mindful of how much you’re scooping out, you actually feel full when eating a smaller portion. Paying attention to hunger cues can help.
Hydration is crucial to healthy aging, with some studies showing that meeting hydration requirements may even extend lifespan. Drink choices also matter and can make a big difference in your weight loss journey. Stick to nutrient-rich, lower-calorie drinks (like 100% juice or low-fat milk) instead of sugar-sweetened beverages. Don’t forget that water is the “gold standard” for hydration!
Make Your Plate Colorful
It’s no secret that fruits, vegetables, and herbs are good for health. For older adults, a helpful tip is to make your plate more colorful. With a variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors, you can’t go wrong! Plus, herbs add a colorful garnish without the harmful effects that too much salt can cause.
Limit Ultra-Processed Foods
It may go without saying, but it’s worth repeating— limit your intake of ultra-processed foods. These foods tend to be higher in calories and lower in nutritional value. They also are typically higher in sugar, salt, and saturated fats than their whole food counterparts. Working with a dietitian can help you make sense of a nutrition label, and can help you decipher which packaged foods can be considered healthy.
Other Weight Loss Factors
Food is an important factor in weight loss, but isn’t the only factor. Making changes in other areas of life can also support weight loss.
Often coupled with diet, developing an exercise regimen can help you to burn more calories. Strength training, also called resistance training, is crucial to maintaining muscle mass. If you aren’t accustomed to strength activities, like lifting weights, start with small amounts of weight and work your way up. Exercises where you use your body weight as the weight lifted, like yoga, also count as strength training.
Stress, especially chronic stress, can send the body into a state of “fight or flight.” In other words, stress sends the body into survival mode, a state where the body is focused more on staying alive than on goals like weight loss.
Getting stress under control—particularly using healthy coping mechanisms—can allow the body to reset in a way that’s conducive to weight loss. As always, experts can help, with a licensed therapist being a valuable and supportive team member to help you get your mental health back on track.
Although it may seem like sleep and weight gain are unrelated, it turns out that bodies do a lot of important work at night. Digestion continues as you sleep, and a lack of sleep can disrupt this process.
A lack of sleep may also make you more likely to choose nutrient-poor foods, so you’ll want to aim for a full 7-9 hours each night.
Tracking Progress and Making Adjustments
Stepping on the scale can certainly confirm progress, but it isn’t the only way to track positive changes. For example, a food diary can help you keep track of improvements in symptoms as you change your diet over time. Similarly, an exercise log can help you recognize improvements in strength, flexibility, and weight loss.
Non-scale victories (NSVs)—such as fitting into your favorite pair of jeans again or feeling comfortable in your own skin—can also be a great way to measure progress.
If you’re having trouble recognizing how far you’ve come on your weight loss journey, work with an accountability partner who can congratulate you on milestones. And also call you out when you aren’t sticking with your positive changes!
The Last Word on Losing Weight After 60
Losing weight after 60 can be difficult but not impossible. Making thoughtful diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes is key to making metabolism shifts and creating a better energy balance.
Remember, you’re not alone! Qualified health and wellness experts can help support you along the way.
National Institute on Aging. A Good Night’s Sleep. Nia.nih.gov. November 2020.
National Institute on Aging. Maintaining a Healthy Weight. Nia.nih.gov. Published April 2022.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Understanding Adult Overweight & Obesity. Niddk.nih.gov. Accessed August 2023.