Can You Lose Weight Once You Hit 50?
Yes, 50 Year Olds Can Lose Weight Too!
I have always been a thin person. Dieting was never something that occupied my thoughts. Having 2 kids and a sedentary desk job, 5 extra pounds became 10, then 15, then 20. Who can turn down office doughnuts in the morning? Suddenly, I found myself avoiding clothes that cling and justifying the fact that I'd drifted into the next size up. It's natural to buy a larger size in skinny jeans, right?
This year I was facing a new milestone - turning 50. Let's face it, we start falling apart when we turn 40. So, what was I going to face when I turned 50? It's a serious question to ask yourself - how do you want to live out the rest of your years? Would this finally be the year to acknowledge how tight my jeans had become, or would I just accept it and size up? Doing nothing is also a choice.
On Christmas Day, I decided to make a pledge to myself. I would lose 20 lbs by my birthday in 4 months. But how? I'm tall, as a cancer survivor I have no thyroid, I am turning 50. Can 50 year olds lose weight? Well...I was going to soon find out.
Intermittent Fasting Actually Works
Once I had committed to losing 20 pounds, I needed to figure out how that was going to happen. A few friends of mine had found success with intermittent fasting, or IF. It's an increasingly popular way of eating where you concentrate your meals within a specific window of time called your eating window. Outside of that eating window you can only drink water or unflavored tea or coffee so that something called "autophagy" can start happening within your body.
A friend recommended finding an app and a Facebook group to help me learn about the process. Some popular apps include:
- Simple: Fasting and Meal Tracker: includes a fasting timer, a weight tracker, a water and meal tracker and more.
- BodyFast Intermittent Fasting: includes a weight tracker, fasting timers, and a coach that suggests fasting schedules to help you avoid a weight loss plateau.
- My Fitness Pal: includes a calorie counter, water tracker, fitness tracker, and so much more.
How do you get started? You just pick a fasting window. For beginners, an 16:8 schedule is good. It means just what it says - you can eat within a 8 hour window, and then you don't eat for 16 hours. It's not much different than just skipping breakfast. I would make sure I finished eating dinner by 7 pm and then I would wait until 11:00 am to enjoy a late morning snack. Then you just eat as you normally would. It's that easy!
After a few weeks of that, I decided to step it up. I had lost a pound a week, but I'm an impatient girl. To stick with it, I needed more! After a little research, I learned that I needed to drop my daily caloric intake by 500 calories to lose weight. But first you have to figure out how many calories you need given your height, weight and age. The Mayo Clinic has a handy calculator for this purpose. I learned that I needed to cut back to 1300-1400 calories a day. Sounded daunting.
Using My Fitness Pal to track my meals, I learned that breakfast cereal and french fries were BAD. Just by making a few substitutions -- having side salad instead of fries, for example, or drinking a protein shake (I found these amazing Chike mocha protein shakes) instead of my iced mocha each morning -- I could lower my caloric intake to stay on track without really suffering.
Once I got used to my new way of eating, I was losing up to 2 lbs a week. It was slow-going, but a pound lost is a pound lost. Before long, I had lost 7 pounds!
The One Meal a Day Challenge
One meal a day, or OMAD as the cool kids call it, is a more aggressive fasting program. You basically eat all your calories for the day in that one meal. I guess technically, I made mine a 20:4 schedule (eat within a 4 hour window) because it's pretty hard to eat 1,300 calories in one meal and be healthy about it.
On my first day, I was HANGRY. I had a headache, I was tired, and we had a tornado warning that night. I was in no mood for sheltering in place. Day one was no picnic. Just when my willpower was waivering, someone in the BodyFast Facebook group said "keep going" and drink water (drinking water is the secret weapon). That little bit of encouragement from a total stranger was all I needed to hear. Day 2 was a little better. The headache went away, and the hunger was a little less. By day 3, I was no longer hungry. It was a piece of cake from there on out. And by Friday, I had lost 4 pounds. In one week! FOUR POUNDS.
I took the weekend off to reward myself, and embarked on another OMAD week the following Monday with my new mini group of OMAD warriors. Just like that - I lost another 4 pounds. Losing weight was my new hobby! This was too good to be true! And then the quarantine happened. Nothing throws you off your game like a good pandemic.
For 3 months, I worked from home. After turning off my computer for the day, my new life consisted of cooking, tutoring kids, washing dishes and doing laundry. The kitchen was staring me in the face. Intermittent fasting was hard. How do you cook but not eat? So...like many others, I took a break.
I hit a weight loss plateau for three months as I lost and gained the same 2 pounds every week. My 50th birthday came and went. I missed my goal of losing 20 lbs by my birthday; however, something interesting and unexpected happened. I lost inches. My clothes fit. In fact, they were hanging on me. My hip stopped hurting. I could go for long walks, I could ride bikes, I could confidently swim without hiding from the neighbors.
By June, I got back on the wagon with renewed energy and hit my -20 goal. Proving to myself and others, you truly can lose weight after age 50 -- even without a thyroid. Once you mentally commit to the program, and lean on others for a little encouragement, you too can lose weight after 50!