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Terrible Week for the United States

One Elder's Weight Loss Plan

2013 TGB Survey Banner

UPDATE: As of 1:15PM Pacific Time, the survey appears to be operable again. If you have not participated yet, give it a whirl. I am extending the deadline to Friday 19 April at midnight Pacific Time.

ALERT: The service that provides the software for the survey is down today and they do not expect to repair the service until late today. This was to be the last day of the survey, but after access is restored, I will extend it for another one or two days. Sorry for the inconvenience.


Although I have some doubts about how the war on obesity is being waged, there is no doubt it is a serious problem – moreso here in the U.S. than in some other countries. Take a look at this chart from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD):

Oecdcountryobesitychart

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2011 an average of one-third (35.7%) of U.S. adults were obese.

Fat is no joke. Obesity contributes to greater risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems and some cancers leading to early death.

Did you notice anything about that list? Right. All those diseases and conditions are also associated with old age.

A top fear among us old folks (and definitely for me) is becoming incapacitated, and the number one contributor to health problems after smoking is obesity, which is medically defined as 30 and higher on the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale.

Six weeks ago, my BMI measured just six-tenths of a point below 30. That's certainly a wakeup call. Today it is 2.1 points below the high end of overweight (25 – 29.9). That's because since 4 March I've lost eight pounds.

Online BMI calculators are, by definition, not perfect and further, the CDC notes that in particular they may underestimate body fat in old people and others who have lost muscle. But they do give a useful indication and, if needed, a warning. Here is the CDC's BMI calculator for you to try:

After I retired, I got quite fat and then, finally, lost a lot of weight in 2011. Last year, it had been creeping back and I posted about my new diet then.

That worked for awhile but I got lazy and although some weight returned, at least I can say have never been as fat as I was pre-2011 when I hit 178 pounds. (I'm am only 5' 2” tall.)

I've been gaining and losing weight all my life. In my young adult years, I tried every crazy fad diet there is. None work, most are unhealthy, a few are dangerous and when I started throwing up halfway through one, I got smart about weight control.

Only one thing works to lose weight – eat less than your body expends in energy. That's it. Nothing else will do it no matter what pills and potions and puppy dog tails snake oil salesmen try to foist on you at exorbitant prices.

I've written about how I diet in the past (which may be not for everyone – be sure to consult your physician before beginning any diet) and I won't go through that today. It works for me.

But I recently realized I have been missing another crucial weight control element (again, for me) - a scale.

The actual number on it is not as important each day as the trajectory is. Pounds can fluctuate up or down by one or two over a couple of days without meaning anything. But if it continues in one direction for longer, then it's for real – for good or ill.

I lived by the the morning weigh-in for about 40 years and when I retired I said, “Enough. I will never again allow a little metal box on the bathroom floor determine whether I start the day happy or depressed.”

Now I know I was wrong. If I had continued with the scale, I doubt I would ever have ballooned to 178. So now I have a scale again and I check my weight every day. It's what has kept me eating well and gotten me from 160 pounds six weeks ago to 152 today.

Additionally, I have a 30-minute, home workout routine that involves some serious stretching, cardio and weights that I have been doing five mornings a week for nearly a year. I can't say my upper arms match Michelle Obama's but they're lookin' good these days. For an old broad.

Exercise in general contributes little or nothing to weight loss. But it is vital for a healthy body and mind. Nearly every week, results of yet another study are published that confirm this.

I am never going to like eating as spartanly as I do. Nor am I ever going to like exercise for exercise's sake. Of course, there are no guarantees; plenty of people who do all the right health things have terrible problems befall them. But at age 72 and healthy now, I don't see that I have a choice.

I'm way too old now to be anything but a grownup about my health. If not now, when. I'll let you know how it goes.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Bicycles and Glass Bottles


Comments

I am sorry to report that I am significantly overweight. I have lost and gained weight a number of times over my adult life. Each time, as I got older, the weight loss was more difficult.

The conclusion I have come to at this point in my life is that the amount of effort required to keep the weight off is more than it is worth. Yes, you heard me right. Being hungry when I wake up, when I go to bed, and every minute during the day simply makes life too unpleasant.

I know there are many people (most people, probably) who disbelieve the difficulty I experience losing weight and keeping it off, but I know it is true.

Lonnie...
I know well how awful it is to always be hungry. I spent a whole lot of my twenties and thirties living that way.

Nowadays, I make sure I'm always full and accomplish that by eating piles and piles of vegetables and fruit either raw in salads. Or steamed with healthy, home-made dressings or sauteed in olive oil or roasted with olive or canola oil or in winter, a vegetable stew with hefty chunks of portobello mushrooms substituting for beef.

I respect anyone's choice to ignore the weight issue. God knows I've done that from time to time. But if you change your mind there are ways to feel full without a high calorie count.

I have spent my life - since my teen years - fighting extra pounds. I consider it a victory if/when I do not gain weight. I also exercise regularly. But I love food, cooking, and eating out. It is a constant, life long battle!
Congrats on your progress and keep up the great work. I know how hard it is.

I can't get in to the survey right now so will try again later.

Yes, morbidly obese here...both of us. Weight watchers is great, but I confess that it's no fun. Bravo to you. And for encouraging all of us.

I am currently on a long road trip, which makes it much more difficult for me to eat healthy foods. Of course, I know they're on all the menus, but how can I resist some of the foods they offer?

I keep on telling myself that since my clothes still fit, I can't have gained too much weight, and I'll get on the scale again when I get home.

Congrats on the weight loss!

Congrats, Ronni, on taking care of your health. Having lost about 25 pounds last year and felt really good, it gradually crept back up on me and when I reached the point when all my pants and tops started feeling too tight, I realized that I either had to go out and replace all the larger clothes I THREW AWAY or lose the weight again! I chose the same meal-replacement program I used last year, which is expensive but oh-so-simple and effective. I am truly NOT hungry but sometimes miss my ice cream and nachos! A trick I need to learn this time is how to transition back into a reasonable diet without messing up my slowed metabolism and gaining it all back. But this time I have a good coach to help me through that part.

Actually, I placed the clothes in a consignment store! Forgot about that part.

Also mentioned that I started doing "Yoga for Special Bodies" again at my local community college and the stretching, breathing and good company in the class relieve so much stress that I am kicking myself for ever stopping the class.

I added enough pounds after I retired to put me into the obese category. I have lost it and 2 points into in the overweight range.

I changed my diet when I was declared diabetic and over the last three years have kept it off. I started out slowly, the first thing I eliminated was bakery goods while adding more apples to my diet. then I traded traditional bread for whole wheat pita and tortillas. The hardest thing for me was giving up pasta and bread. Now I buy mostly veggies, fruit and a little fish or chicken. The first 20 pound loss my knees and my feet quit hurting. I just feel better and I am close to being able to drop my diabetic meds. Big numbers of pounds were intimidating so I tried to do it in 10# increments.

You're right about the scales Ronni. I have a scale in my bedroom and I weigh in each morning. Without it I would never notice when I start to put on a little more.

It's not an excuse, but an explanation perhaps:

More temptations (ads and signage) and more availability and a greater sense that "I deserve a treat" have all significantly invaded the American diet since the end of WWII. Look at pictures of your relatives in the 1930s, 1950s, 1970s, 1990s, and today. Availability and entitlement can be tracked.

I also think the government has changed its definition of obese, so a greater percentage of the population are now counted among the obese.

I agree about weighing oneself every day. Two months before my retirement I was 187 pounds (at 5'10"), and I was determined not to be a fat person for the rest of my life. I did Weight Watchers Online, and it was great for me. I very slowly but relatively painlessly lost 50 pounds. That was 6 years ago, and I've kept off all but 3 of them. The daily scale reading is my monitor.

I'd have to disagree on one point: exercise is critical to weight loss. It burns calories, it changes metabolism for the better, and for a period of time afterwards, suppresses appetite. It releases endorphins which improve your mood, and for many people that means eating less from boredom or depression. Quite simply, you'll lose weight faster if you also increase your activity level.

As a variety of studies over many years show: "Exercise can help with depression, lower the risk for heart disease and cancer, and reduce the risk and complications of diabetes. It can even grow new brain cells. What it can't do is cause you to lose weight."

Please see these links:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jonny-bowden/exercise-benefits_b_1777630.html

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/dieting-vs-exercise-for-weight-loss/

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1914974,00.html

I'm doing another round of serious weight loss. After some years of stable and acceptable size, I took an intense job last year and the pounds returned. I find I can lose (20 pounds since February) and keep weight off when I can maintain focus. If I'm doing something else that I truly value, I pretty consciously let the weight control go.

Weight Watchers Online works for me, though my experience is that "exercise points" can't offset overeating. But as far as exercise goes, I'm lucky -- I love it.

Much to my delighted surprise I was in the normal range when I calculated my BMI. The only problem with that is that my weight is all around my middle. I am a pear. I have lost 10 pounds in 8 months (some of them twice because I didn't pay attention during the holidays and gained 4 pounds). I do not exercise and I have lost the weight by eating a good breakfast of 3 or 4 kinds of fruit on cereal, an apple and cheese for lunch and a low calorie, but well balanced meal for dinner. If I get hungry in the afternoon I eat a hard boiled egg, fresh veggies or more fruit. It has been slow, but I do feel better and hope to lose 7 pounds more.

I weigh each morning at the same time.

"Take a look at this chart...."

I did and I didn't get it, especially when you said immediately afterwards that one third of U.S. adults were obese, which didn't match up with anything on the chart. Please don't reprint charts without telling us what BOTH axes represent. Thanks.

Good grief, JoanM, take a breath and watch your tone. I made a mistake by omitting the explanation. Have you ever done that? It doesn't sound like you think so.

The chart shows the average rates of obesity in different countries arranged from highest to lowest.

I don't get the chart either. It appears to be saying that the obesity rate in USA is over 60 but your explanation says 35.7. Also Canada doesn't show on the chart and I am quite sure we here have a lower rate than the USA but not off-the-chart lower, and we are an OECD country. Maybe the chart is showing rate of overweightness not obesity? And it is only showing a small selection of OECD countries? Wondering why Canada was left off?

Quick cooking oatmeal for breakfast, with a teaspoon of flax, a teaspoon of almond butter, a handful of raisins, blueberries or strawberries. Delicious.

Green tea.

I carry a stainless steel water bottle all day. Tap water.

Lunch pick and choose:

Sardines, sockeye salmon, tuna, raw snow peas, homemade lentil soup, raw green, red or yellow peppers. Kiwi fruit, oranges, pears, cut up apples, bananas. Baked sweet potato no butter. Leftover chicken.

Zero percent fat Greek Yogurt, apple sauce. Whole wheat flax bread with quinoa. Hommos. Keep lots of cut up raw veggies in the fridge.

I make my own lunch every day and bring it with me. That way I'm not tempted to pull over for fast food. Bought an excellent thermos for my soup.

Pack a spoon.

Park by the water, tune satellite radio to the 60's, pull out my home made lunch and enjoy a quiet moment.

Dinner:

Normal dinner, small portions. Meat, chicken, fish, whatever my husband cooks. Now and then I cook.

Check salt content always.

Stuff I rarely eat:

Donuts
Macaroons
Pizza
Pastries
Cake
Poutine
Gravy
Pie
Sugary soft drinks
Sugary fruit drinks
Candy
Chocolate bars

Working out?

We are in a cycling club that does 40-50 k's one day a week.

I play badminton twice a week for free at the local gym, walk for hours with my dh and sister, garden like crazy all summer, have landscaped our property with bricks, collected stones.

Hasse and I have done an every-Friday-morning weigh-in for about 20 years now. It's nothing we stress over but, like you say, it's not a bad idea to be FULLY aware of the trajectory.

"Good grief, JoanM, take a breath and watch your tone."

I still don't get it. But hey, I even said please and thank you.

I didn't mean to give offense, and I'm sorry you didn't like my tone. And I took more than a few breaths before bothering to ask for clarification. You've given me the impression from reading and mostly lurking that you care about being clear and precise in what you say. So do I.

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