No matter what your age, you have to cut calories in order to lose weight. However, as a woman over 50, you may find that you need to scale back on your caloric intake even more than you did in your 30s and 40s. This is because as you age, your metabolism slows down, and you also begin to lose muscle mass. Fight off the middle-age spread by eating a low-calorie diet and choosing nutritious foods.
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Body Changes, Metabolism and Calories
As you get older, the amount of fat in your body may increase by up to 30 percent, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. When this occurs, you also lose lean muscle mass, which in turn slows down the rate at which you burn calories). This makes maintaining your weight more difficult and makes losing weight more difficult still. To compensate for your slower metabolism, you will need to eat about 200 calories a day fewer than you did when you were younger. However, don't eat fewer than 1,100 calories a day, as this can pose risks to your health and deprive you of essential nutrients.
You can get a rough idea of your daily caloric needs with a simple mathematical formula: multiply your goal weight by 12 to 15 calories. A person’s caloric needs will depend on her age, gender and activity level. In general, a woman who is older and not as active will need fewer calories than a man who is younger and more active. For example, if you are a 55-year-old woman who is mildly active and wants to weigh 140 pounds, you would multiply this goal weight by 12 for a daily caloric need of 1680 calories.
Healthy Food Choices
When you are cutting calories, do not skimp on nutrition. Following a balanced diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals is essential for your health, especially as you age. Rather than skipping meals or cutting out carbohydrates or dairy, eat four or five smaller meals throughout the day, and choose whole-grain carbs and low-fat dairy products. Load up your plate with fruits and vegetables, which are full of nutrients and fiber, and choose plant-based proteins like beans and soy products. Limit items with empty calories like cakes, chips and other processed foods, since these have little to no nutritional value and are often high in calories.
Importance of Exercise
Cutting calories is only part of a successful weight-loss plan -- especially as you enter your 50s, you need to get regular exercise. Not only does working out burn calories, thereby allowing you to eat a little more, it also builds lean muscle mass. This can rev up your metabolism, as well as keep postmenopausal fat at bay. Ask your doctor if you are healthy enough to incorporate exercise into your weight-loss plan, and then aim to get about 30 minutes of exercise every day.