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How can I lose weight safely if I am an older adult?

Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine
If your health would benefit from shedding some pounds, make it your goal to eat better while eating less. Avoid "fad" diets that eliminate entire food groups, as these can result in serious nutrient gaps. As we age, we need fewer total calories, but more nutrients, so focus on quality, not quantity. All your food choices, for every food group, need to be nutrient rich. This will help you avoid the rapid weight loss that can lead to a reduction in lean body mass -- exactly the opposite of what you need for good health as you age.

Most experts recommend a steady weight loss of one-half to 2 pounds per week, and gradual weight loss has been shown to be more sustainable in the long term. Often you don't have to lose much weight to get benefits: Shedding 5% to 15% of your body weight can vastly improve your health and quality of life. Even a 5- to 10-pound loss will lower your blood pressure and blood sugar, and it could make enough of a difference to allow your doctor to stop some medications you may have been taking to control those conditions.

As you lose weight, focus on how shedding excess pounds will benefit your health and well-being -- it's a good incentive to stick with your eating plan when you're tempted to fall back into old eating habits. Check with your doctor about what levels of physical activity you should aim for, too; successful weight loss usually is dependent on combining healthier eating patterns with exercise. Walking is an ideal exercise -- buy a pedometer and work towards meeting a goal of 10,000 steps per day. Your doctor can refer you to a registered dietitian, or you can try a local weight loss group for support -- the latter also is a good way to meet and socialize with others in your community.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.