Most women experience gradual weight gain leading up to and during menopause.
I was no different. Over the course of ten years I put on around 22 pounds.
I tried every ‘diet’ going, from the cabbage soup diet, the grapefruit diet, the blood sugar diet, keto, and intermittent fasting to name but a few. Most of them worked initially, but I ended up putting the weight back on, plus a bit more.
And to add more context, I love food. I’m of Polish descent and it’s in our DNA. Bread, rice, and pasta have always played a huge part in my life. So, in other words, losing weight – and keeping it off – has always been a big struggle. And what also didn’t help was my lifelong aversion to exercise.
But then a couple of years ago I decided enough was enough, and I set about losing it.
This is what I did, how I did it, in fine detail.
Losing weight at 60 is no different from losing weight at any age. Your daily calorie intake needs to be less than the calories you ‘burn’ through daily activity. Find your maintenance figure, deduct a small number and then track your daily calorie consumption using a digital scale for accuracy.
I’ll go into further detail below to explain how I did it, without ever feeling ‘denied’ or bored during the process.
My Favourite Weight Loss Sites, Apps and Tools
Before we start counting calories, we need to know the number of daily calories we should be aiming for.
The best site I’ve found to work this number out is TDEE
Simply type in your details into the fields as shown. I recommend typing in your current weight, not your target weight.
As for percentage body fat, there are a number of online BMI (body mass index) calculators such as this one to help you work out yours and to see if it’s within a healthy range. Knowing this information is useful when determining what would be a good target weight to aim for.
For this exercise I typed in my height (164 cms), my current weight (55 kgs), activity level (3-5 workouts per week) and my body fat/ BMI reading (20.4)
Once you’ve entered your details you’ll be presented with some numbers you can work with, it’ll look something like this:
You’ll see that my maintenance calories are 2,047 per day, which is there or thereabouts the number of calories I need to aim for as long as I maintain the same activity level. Any less exercise and I’d need to reduce it, any more and I’d need to increase it.
How Many calories do I need to eat to Lose Weight?
Scroll down the same results page to this information:
‘Cutting’ is a fitness industry term for losing body fat.
You’ll see they’re recommending cutting daily calories by 500, which to me actually seems quite a lot.
My recommendation here would be to add back on any calories you’ve burned through exercise – if you wear a fitness tracker it may give you the number, or else cardio machines will often give a figure at the end of a workout.
I don’t personally like cutting back too much in terms of calories; remember that food is fuel and if you start depriving the body then it will signal its displeasure by making you feel tired, lethargic and/or a bit on the moody side! In my experience being the wrong side of 50 makes this more of an issue.
Weight lost gradually has been better for me as it provided the time to build healthier long term habits, and this has been crucial in maintaining a long-term healthier lifestyle. I was keen to say goodbye to ‘yo-yo’ dieting for good!
Don’t ask me how, but the better I’ve felt the more likely I am now to go for healthier options when dining out, grabbing a snack at home, or doing the weekly food-shop. Of course, I still fancy a bit of chocolate now and again, but not as often as I once did.
how to Measure Calories Accurately
One huge mistake that prevented me from losing weight for many years was guessing how many calories I’d eaten.
I’d look at a pile of rice on my plate and think “yeah, that’s probably about 200 calories”.
Once I started accurately measuring what I was eating, and logging it on the My Fitness Pal app, I realised the error of my ways. That pile of rice was coming in at over 400 calories.
My Fitness Pal has a paid version but I only use the free one, it gives me all the information I need at the time of writing this.
You can take a look at the fitness section of my Amazon Shop to see the scale I use. Anything with similar features will be fine, particularly tempered glass which allows you to put hot pans directly onto the scale to add further ingredients whilst cooking.
Now… logging every calorie will feel like a big effort to start with. A huge effort.
But as is the case with many things, once you’ve got your head around My Fitness Pal – they have millions of branded foods already in the system to make life easier – it gets much easier and, more importantly, it will help you lose weight.
Trust me. Getting meticulous about counting those little critters is key to shedding those kilos.
Carbohydrate, protein and fat – the big 3
I’m old enough to remember when fat was deemed the greatest evil known to mankind when trying to stay in shape.
Thanks to science, we now know that’s tosh. Fat, it turns out, is actually super-important for women over 50, and there are excellent reasons for making sure we eat it.
But now some will tell you carbs are the enemy. For me there’s only one type of carbohydrate I do my best to keep to a minimum and that’s refined sugar. If I want to sweeten up my day I’ll opt for maple syrup or honey as healthier alternatives.
Speaking as someone who’s tried most diets I’ve found that cutting out – or drastically cutting down – on any of the big 3 doesn’t end well for me. I can so easily feel rubbish if I don’t eat a balanced diet, regardless of whether I’m trying to lost weight or not.
A non-negotiable for me is being able to exercise well and effectively without feeling like I need to take a nap when I get home from the gym. And if I start getting silly or negligent with what and when I’m eating it’ll very quickly have a negative impact. I’m not sure if this is a consequence of getting older, but there it is.
I’m at that age when I’m naturally suspicious of anyone plugging a gimmicky, ‘get thin quick’ diet or exercise regime. If you dig deep you’ll find someone trying to make money out of people’s weight-related misery.
getting the balance right
My Fitness Pal will allow you to set your daily and macro (carbohydrate, protein and fat) goals alongside your daily calorie target. It’s a feature that’s currently free to use and is worth its weight in gold when it comes to eating healthily as you lose weight.
I personally like to set percentage goals of 35% each for carbs and fats, and 30% for proteins, so mine typically will look something like this:
Heads up, if you haven’t followed macro goals before then you might be shocked at how much protein you’re expected to eat. Once I started measuring what I was actually eating I realised my daily intake was probably around 40-50 grams a day, which was shockingly low. When I increased my intake my energy levels improved very quickly.
During menopause and the ageing process, muscle begins to degenerate and a lack of physical strength increases our risk of falls, fractures, and physical disability in later life. Proteins are made up of chemical ‘building blocks’ called amino acids which help to build and repair muscles and bones, so making sure we’re eating enough is critical.
Staying Strong in Later Life
The importance of staying physically strong isn’t just a vanity exercise.
It was recently drummed home to me how vital good physical strength is to us when my 84 year old mum had a fall in her care home and broke her hip. She was on an orthopaedic ward at her local hospital for 8 days while she recovered from hip surgery to repair the break.
It was shocking how many old ladies were in there, having had the same accident and subsequent surgery. There were at least 20 patients at any one time on the ward and I only saw 2 men during the daily visits I made. The nurse’s words when I commented on how many ladies there were stunned me…
“It’s like a production line, as soon as one hip is repaired another one is waiting to be fixed.”
Don’t become a frail old lady
Why is nobody talking about the huge problem this is? Old ladies in their thousands are having falls every year, needing surgery, and while some will make a reasonable recovery, many won’t. My own mum is still struggling to even stand unsupported three months on, and that’s despite the fact she’s been very good with all the physio she’s been told to do.
All I really want to say is..
Eat your blessed protein! Help protect your muscle mass as best you can. Exercise will help do this too, and so I’ll be extensively covering that in later posts.
Our best sources of protein are lean meats, chicken, fish, and egg whites. For vegan options, I opt for tofu, nuts, seeds, and beans. Protein bars and shakes are a good top-up to boost your numbers but it’s better to not rely solely on them.
Getting clear about your ‘Why’
a question of willpower
Let’s be honest, willpower is often the eventual stumbling block when we try to introduce any new healthier habit.
We start off with the best of intentions, but we are, by nature, lazy beings. And let’s face it, wine and chocolate are more appealing than kombucha and a bowl of blueberries.
Why do you want to lose weight? Is it for a special event, a holiday maybe? Or is your long term health your main concern?
You probably know where I’m going with this.
If a one-off event is your focus, what will happen afterwards?
My real wish is that you permanently embrace all the amazing benefits you’ll gain from losing weight, and getting fitter, together with the incredible energy and mood boosts that result. Not just for that annual holiday, or family wedding, but for life.
How would the rest of your life look if you kept the weight off, if you got fitter, and if every morning you didn’t ache and creak getting out of bed?
This was an absolute revelation for me. I started off wanting to lose excess weight, but what I actually gained was a quality of life that I’d have never thought possible. For the first time in years I feel empowered, physically strong, and in control, both physically and mentally.
The price I paid at the beginning in terms of commitment and willpower not only returned dividends but actually gave me more than I could possibly imagine.
Taking tiny steps
Achieving real lasting change starts with the smallest of steps. And then taking another one. And then another.
My advice is only concern yourself with the day that lies ahead of you, what you’ll eat, what activity you’ve got planned and how you’ll rest your body and mind.
One day is just twenty-four hours. One day isn’t a big deal, but repeat the process, and back-to-back they will all add up to a very big deal.
No room for guilt
If you have a little slip and eat something you didn’t intend to then see it as a blip, rather than a catastrophic failure.
Losing weight at 60 is straightforward in principle, but in practice there are all sorts of challenges that we should expect and deal with accordingly. And one feeling that we shouldn’t put ourselves through is guilt.
Know the slips when they occur, mark them down as isolated incidents and move on, towards making better choices next time.
Guilt is reserved for people who do nothing positive to help themselves – it’s not for those who are working towards making lasting improvements.
If any of this has resonated then please come back to this blog as I’m going to expand on many associated topics.
Living through my 50s and arriving at my 60s has been eye-opening to say the least.
The last ten years have truly been the most challenging yet rewarding of my life so far, and I’d love to share what I’ve learned with you.