How to achieve long-term weight-loss success

This week we finish up WYZA’s Ultimate Weight Loss Guide – a three-point plan to help you lose weight if you need to, or maintain your weight and your health long into your later years. (If you missed part one on essential nutrition rules you can find it here, and our second post on interval training and weights is here.)

So, you’ve adapted your diet. You’ve started to implement the right kind of exercise. What’s left? Essential changes to your environment and your daily habits, which could mean the difference between success and a slimmer you, or a return to the couch potato life you’re trying to escape!

According to the latest scientific studies out there, here are the changes you can easily make today.

Rule 1. Declutter your kitchen.
Snack foods lying around can be a major culprit in weight gain, say researchers from Cornell University, tapping into the mindless eating habit many of us have. The study suggests rearranging cupboards, pantries and the fridge so the first foods you see are healthy ones, making tempting foods invisible and inconvenient to get to, and serving dinner straight from the pot on the stove or counter, rather than having food on the table. All of these strategies can help whittle your waistline.

Rule 2. Get more sleep.
Feeling tired all the time? It could be affecting your weight. A recent study in the scientific journal Sleep linked sleep deprivation with obesity – and experts believe a lack of sleep can affect hormones which control appetite. Which means the more tired you are, the more likely you are to reach for a doughnut (or two) – in fact, another study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that calorie intake following a bad night’s sleep could be as much as 20 per cent higher. Tips for better sleep include getting your shut-eye in a cool, dark room, keeping technology out of the bedroom, having a wind-down time before bed (without devices/screens), avoiding caffeine close to bedtime and avoiding sleeping in to ‘catch up’ on your sleep debt. You’re better off waking up at the same time every day.

Rule 3. Get your hormones checked.
Do you suffer unusual levels of fatigue, intolerance to cold, constipation and dry skin? Have trouble losing weight? It might be worth seeing if you have a hormone imbalance. Post 50, the slowdown of the thyroid and its knock-on effects (a decrease in metabolism) can hamper even the best weight loss efforts, say experts.

Rule 4. Get a health-care team on speed dial.
If you’re in pain with a sore knee or aching back, the last thing you want to do is work out – right? Well, before you undo all your good work, get yourself to a good osteopath, physio or some other type of physical therapist who can help rehabilitate you or treat new injuries so you can get back to the gym as soon as possible.

Rule 5. Treat your stress levels.
It’s scary but true: chronic stress does nothing for your spare tyre. Studies show when you’re stressed and overwhelmed, the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol, rises – leading to cravings for more sugary, fatty foods. And they’re going to pitch a tent right where you don’t want them – on your tummy. What can you do? Tackle the stress with mindfulness, meditation, yoga and other forms of relaxation. Make changes in your life where you can to lower stress levels on an ongoing basis.

Rule 6. Make sure you have the right levels of calcium and vitamin D.
As we saw in Part One of our series, now you’re over 50 you need to bump up those calcium levels. And, you also need to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D – possibly via a supplement. Research shows the two work in tandem and can contribute to a reduction in belly fat.

Rule 7. Test your body fat.
You can’t afford to lose muscle or bone mass when you’re over 50, so if you want to know you’re heading in the right direction (ie, losing fat only), book in for a DXA scan, buy a scale which measures weight and body fat (be aware these can vary in accuracy), or do it on the cheap: tracking body changes with a tape measure and how your clothes fit is probably one of the best indicators around.

Rule 8. Enlist a weight loss buddy.
Social support can make the difference between keeping weight off – or regaining what you’ve lost, say researchers. In one study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Study, participants who started a weight loss program with friends enjoyed greater weight loss and found it easier to maintain their weight going forward. Maybe this is partly because you know your friend is relying on you to show up, and you don’t want to let them down.

That’s the end of our three-part weight loss series. We hope you enjoyed it and that you’ll put some (or all!) of these strategies into practice! Let us know how you go; WYZA is always keen to hear readers’ success stories!

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