The three-part WYZA weight-loss plan

Make 2017 the year you actually follow through on those resolutions. Try our three-part weight-loss series to lose the weight for good.

Part 1 – Nutrition rules for weight loss when you’re 50+

Welcome to WYZA’s Weight Loss Plan – 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. We’ll be busting myths and giving you the low-down on nutrition, the type of training you should be doing and why and all those little tweaks you can make to your habits and environment to help you see results.

It's been reported that weight loss is 80 per cent down to what we eat and 20 per cent to do with exercise, so it makes sense that changes to your diet should come first.

“That statistic is more of an urban myth, but the takeaway is that both diet and exercise are key,” says dietitian Zoe Wilson. “This is especially true as we age and if our activity reduces, what you eat becomes even more important as you can’t expend as much energy throughout the day. Plus, you can face hormone changes and reduced sleep, which can lead to increased hunger and fat storage. So it’s true there are a few things working against you, but it’s nothing you can’t overcome with exercise and eating well.”

Rule 1. Adapt your diet to your activity levels
Is it true you need less food as you get older? In some cases, yes – especially if you’re not running around with the boundless energy you had in your youth!

“While, 51 to 70-year-old men need almost the identical amount of food that younger men need, once you hit 71 years old as a man you also need to swap some grain serves for dairy,” says Wilson.

“If you’re a 51 to 70-year-old woman, you will need less grains each day - and instead should swap grains for extra dairy products to protect bones (you need four serves per day). If you’re over 71, you need to cut back even more on grains and you also have less room for ‘discretionary’ foods (processed foods).” We think she means cake. Dammit!

Rule 2. Drink water before every meal
It may sound like a no-brainer, but filling up on H20 to decrease your appetite is actually supported by science, with a new study published in the journal Obesity. In the study, 84 obese volunteers either drank two cups of water before meals or imagined feeling full before meals. The water group lost 4kg or more on average compared to the control group who didn’t even drop a full kilo. It’s all in the timing – pre-load before meals, and you may consume fewer calories, say researchers.

Rule 2. Don’t ignore protein
Protein is a power food when you’re trying to lose weight – not least because it fills you up for longer. “Once you hit 71 years old, you need a little more protein (about an extra 25-30 per cent), but most of the time we eat much more protein than we need,” says Wilson. “It’s actually easy to eat enough protein if you’re including a little meat, dairy, eggs, fish, nuts or beans/lentils at each meal or snack.”

Rule 3. Choose full-fat dairy
Although the Australian Dietary Guidelines still recommend reduced-fat dairy (especially for non-active people), there’s now plenty of evidence to suggest that full-fat dairy doesn’t necessarily lead to weight gain, says Wilson. “And it may actually help you maintain a lower weight, perhaps as it can satisfy you for longer.” Also, don’t forget that after age 50, your calcium requirements go up to 1300mg per day for women, which can be difficult to get to with diet alone, so if you’re not meeting it, consider a calcium supplement.

Rule 4. Beware of ‘easy to prepare’ foods
Some experts believe as we age we can typically grativate towards certain food groups, such as carbs, which might be easier to eat and prepare, but not so good for weight loss or weight control. That can be true, says Wilson, especially if we’re left without a partner and kids and are having to cook for one again.

“Lots of these foods tend to be things such as toast, eggs, soup, pasta or frozen meals etc. These types of foods won’t necessarily lead to weight gain, but from a nutrition point of view, sometimes if you’re eating mainly grains, you’re missing out on other nutrients such as protein from meat and fibre from vegies that keep you full. You might also be missing out on some vitamins and minerals which could lead to other health problems in the long term.”

Rule 5. Avoid the middle aisles at the supermarket
It’s best to shop the perimeter of the supermarket and go for foods from the five foods groups, says Wilson. “The less processed the better. So stock up on fruit and vegies or salad, lean meat, dairy foods like milk, yoghurt and cheese, wholegrains like grainy bread, brown rice or high-fibre cereal. Try to avoid high fat and high sugar processed foods such as biscuits, cakes, pastries or chocolate as well as alcohol - these will contribute excess calories to your day without providing you with any additional nutrients.”

Rule 6. Ask yourself if you really need that snack
Could your spare tyre be due to food habits you can break? Absolutely, says Wilson. “I think most important is to focus on eating when you are hungry and not eating for other reasons like boredom, procrastination, mood, tiredness or habit. This is hands down the biggest reason I think that people struggle with their weight. If they actually slow down and stop to ask themselves if they’re hungry, and if they are what they really feel like – well, this will really help with awareness and cutting down the extra bits and pieces you might not realise are going in. For example, you might always have a couple of biscuits with your tea, even if you don’t really feel like it. That’s a habit you can break.”

Rule 7. Big breakfast, small dinner
Although some experts say it doesn’t matter when you consume your calories, there’s increasing evidence to suggest that eating more calories at the start of the day aids weight loss – and that increasing the ‘fasting’ period between meals may be beneficial for weight loss and metabolic health. Hence, the reason for a smaller dinner. The study by Australian researchers was published in the journal Biochimie.

Click here to read Part 2 - How interval training and weights can help you shed weight fast (and how to do it)!

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