There is so much press about dieting and achieving the “perfect body”. Why should you want to lose weight if overweight, especially if you are in mid-life? In my opinion, for one reason: To better your health. If you focus on health goals instead of superficial ones, you are better off. Don’t believe all of those “before and after” photos either.

By the time you reach your 40s or 50s, weight may have already crept on. You may be trying to lose weight, and only are maintaining your weight, or even gaining a few pounds. While it is a bigger challenge to eat less as you get older, it doesn’t mean you cannot still maintain a healthy weight, but you may have to re-frame what that means.

If you are dreaming about your high school weight, you may need a reality check. For some, this may be possible, for others it may simply be unrealistic and unnecessary. When determining what your goal weight is, consider this:

•    Calculate your BMI. This is the best way to assess whether you really need to lose weight, or you just want to look better in your jeans. If your BMI is in the healthy range of 19-24, then you can be assured that your weight is not adversely affecting your health. If it is over 24, then you could reduce your risk for disease by losing a few pounds. However, BMI isn’t the only number to consider, and shooting for 24 may even be out of your reach. Set a goal to lower your BMI if it is over 25, then go from there.
•    Accept yourself. If you think that losing fifteen pounds will solve all of your body image problems, you are probably wrong. Work with a therapist or life coach so that you can come to peace with who you are and the body shape you were born with. Try not to let your appearance be your biggest motivator to eat well and exercise.
•    Consider inches, not just the scale. Take your waist, arm and thigh measurements now. Then compare every two weeks for three to four months after you have been exercising and eating better. You may not always see huge losses on the scale, but lost inches means lost fat and better health. Of course, you may simply have better fitting pants!

Weight loss requires changes in eating habits, food choices, portions, and activity levels. You’ll need to stay active and make some changes in your eating habits. While exercise is important, sometimes too much emphasis is put on it. Exercise benefits your heart health, but without eating less, you won’t lose weight. Aim to exercise, with your doctor’s okay, about 4-5 days a week for 30-60 minutes at moderate intensity.

Focus on what, when, and how much you are eating. Most women at this age are pretty busy. They may be juggling a family, career and aging parents. This often adds up to skipping meals, eating junk food, and being dehydrated! Keep these tips in mind each day:

  • Don’t skip meals. Sit down and take a lunch break. While breakfast may be quick, lunch shouldn’t have to be on the run. Often we think that we are saving time by eating at our desks or in our car, but your body and mind need some downtime and a twenty to thirty minute break will likely leave you more focused and energized.
  • Plan one or two light snacks a day. If you work out of the home, bring snacks with you each day. If you work at home, choose your snacks in the morning or the night before. You may even want to post a “Healthy Snack List” on your refrigerator to help you make good choices. Portions are important. Snack ideas: 4-6 ounce low fat Greek yogurt; low fat string cheese with 6 wheat crackers; high protein bar; a glass of skim or low fat milk; a piece of fresh fruit or a cup of melon or berries; raw carrots; hummus with 6-8 wheat crackers; 1/2 cup of high fiber cereal with milk
  • Consider keeping a food journal. Writing down what we eat helps keep you accountable for all the little tidbits that go into your mouth.

Be patient. Weight loss after forty is slower than it was before. You have to simply accept this. Make small changes, skip fad diets or quick weight loss plans, stick with them, and you will eventually see results.