Often scientific studies omit to bother with older people, using 65 as a cut-off. However, a new study has included among its cohort a million non-smoking UK women over 50. It has concluded that being overweight and indeed being obese, reduces life expectancy. The study showed that compared with individuals of healthy weight (BMI 18·5–24·9 kg/m²), life expectancy from age 40 years was 3·5 years shorter in obese (BMI ≥30·0 kg/m²) women1. It puts pay to the belief that after middle-age obesity doesn’t matter.
Fortunately, we know much more these days about how to lose weight safely. There is no reason for women of any age to give up. There have been hundreds of studies observing people for eight or twelve weeks on low calorie, low carb, low fat or high protein diets. All these diets work, after a fashion. What the studies don’t tell us is that about 80% of people who lose weight pile it all back on after a year or two. Those statistics can be even higher for older women.
Slimming is a metabolic roller coaster. A diet that will help us lose weight will also modify the metabolism, inducing us to become sluggish for far longer than the period of restriction. In addition, many of the more faddish diets do nothing to re-train us in better long term eating habits.
Where my diet is different is that it changes as you lose weight, transmuting from a very efficient diet (informed by all those weight loss studies) into a far gentler regimen that brings you gliding confidently towards your target weight, not hurtling. It is formulated to reduce the metabolic jolt at the end of a diet that can result in recidivism. I thought this system would take longer, but because you lose half the weight in a few weeks, the results are quickly seen and enjoyed.
I believe that the secret of diet success lies in the integration of the diet with healthy maintenance strategies.
One of the most influential studies of maintenance comes from the USA. The National Weight Control Registry has been tracking 10,000 individuals who have managed to maintain their weight loss for at least a year. They’ve even listed the four key habits of successful weight loss:
- 78% eat breakfast every day
- 75% weigh themselves at least once a week
- 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week
- 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day
But remember that correlation does not imply causation. Those 78% who eat breakfast might simply be people who lead more ordered lives, and so don’t find themselves succumbing to temptation as often. Those 90% who say they exercise every day may simply be exaggerating.
What we do know about weight loss is that it plays havoc with our hormones. When we reduce our food intake (and you can’t lose fat without doing that) everything in the body switches to preservation of energy. We slow down, our digestive system secretes huge quantities of hormones that send hunger signals to the brain. These can result in cravings or more subtle signals that result in an uncanny interest in cooking shows, restaurant reviews or cake shops. No-one can resist hormonal urges for ever. In the worst case these hormonal changes can induce us into very cranky beliefs that leave long term scars. This diet seeks to limit the dangers by introducing more food earlier in the diet, thus switching off the hormonal blizzard, well before the will-power wanes.
I believe that maintenance is about vigilance, support, activity and eating healthily. So, the second half of the diet will ease you into good eating habits. Every time we meet I shall be monitoring your body composition, making sure that you continue to lose fat, without compromising muscle mass or strength. The UK study mentioned above also revealed that women over 40 who are underweight (BMI <18·5kg/m2) have a 4·3 years shorter life expectancy. The study suggests that might be due to muscle loss.
As we age, BMI measurements decrease as a useful health indicator. That’s because many older people lose muscle mass at the expense of fat. Healthy muscles keep the metabolism going and are thought to confer protection on older people. I monitor fat, muscle and bone mass, ensuring you remain strong as you lose weight, losing fat, but retaining muscle.
Women naturally carry more fat and thus can become obese rather quickly. The danger period extends well beyond the end of the reducing stages of the diet. Some studies suggest the period can be as long as two, even five years. The maintenance club, Say Tomato! is my way of addressing the all-important long-term. Membership is economical and ensures I can remain at your side right the way through. It is based on:
Vigilance – You weight yourself and send me a short report once a week. Every three months we meet, I monitor your body composition and discuss any issues you may have. If you feel you need further consultations they are half-price – I’m confident you won’t need many.
Support – You benefit from my support, but also the support of peers. We get together once a month for non-fattening events and fun. Keeping the weight off is often about finding alternative social outlets and discovering that you can enjoy social activities without over-indulging.
Activity – I don’t recommend anything more energetic than walking when you’re in the first stages of the diet. You won’t feel like doing anything else and there’s no need. Once you lose weight you’ll naturally feel more active. I advocate activity that combines exercise like gardening, walking or dancing with social occasions. These are much more likely to become an established part of your life. It’s all too easy to cancel a gym subscription.
Sustainable Eating – The food that we all ought to eat in order to reduce climate change coincide with a healthy diet, designed for longevity. I’ll encourage you to jettison pre-packed, over-loaded foods in favour of fresh, local and seasonal produce. That doesn’t mean you’ll be condemned to spending ages in the kitchen. I’ll teach you how to eat well without spending inordinate time or money. I believe that way we can all learn to tread a little more lightly on the planet as well as tipping the scales a little more lightly as well.
If you’d like to lose weight with me then book a free pre-consultation, or send me a message. I’d love to help you.
- Further reading:
Bhaskaran, K et al. (2018) Association of BMI with overall and cause-specific mortality: a population-based cohort study of 3·6 million adults in the UK. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol Published Online October 30, 2018. [https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(18)30288-2/fulltext] retrieved 31 October 2018