If it seems like it’s gotten harder to lose weight since you hit age 50, you’re not imagining things. “As you age, your metabolism starts to slow down, and a lot of your metabolism functions and organs and absorption—everything just gets a little less efficient,” says Katherine L Tucker, Ph.D., professor of nutritional epidemiology and director of the Center for Population Health at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. You now need fewer calories than ever just to maintain your body mass, let alone reduce it.
You can still lose weight after age 50 (and beyond)—but you will have to put in a more deliberate effort than you used to. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to shed the extra pounds.
Eat more fruits and vegetables
To lose weight, you obviously need to take in fewer calories than you expend. But instead of focusing on what to eat less of, let’s talk about what to eat more of. First up, fruits and vegetables. In a study from Harvard, people who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables lost weight, especially if they ate more berries, apples, pears, soy, or cauliflower. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories but rich in important vitamins and minerals you need more of as you age, including fiber, which can keep you full between meals, says Tucker.
Befriend your bathroom scale
Weigh yourself each morning so you notice right away if the number is trending up instead of down. “If you gain weight, and if you focus on it early and it’s only a few pounds, you can lose it quickly, but if you let it stay, basically it reprograms your body at a higher weight and it makes it hard to lose because you get hungry,” Tucker says. Learn more about the benefits of weighing yourself daily.
Focus on your food
Between your kids’ karate lessons, appointments with your accountant, and all the other obligations facing the modern middle-aged man, you might not be giving your meals the respect they deserve. “People on the go tend to overeat,” says Bettina Mittendorfer, Ph.D., a research associate professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, but eating slowly and mindfully can help your weight-loss efforts.
Mix up your workouts
If you’ve been leaning on one type of exercise up to this point, now is the time to mix it up. In a recent study from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Iowa State University, older people who did a combination of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and 30 minutes of resistance exercise three days per week reduced their body fat percentage and gained muscle. (They also showed improvements in blood pressure and cardiorespiratory fitness, important boosts to an aging heart.)
Pick up a new sport
Playing pickup games with your buddies isn’t just fun: It’s like a powerhouse interval workout and therapy session all in one. “Sports such as soccer, basketball, and ultimate Frisbee would be ideal since [they] would burn lots of calories and the high intensity requirements lead to an increase in the amount of fat burned over the next 24 to 48 hours,” Anton says.
Try intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting might sound intense, but it just means that you eat methodically during a certain period of the day instead of eating whenever you want. By restricting your food intake to certain hours of the day, you can encourage your body to shift from using glucose for energy to using ketones, which are derived from fat, Anton says.
Start a yoga practice
Yoga can help you enhance and maintain mobility with aging, and its calming effect can be beneficial when you’re trying to lose weight, Anton says. You probably won’t meet your weight loss goals with yoga alone, but it can be a helpful habit in tandem with others. Researchers in China found that older people who practiced yoga for a year shed about a centimeter off their waist circumference—a key marker of belly fat.
Check what you’re taking
“Many men over 50 are on some type of medication,” says Dr. Lofton. “It’s good to review the weight gain potential of medicines you are taking with your health care provider,” she says, if you feel you’re doing everything and still not losing. Sometimes, your meds can be changed to avoid that side effect.