When it comes to weight loss, everyone wants a miraculous quick fix. You've probably heard--and maybe even fallen for--the breathless claims: "Lose a dress size in a week!" "Lose 20 pounds in four weeks!" If you have weight to lose, you're right to get started now, but I always urge my Baby Boomer clients to plan for slow weight loss--much slower than they want--because fast weight loss just comes with too many drawbacks.
Here are my top 5 reasons Baby Boomer women should plan to lose weight slowly.
- Your muscles and bones will thank you. To lose weight quickly, you have to make dramatic cuts to your food intake. Unfortunately, to get enough fuel to function, your body will burn not just fat, but also muscle. A low-calorie diet without added exercise also leads to bone loss. Losing weight slowly allows you to maintain the exercise levels you need to build muscle and bone while losing primarily fat.
- Your metabolism will thank you. The human body is an incredible survival machine, able to withstand harsh conditions and near-starvation rations. When you reduce calories sharply to lose weight quickly, your body goes into survival mode and becomes incredibly efficient at storing fat and rationing energy. Severe calorie restriction actually lowers your metabolic rate, making it harder and harder to lose weight. Small, subtle changes in your diet, however, allow you to lose weight slowly and steadily without throwing your metabolism out of whack.
- Your skin will thank you. Many of my Boomer clients think back on their 20s and 30s with nostalgia, remembering their perfect size 6 figure and how easy it was to drop 5 or 10 pounds quickly. When they express a desire to lose weight quickly again, I remind them that they no longer have the skin of a 20 year old. As we age, our skin becomes far less elastic and less able to bounce back when we lose weight. Quick weight loss means droopy, wrinkly, saggy skin. Slow weight loss gives your skin time to adapt to the changes.
- Your joints will thank you. A healthy weight loss plan includes both diet and exercise, and just as overdoing it on the diet is harmful, so is overdoing it on the exercise. Aging joints need to be treated gently. If you're out of shape when you begin a weight loss program you'll need to give yourself plenty of time to adapt to the increased demands. It may take weeks or months to safely build up to a level of exercise intensity that will have a meaningful effect on your weight.
- Slow weight loss is sustainable weight loss. Whenever clients tell me about the miracle diet they went on 10 years ago to lose 20 pounds, I always ask them why they didn't stay on that diet. Severe diets can work in the short term, but they're just not sustainable in the long run. What is sustainable is developing a healthy relationship with food, learning to make better food choices most of the time, and having a sound strategy for handling parties, family dinners and restaurant meals.
Most doctors and dieticians will tell you that weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week is safe, and I agree. However, if you're a Baby Boomer, you may want to adjust your expectations and aim for weight loss of 1/2 to 1 pound per week. By making a few simple substitutions in your diet and a small increase in your activity level, you should be able to create a daily deficit of 250-500 calories. That change should be relatively painless and easy to build into your day without turning your life upside down. The weight will come of slowly, and if you maintain the healthy habits, it will stay off for life.
(photo credit: o5com)