Today’s guest post is from our new friend Ramona M. Payne, who offers helpful advice on how to deal with weight loss after 50. Her solutions are simple, sensible, and absolutely doable.
Sometimes we are moving in the right direction, but need some guidelines for when we can stop, slow down, or change course. I have been working on getting into better shape, which seems to require a new approach as I get older. I had experienced creeping weight gain, caused by how I was feeling, what I was eating, and how little I was moving. I am not saying I have it all together right now, but for the last few months, I have been moving things in a better direction. I am slowly losing the extra weight.
I have never been a fan of quick-fix, lose-20-pounds-by-midnight kinds of diets—they don’t work, at least not for me. I realized years ago I have to commit to a lifestyle and better choices to get to a good weight. So for the most part, I don’t start anything I am not committed to continuing. That eliminates a lot of the fad diets. If I know I won’t keep drinking vinegar and spinach water daily, or stop eating after 2:00 in the afternoon, I see no point in starting such a regimen in the first place.
Goals are helpful; I like knowing where I am heading. So when it was time to think about how much I wanted to lose, it was helpful to go back to something I learned years ago, with a slight modification for my own use. I am not trying to get back to the weight I was in my early 20s. But I know there is a place—somewhere between 15 pounds higher than that weight and where I am now—where I could reside quite happily. So, to set myself up for success, I plan my meals, make better food choices, strength train, build endurance with walking and rowing, and improve my flexibility with Pilates. Those are the small, but significant, steps on my journey. Next I had to decide how much I wanted to lose, considering what was a reasonable goal given my age and other factors. I came up with the ABCs for setting my goal and have found it to be a useful way to stay motivated.
A is for acceptable, which means what is the highest weight that I want to accept? Before you feel that I am being self-critical, hear me out. Acceptable does not mean life has no meaning at a higher weight, or that I beat myself up if I don’t hit this number. My acceptable weight is based on a few goals—a desire to feel better, avoid weight-related illness, keep my good numbers where they are, increase my energy levels, and lose a little extra jiggle. My goal is roughly a 10 percent weight loss, although even 5 percent has proven health benefits, depending on where you start. It is not my Sports-Illustrated-will-come-calling weight, because let’s admit it, that ship has sailed and been replaced by a sturdy tugboat. I’m good with that.
B is for balanced, at this weight, lower than my acceptable weight, results will come because I have practiced balance. You need to balance the right healthy food, occasional treats, and activity levels to feel your best. This weight also requires enough self-awareness that I check in with my emotions to make sure I am not eating mindlessly, or when I am not hungry. If I am using food to deal with feelings, then I try to make better decisions the next time. Balance also comes through my perspective on this journey—it is not about perfection, but paying attention to how my mind, body, and spirit respond to the choices I make. This goal is a weight I would be happy to achieve, perhaps not the lowest weight I could be, but a good place for me that is both attainable and sustainable.
C is my comeback weight, or the lowest weight I have been as an older adult—a weight achieved while in balance, healthy, and without being too rigid. It represents a challenge and requires consistency, and I have less leeway with my eating habits than I’d like long-term. As I mentioned earlier, if this is going to be a lifestyle, then I don’t want to start habits I know will be throwaways. That takes too much effort, when I can more easily find the practices I am willing to maintain.
I am using these ABCs to set my goals for weight, but I found that the same approach is helpful in other areas of my life. These three simple targets—acceptable, balanced, and comeback—might be 5-40 pounds from your present weight. Others might find the gaps larger, depending on your personal goals. But I’m not in a rush. I want to learn from the choices I make every day, in this and other parts of my life.