There are some misconceptions about the word obesity. Many tend to think it only applies to people who are extremely overweight. But obesity is different than being overweight. It means having above average body fat in relation to your height, whereas being overweight means weighing too much altogether.
A lot of people are surprised to learn they fall into the obese category. To estimate body fat, calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI). All you do is divide your weight by your height. (This tool can do it for you.) If the resulting number is higher than 30, you are obese. The BMI is a general tool and specific body fat percentage should be calculated by a specialist.
Obesity imposes serious risk to your health for a variety of reasons. It can cause diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, a stroke … just to name a few.
Unfortunately, losing body fat gets trickier as we get older. But that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.
As you probably well know, our bodies can develop any number of medical issues once we reach senior age. Consequently, it is important to first talk to your doctor before starting a new diet and exercise routine. Ensure you do not hurt one part of your body while taking care of another.
Here are a few tips we share with our patients to help them lower their BMI and fall out of the obese category – whether in their 60s or beyond.
- Build your muscle strength. It is all-too-easy to lose muscle mass when we age – simply because we are not as active. But losing muscle mass also means a slower metabolism, which tells your body to hang onto its fat. Increased muscle mass burns calories at approximately four times the rate as body fat while your body is at rest. Talk with your doctor to find safe ways to build your muscle strength.
- Eat more protein. To help build your muscle strength, you need to eat a sufficient amount of protein. Protein breaks down into amino acids, which our bodies then use to help build our muscles. You can get healthy protein from foods like lean meats, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt and nuts.
- Don’t forget to drink water. Did you know our hypothalamus (the part of our brain that tells us when we are hungry and thirsty) gets less sensitive as we get older? As a result, feeling thirsty becomes less frequent. Drinking water helps burn more calories, curbs your appetite, and as an added benefit, keeps you hydrated and kidneys functioning well.
- Remember, it’s fat loss, not weight loss. Lowering your BMI is about minimizing body fat, not overall weight loss. So don’t focus on the scale. Grab a measuring tape instead. Your waist should measure half of your height. For example, if you’re 66 inches tall (5’6”), your waist should measure 33 inches.
- Visualize your goal. Sometimes half the battle of reaching your goal is having the right mindset. If you tell yourself you can’t do it, then you probably won’t. But if you focus on staying positive and visualize yourself achieving your goal, you are more likely to achieve it.
If your BMI characterizes you as obese – whether by a little or a lot – do not be discouraged. Call your physician or one of our senior-specialized clinicians to create a plan that works best for you.