How to maintain a healthy weight as you age

Why do older adults often gain weight with age, even if their eating habits haven’t changed?

As you get older, more food energy gets stored as body fat and your body loses muscle, according to Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. If you consume the same number of calories as you get older, you’ll have less muscle mass to burn them off, says the American Geriatrics Society.

Many older adults also put on weight because they’re less active and need fewer calories. For these and other reasons, more than half of Canadian seniors are overweight, according to the British Columbia Ministry of Health Services.

Small changes, big benefits

You can shed some extra pounds, if needed, and maintain a healthy weight by making two small, but critical adjustments to your lifestyle that help compensate for age-related physiological changes. Be physically active each day to burn more calories. Eat a variety of healthy, nutritious foods you enjoy and choose smaller portion sizes.

close up of food and water glasses at restaurantThe health benefits of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight are huge. It helps lower your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems and certain cancers, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

When people start and stick with lifestyle changes that help them lose weight they feel better as a result, and have the mental and physical energy to do more each day. Regular exercise and healthy eating can also help you cope better with physical and mental stress, surgery and even the common cold or flu, says the BC Provincial Health Officer.

Avoid being underweight

Unintentional weight loss and being underweight is another common problem that affects more than 10% of older adults, often causing health problems, says the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Making small changes to your eating habits can help you avoid or reverse unplanned weight loss, according to EatRightOntario. Eat smaller meals more often and with other people, if possible. Drink high calorie or high protein foods, like a milkshake, after your meal or snack.

Eat soft foods, like yogurt or eggs, or grind your food with a food processor, if chewing is difficult. Adding different flavours to your food, such as cinnamon to sweet potatoes or sage to chicken, can help with your appetite. Your doctor or a dietitian might also recommend a nutritional supplement if you’ve lost too much weight.

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