The Top 10 Dangers Of Fad Diets For Women Over 60
It's a hard fact to accept, but most women over the age of 60 gain weight for no clear reason. Even if you manage to eat right and exercise, nature always throws a curve your way when it comes to your weight. After your children have grown up and you've lost the baby fat, next comes menopause, and the struggle starts all over again.
Women strive to live right and feel good about themselves at every stage. That doesn't change because a few decades have gone by you. If anything, in the age where 60 is the new 40, ladies look for ways to continue to reinvent themselves. During this time, it can include doing whatever it takes to fight off extra pounds.
New fad diets appear each year making promises they can't keep. From cabbage soup to sunlight, these diets seem almost magical. I can live on nothing but sunshine, right? Hmmm...
The best tool a woman can have is accurate information.
The key to feeling good about your lifestyle is to understand what works and what doesn't for weight loss. It's also important to know what dangers can come from fad diets for women over 60.
The Powerful Pull Of Fad Diets
Is it any wonder that women look for easy fixes to lose the extra weight? Researchers from the Boston Medical Center shows that 45 million Americans diet each year, and 50% choose fad diets.
Some fad diets are quite appealing. How about:
The problem is some of these diets do work but not in the correct way. They work by accident because they manage to achieve the one thing you need to lose weight - fewer calories. They are not sustainable, though, unless you plan to eat baby food for the rest of your life. As soon as you return to the adult table, the weight will likely roll right back on and then some.
About That Middle-Age Spread
On average, about two-thirds of women gain around 1.5 pounds a year from age 40 to 59. That adds up to an extra 30 pounds by the time they get to 60. The weight gain can come without you eating differently or exercising less. It's a normal part of aging for women. Their hormone levels change, and their metabolism slows down.
Now, tack on all the other stuff to that 30 pounds like:
Emotional eating - Babies leave home, hormones get crazy and the ice cream jumps innocently into your shopping cart.
Aches and pains that make exercising harder - Knees that creak, killer sciatic and hips that burn every time you go up or down the stairs.
Changing hormones bring all kinds of craving, too -- sugar, salt, fatty foods.
Muscle mass starts to diminish, too, and that means that the body isn’t burning calories as efficiently as it once did and fat production increases.
The truth is for many women their lifestyle changes at the same time the bodies do, and the pounds add up.
Does That Extra Weight Matter?
It does because often the extra weight settles in the belly. That's true for older women who are not gaining weight, too. It's not clear why this happens, but it might have something to do with a decrease in estrogen production. Estrogen is a sex hormone that can influence the distribution of fat.
The result is women over 60 tend to have apple or pear-shaped bodies, especially if it runs in the family. If mom had belly fat, chances are you will, too.
An increase in belly fat means more stuffing under the belly, too. Visceral fat is the kind you don't see. It builds up around the organs in the abdominal cavity and increases your risk of:
Type 2 diabetes
High blood pressure
With natural weight gain, it's easy for older women to get caught in a loop. The heavier you are, the more likely it is that you will have back and joint problems. Once your back, knees, and hips start to ache, exercise feels impossible, and you become lazy. That evening walk you have been taking your entire adult life hurts too much now. Once you slow down, you gain more weight.
How Real Weight Loss Works
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is only one thing that matters in weight loss - calories. Fad diets like the cabbage soup diet help you cut calories, which is why you can lose weight but your health suffers.
Your body, at any age, uses calories for fuel. You are burning fuel right now as you read this blog. Everything you do requires fuel from taking a breath to tapping your toe to Zumba dancing.
The body treats calories like fuel currency. It uses what it needs and saves the rest for a rainy day in the fat bank. To maintain your weight, you should eat as many calories as your body needs in a day and then stop.
To lose weight, though, you have to burn more calories than you eat - about 3,500 more for every one pound of weight loss. That happens pretty fast if all you eat is cabbage soup, so, what's the problem?
Well, for one thing, cabbage soup deprives you of just about every essential nutrient. Your body needs many vitamins, minerals, carbs, protein, and healthy fat to thrive. Fad diets have the potential to cause many health problems, especially for women over 60.
What Makes A Fad Diet?
The Association of UK Dietitians calls a fad diet a plan that requires you to eat restrictively or a weird combination of foods. Fad diets usually get their start because someone wrote a book or tells a story of how they lost hundreds of pounds eating nothing but ice cream.
Often fad diets involve fad foods. A fad food has some mysterious magical power over fat burning. In some cases, it's what you don't eat that makes the diet work like carbohydrates.
Eventually, though, the willpower fades, you begin eating, and the weight comes back. Many even gain more weight than before.
It is easy to spot a fad diet. They all have similar characteristics:
They promise fast weight loss
They tend to use magic foods or food combinations
They exclude major food groups like carbs
They have rigid rules necessary to achieve weight loss
They make scientific claims based on testimonials or ancedotal evidence
For women over the age of 60, a diet strategy can't just be about losing weight. It has to be about eating right, too. Fad diets represent real dangers to these women.
Top 10 Dangers Of Fad Diets
Fad diets are bad for everyone, but women over 60 have specific issues that complicate things. The top dangers for older women include:
It is never good to get dehydrated no matter how old you are. As a woman gets older, her body holds less water, so the risk of dehydration increases. In other words, at age 30, you might have been able to withstand some level of dehydration, but you become more sensitive to it as you age. Dehydration can increase the risk of:
Avoiding alcohol before bed
It is also possible that a woman on a fad diet will drink copious amounts of water to compensate for feeling hungry or thirsty. Overhydration messes with electrolyte balances and can lead to death.
You might be saying to yourself right now that starvation is kinda the point, right? If you are starving, your body is burning fat for energy, and you are losing weight. The problem is your body will panic if you eat too few calories each day. When that happens, it wants to save burning fat as a last resort.
Imagine if you had $1,000 in a savings account and you know you can't make the $1,100 mortgage payment at the end of this month. Are you going to spend all $1,000 you have before the payment is due on a vacation? Of course not. You'll start saving. You'd look for other solutions like borrowing the money or selling something.
The human body does the same thing. It doesn't want to use up all its savings, so it looks for other places to get the fuel, usually muscle or organ tissue. You still lose weight, but you also lose vital muscle tissue that is hard to get back.
4. Reduced Bone Density
Along those same lines, you could lose bone tissue, as well. For women over 60, that's a significant risk. The hormone estrogen protects the bones. Once a woman reaches menopause, her estrogen production drops, and it can cause bone loss.
In this country, there are an estimated 10 million people with osteoporosis or severe bone density loss. Low bone density can increase your risk of broken bones and certain cancers, including breast and uterine.
It's something most people experience at some point in their lives. You missed lunch, and now you are dragging through the afternoon. Weakness and fatigue can cause dizziness and fainting. You might break a hip on the way down to the floor or hit your head. If nothing else, you'll feel crappy all the time, and that's no way to live.
Headaches are often associated with fasting diets -- going hours or even days without food. The headache and other complications of fasting are a sign that you are not getting the nutrition you need. For people who suffer from migraines, fasting can be a trigger.
7. Low Blood Sugar
Hypoglycemia is the medical term for low blood sugar. Some of the risks already listed may be symptoms of this severe problem. The organ that suffers the most when the blood sugar drops, though, is the brain. Your brain uses a lot of fuel and metabolizes glucose, sugar, to get it.
When blood sugar levels go down, you feel clumsy. You might experience brain fog and have trouble concentrating. Low blood sugar levels can also lead to seizures and death.
8. Heart Damage
One fad diet won't damage your heart, but a pattern of dieting this way will take a toll. Binge eating and crash dieting causes damage to the blood vessels and can lead to small tears in the walls.
9. Nutritional Deficiencies
In other words, you are not getting the right balance of essential vitamins and minerals. Nutrients like copper, magnesium, and potassium are all critical for heart health. Your immune system can suffer when you don't get the proper vitamins like D, C, E, and B.
Constipation is a common side effect of fad diets and a lot more dangerous than it sounds. Women over 60 might already experience this problem even without dieting. The muscular walls of the intestines must contract to move waste out of the body. Aging can affect that motility and lead to serious health problems like constipation.
The combination of aging and dieting can trigger unhealthy bowel patterns, too. Laxatives are for temporary situations. Continued use can lead to extra problems and increased constipation
The Right Way To Lose Weight
Fad diets are not the right choice for ladies over the age of 60. Exercise is a key, especially strength training. Weight-bearing exercise increases muscle mass, which in turn, burns more calories. Strength training helps regulate that slowing metabolism. Try to do two to three days every week.
Whatever exercise plan you choose, make sure to take precautions starting with seeing your doctor. Once you have the okay, then listen to your body and stop if it hurts.
Eating smaller meals more often during the day can help, as well. No rule says you need three meals a day. Instead, graze on small amounts of healthy food all day long to keep your energy up and improve your metabolism. If you skip meals, you can slow your metabolism down.
The older you are, the fewer calories you burn during the day. You can compensate for that by reducing portion sizes and adding more plant foods to your meal plans. Keep your daily intake over 1,200 calories but lower than 2,000. 1,500 is a good target unless you are on a specialized diet for diabetes or heart disease. If so, discuss your calorie intake with your doctor before making any changes.
A balanced diet plan might be all you need to slim down. For most people, that means managing macronutrients — protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Also, get plenty of shut-eye. While sleeping, your body releases two hormones necessary to maintain a healthy weight. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep but aim for seven to eight hours a night.
Finally, focus on wellness as opposed to weight loss or dieting. Learn to pass up the drive through on the way home and enjoy healthier meals that you make yourself. If you learn to eat for wellness, you'll naturally do all the things you should like exercise, eat healthy meals, and limit your alcohol consumption.
Fad diets are a terrible idea. They represent some of the worst ways possible to lose weight. That's true for everyone but women over the age of 60 face extra challenges that make losing weight this way even more dangerous.
Need Help With Your Diet?
You're never too old to make positive changes. If you arm yourself with patience and all the right foods, the rewards will certainly be worth it.
If you need help with adapting to a healthy lifestyle, we’re here for you. Contact us for a completely free 15-minute consultation with a certified health coach.
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