Does it take super powers to lose weight in your 60s?
As everyone knows, this is the decade between middle age and extreme middle age (I refuse to label it ‘old age), when your body becomes particularly stubborn about following instructions. Despite loudly declaring that one is on a diet and eating like a bird, those kilos cruelly refuse to budge.
As a weight loss warrior, who’s tried every diet from the glorious Beverly Hills version where meals are devoted to pineapple and later, popcorn, to the primeval paleo (or meat lovers without the pizza), I refused to give up.
Several months before my 60th birthday, I had awoken feeling particularly sluggish and decided then and there to lose 30 kilos (66 pounds). I was fed up. My wardrobe was crammed with slim-fitting clothes but the only way I could wear them was with industrial strength Spanx. Breathing was an optional extra.
My first move was to cut out alcohol, which always gives me a craving for cheese and sugary foods. Since I don’t like red meat and only eat chicken under sufferance, I made up my own version of the paleo: I confined myself to eating eggs, smoked salmon, grilled fish, and smoked turkey with a few shreds of lettuce. My mouth was so dry from all these salty foods, I could barely speak, which was lucky because my breath was probably horrendous. I started mainlining sugar-free gum.
I did lose some weight but it was naturally not a regime I could live with for any length of time.
A different plan of attack was needed, so I gave in and took my nearly-90 kilogram (198 pound) frame into Jenny Craig. (I’d been inspired by some of the miracle ‘before and afters’ on TV). I saw a pleasant consultant who announced that she would be in my corner, cheering me on, which was good news, because I needed support.
We took a ‘before’ shot with me smiling cheerily and she sorted out a weekly menu that worked for me – vegetarian with some fish. I left self-consciously carrying two bags crammed with food for the week – all I had left to buy for myself was fruit, vegetables, and yoghurt. The cost of three meals a day plus a treat worked out to around $140.
As a supreme optimist, I thought I could knock over my weight loss in just a few weeks.
It took months.
However, by the time I left, I was nearly 30 kilos lighter and had downsized from a sexy size 16 to a neat-as a-pin 10. I’d also completely lost my taste for alcohol.
Several years later, the weight has stayed off, give or take 5 kilos (11 pounds) and my drink of choice is sparkling mineral water with ice and a slice of lemon. Oh, and I thrash myself at the gym twice a week, walk around 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) a day, and have an 8-kilo (17 pound) weight at home for squats to boost my metabolism. I really enjoy the walking as it helps me to de-stress.
This discipline is just a small price to pay for the sense of personal power and confidence that I feel now when I walk into a room. I’ve also renewed my love of fashion because I’m no longer heading only for the racks of clothes in store with elasticised waists.
Following any set meal plan with pre-prepared food can work for anyone and it certainly doesn’t have to be Jenny Craig. The trick is that you have to commit to it and eat it exactly as instructed, without cheating.
Admittedly, it doesn’t feel great having so much processed food but you can supplement it with salad and steamed vegetables, plus around two pieces of fruit a day.
Dieting and not drinking can also feel antisocial but it’s just a small widow in time to devote to yourself. When you start to see the results it’s frankly much more exciting than going to a party and hovering around the dessert buffet.
Your 60s can be a time of renewal, for trying out new things, for travel – but before you set out on any of that, you should be the very best, lightest version of yourself. I’ve proved that it can be done.