Whether you've always been at your happy weight or you're reaping the benefits of successful weight loss, between a slowing metabolism and a lower-impact lifestyle, staying at your current size can be a challenge as you get older. And while just a pound a year may not seem like much, even that little weight gain can translate into 20 pounds or more -- and several dress sizes -- over a couple of decades. But putting on the pounds as you age isn't mandatory. Here are 6 tips on maintaining your size as the years go by.
1. Weigh yourself daily
Extra weight can sneak up on you, so to keep track of any weight gain, researchers are now recommending weighing yourself regularly, even daily. A daily weigh-in has been shown to help people maintain weight loss, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006. But study authors note that it's not the act of weighing yourself that makes a difference; it's changing behaviour based on what you see on the scale that counts. So weigh yourself daily -- at the same time, wearing the same amount of clothing (even if it's none) is best -- and if you notice the needle creeping up, sneak in a few extra workouts or cut back on dessert and snacks until you stabilize again.
2. Change up your fitness routine
Regular exercise is key to staying healthy and fit -- and to fending off weight gain. But it's easy to get bored with your exercise program, especially during the colder months, when you may not want to go outside. Change your routine regularly -- with the seasons, if possible -- and keep trying new sports and activities. Maybe this fall will be the right time to take running seriously, in time for a charity 10K, or perhaps this winter you can start a martial art. Keep exercise fun -- and social, if that's your thing -- and it won't become a chore.
3. Find supportive friends
Willpower is one thing, but saying no to the birthday cake your best friend baked just for you is quite another. "Ongoing support is one of the most important factors in your continuous success with weight management," notes Judith Lederman, author of Joining the Thin Club (Three Rivers Press, 2007). Enlist the support of your friends and family in your quest for a healthier lifestyle. Let them know about the choices you're making in your life, and ask them to help you out, whether that be by bringing fruit and frozen yogurt for dessert instead of rich chocolate cake or by joining you on walks and in other fitness activities.
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4. Get enough sleep
Adequate sleep is vital to good health. By skimping on the z's, you're not just making yourself more tired -- you're increasing your risk of weight gain, too, as well as a number of other ailments. While researchers are studying the effect sleep has on hormones -- and consequently on hunger and metabolism -- the reasoning is to a great degree just common sense. When you're tired, you're more likely to reach for quick sources of energy (think sugar and other refined carbs) and to make unhealthy eating decisions (like choosing the drive-through over a home-cooked meal), not to mention less likely to make it to the gym. Make sure to get enough sleep and you'll be helping your health in more ways than one.
5. Build muscle tone
One reason metabolism slows as you age is decreased muscle mass due to inactivity. Fight back by...well, not being inactive. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn both during exercising and throughout the day, notes Lederman, adding that "research shows that resistance exercise may prevent weight gain or regain." Take advantage of this by lifting weights a few times a week, either at home or at the gym.
6. Try new foods
Healthy doesn't have to mean boring when it comes to food -- and if it does for you, then don't be surprised if a supersize tub of ice cream sneaks its way into your freezer. Some suggestions:
• Treat yourself to new cookbooks regularly and experiment with recipes that will make healthy eating a pleasure.
• Visit your farmer's market and buy something you've never eaten before.
• Start a potluck group with other health-minded friends and meet once or twice a month to share foods, recipes and conversation.
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