Weight Loss

How to lose weight in your 50s

Ann Douglas shares her weight-loss story. Image by: David Wile Author: Ann Douglas

Weight Loss

How to lose weight in your 50s

Ann Douglas shares how a walking routine and being kinder to herself helped her lose 120 pounds.

I had almost given up on ever losing the extra weight I'd been carrying around my entire life. It was January 2013. I was staring down a milestone birthday (50) and the number on my scale (286 pounds). Heading into midlife with more than 100 extra pounds increased my odds of a premature death or disability. I wanted so much more for myself and my family.

Speaking of family, a cousin of mine, who had been obese most of her life, was in the process of losing a significant amount of weight. I couldn't imagine being the only fat person at the next family reunion. Or perhaps I could picture that scenario all too well. Then the clincher: I experienced the humiliation of having to request a seatbelt extender on an airplane. The seatbelt was too tight to buckle—a fact I was forced to announce to the flight attendant and every passenger within earshot. Something had to change.

But before I could start dealing with my weight problem, 
I needed to tackle my fear of failure, which had paralyzed my efforts to take action for years. I talked to friends and family members about how I was feeling and asked for their support.

I invited them to join me on my journey, either as fellow walkers (people who were eager to make lifestyle changes themselves) or as cheerleaders (people who would cheer my efforts from the sidelines). I was overwhelmed by the flood of support, both face-to-face and online.

I started envisioning the changes I would need to make to lose the weight and keep it off. I began a food diary (using the MyFitnessPal app) so I could pay closer attention to food choices and figure out how much and what type of food my body needed in order to function best.

Once I understood that fuelling my body with the right food was key to curbing food cravings, Greek yogurt became my new best friend, replacing my previous sidekick, bread. I designed my meals around fresh fruits and vegetables. That meant trying new foods (quinoa! kale!) and experimenting with new cooking techniques such as roasting vegetables, making my own soups and breads so that I could prepare myself meals that were every bit as healthful as they were delicious.

Otherwise, none of these changes would be sustainable over the long term—and, if they weren't sustainable, what was the point?

I challenged myself to become physically active for the first time ever. I dusted off the unused treadmill sitting in the spare bedroom and treated myself to a Fitbit (a wearable pedometer) for motivation. I aimed for a minimum of 10,000 steps (roughly eight kilometres of walking) each day.

At first, a walk around the block was all I could manage. It took only a few minutes of walking before I would start to experience excruciating cramping on the soles of my feet. But as I built up my endurance and the weight began to come off, the foot pain disappeared and being active became a joy rather than an agony.

Perhaps most significantly, I began to treat myself with more kindness and compassion. Decades of bullying myself into losing pounds had only resulted in more weight gain, and left me feeling somehow defective. I needed to change the voice in my head. Learning to be kinder to myself meant forgiving my glorious imperfections and treating myself with the same compassion that I would extend to a friend who was struggling.

As a result of these three simple changes, my life has been transformed. I now have a healthier relationship with food. (Since I started treating food as fuel, I haven't binged.) I've developed an unexpected love of physical activity. Twice-daily walks keep my anxiety levels in check. I feel better on days when I am physically active (less restless and edgy, as if I have too much of the wrong kind of energy). I have a newfound respect for my body and what it can do, and I constantly challenge myself to increase my strength and stamina.

I am thankful for the support I've received. The best thing people have said during my journey is that I have always been beautiful. This powerful message of love and acceptance is one that isn't conditional on the number on the scale. My friends are happy that I am healthier.

Sure, I have managed to lose a lot—120 pounds, to be precise. But I have gained so much more. I have gained a life.

Love to walk? Find out 5 reasons why walking is better than running.
                                         
This story was originally titled "Many Steps Forward" in the October 2014 issue.
           
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Weight Loss

How to lose weight in your 50s

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