Choose a variety of high-protein foods, whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
A slower metabolism, hormonal changes and loss of muscle mass can make losing weight a little harder as women reach their 50s. That doesn't mean it's impossible, though, and the benefits are substantial. Losing just 5 percent of your total body weight can help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for certain types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Combining consistent exercise with a structured eating plan that gives you fewer calories and more nutrition is the healthiest way to lose excess weight and keep it off.
Calculate Your Caloric Needs
Your first step is to calculate how many calories you need per day just to keep your body functioning when it's at rest. This is called your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. The Harris-Benedict equation is designed to help you calculate your BMR. The equation looks like this:
BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight) + (4.7 x height) + (4.7 x age)
That looks pretty complicated, but it's simple once you break it down. Multiply your weight in pounds by 4.35. Multiply your height in inches by 4.7. Multiply your age in years by 4.7. Add up those three numbers and then add 655. That number is the absolute minimum number of calories you need to function at rest.
Next, calculate your activity level, which also burns calories. If you basically sit all day, multiply your BMR by 1.4. If you are moderately active for at least one hour every day, multiply your BMR by 1.5. If you have a physically demanding job or are very active in your leisure time, multiply your BMR by 1.6. If you are very active, such as an athlete, a dancer or someone currently serving in the military, multiply your BMR by 1.9.
The number you get is the number of calories you need to get you through your typical day. Subtract 500 calories and this is the number of calories you should aim for in order to lose at least one pound every week.
And if all this looks like way too much math, start out by limiting yourself to 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day and see how that goes.
Choose the Right Type of Calories
All calories are not the same. The trick to losing weight while maintaining your health and energy level is to eat foods that are high in nutrition. One hundred calories of grilled chicken or roasted broccoli will fill you up and feed your body's nutritional needs a lot better than 100 calories of cookies or soda. Stick to a varied diet of fresh vegetables and fruit, lean protein such as chicken and fish, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Start your day with protein, whole grains and fruit. Snack on nuts, cheese, fruit or vegetable crudites with a low-fat dip between meals to keep hunger at bay.
Burn Calories With Exercise
The calories you take in are only a part of the weight-loss equation. Exercise is necessary to help burn calories, but it does much more than that. Aerobic exercise such as walking, running, biking, swimming or dancing raises your heart rate, increases circulation and oxygenates your cells. This helps strengthen your heart and lungs and is also excellent for clearing your mind. Weight training builds muscle, which helps your body burn more calories while at rest. It also strengthens you and can help stave off osteoporosis.
Dangers of Going Too Low
While it is tempting to try for rapid weight loss by drastically cutting your caloric intake, this is a mistake. In certain cases, a doctor might recommend a low-calorie diet of 800 calories per day, but this is an emergency measure for people with serious and immediate health risks tied to obesity. People on such a restrictive diet should be under a doctor's supervision. Generally, it's best to consume at least 1,200 calories per day. Taking in fewer robs your body of sufficient nutrition and can also slow your metabolism, which can keep you from losing weight. It also increases the risk that hunger will override your commitment leading to poor food choices. Taking in enough nutrient-dense calories and burning them off through exercise is the best way to lose weight and keep it off.