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Weight Loss After 50
The Science of Weight Loss
Protein-Packed Breakfasts
Quiz: Protein Smarts
Eating Out
Weight Loss Success Stories
Avoid Age-Related Weight Gain
Strength Training and Longevity

En español
You don’t have to gain weight as you age.

All the body negatives that we associate with midlife — an expanding midsection, softer muscles, general physical decline — aren’t inevitable. They’re avoidable, and even reversible.
Yet the vast majority of us struggle with weight gain in middle age. The standard weight-loss tricks that worked earlier in life no longer keep the weight off. We may be eating healthfully and exercising just as much, but we still gain weight. Why?

The Whole Body Reset includes:​

Order it at aarp.org/wholebodyreset or at your favorite bookshop or online store.​​
As the health editor for AARP The Magazine, I was tasked with solving this puzzle. After months of digging into up-to-the-minute weight-loss science (with a focus on research conducted on people our age), I created a program to halt midlife weight gain and muscle loss, and tested it on more than 100 volunteers. The result: Our test panelists lost as much as 22 pounds in just 12 weeks. And now that research has been collected in The Whole Body Reset, a diet program made specifically for people at midlife and beyond.
The answer to later-life weight gain largely lies in protein timing — eating protein in the proper amounts throughout the day. This triggers older bodies to spurn fat gain and hold on to lean muscle tissue. This approach, coupled with plenty of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and healthy fats, can help older people not only reshape their bodies but reshape their lives.​
This eating program isn’t low-carb or low-fat, doesn’t require calorie counting or periods of food restriction, and doesn’t eliminate any particular food category. But once you know how to do it and incorporate it into your daily life, it can stop, and even reverse, age-related weight gain and muscle loss. It can even significantly reduce your risk of many of the chronic diseases of aging, enhancing the overall health of both your body and your brain.​

Traditional weight-loss diets trigger our bodies to grow fatter in three ways.
Studies show that individuals who increase their protein intake to 25-30 grams per meal could slow the descent into muscle loss and weight gain. When we do, researchers say, our bodies respond to exercise as though we were decades younger. (Before starting any new diet and exercise regime, be sure to check with your medical professional.)
This isn’t a controversial point or some sort of far-out idea, by the way. It’s consistent with the findings of the Prot-Age Study Group, an association of gerontologists and nutritionists. Its study reaffirmed that older people should eat about 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day — or roughly 0.5 to 0.6 grams per pound. But it also concluded that 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal was crucial for older people to reach their anabolic threshold — the point at which muscle mass can be maintained.
But don’t get the idea that this is some sort of high-protein diet. The average person following this plan won’t eat much more protein — if any more — on a given day than he or she does already. But what will happen is that the timing and concentration of that protein is going to change
The only thing you really need to do on the The Whole Body Reset plan is to make sure you hit certain protein and fiber numbers while eating healthy food. The secret behind this program is to identify the nutrients your body needs more of and find simple, delicious ways to fit more of them into your day.
The typical American diet looks like a tiny bit of protein at breakfast (milk in your cereal, maybe an egg or two), a bit more at lunch (a turkey sandwich, perhaps) and then a huge infusion of protein (a steak or a couple of pork chops) at dinner. All told, we may consume an average of about 90 grams of protein a day, which is roughly what we need. But about two-thirds of that typically comes at dinnertime. Our bodies need 25 to 30 grams of protein — generally 25 grams for women, 30 for men — at each meal to keep the process of protein biosynthesis cranking along.
Overeating protein at dinner doesn’t help; our bodies may only be able to use about 30 grams of protein at a time when at rest.​​
Top foods: Fish and shellfish, eggs (in mod­eration), poultry, lean meat, combinations of grains and legumes that supply complete proteins, and protein shakes​​.
Yes, you would like cheese on that. And whipped cream? Go for it. As a complete protein source, dairy is hard to beat. And as we age, the benefits of milk, cheese, yogurt and other forms of dairy only multiply.
​​That’s due in part to dairy’s protein punch — it’s particularly high in an essential muscle-building compound called leucine. But dairy delivers many other nutrients, particularly calcium, magnesium and vitamin D — all nutrients that our bodies have difficulty absorbing from food as we age, and all of which help to keep us healthy and strong. In one study of older women, consumption of more milk, yogurt and cheese was associated with greater muscle mass as well as greater grip strength.​​
Top foods: Milk, yogurt and kefir fortified with vitamin D, cheese, cottage cheese and whey-based protein smoothies​​
Oh, sure, you knew this part was coming, right? But for good reason: Any diet plan that doesn’t include heaping portions of produce should immediately be filed away as a snake-oil cure.
While all vegetables are good for you — assuming they’re not coated with breading or deep-fried in oil — it helps to think of dark, leafy greens as the alpha veggies. Each day should include at least one helping — a small side salad or a half-cup serving of cooked green vegetables — ensuring that you have a dietary source of the B vitamin folate. Folate also plays a crucial role in battling dementia, hearing loss and depression in mature adults.
In a study of postmenopausal women, those who were overweight averaged 12 percent less folate in their blood than normal-weight women; those who were obese had 22 percent less.​​
Top foods: All colorful vegetables and fruits, but especially dark, leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, kale), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, arugula, cabbage, collards, watercress), red and orange vegetables (carrots, squash, red peppers, tomatoes), berries, tree fruits (apples, pears, cherries) and citrus (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes)
Chances are, you don’t eat enough fiber. In fact, the average American eats about 15 grams of fiber a day — that’s about the amount you’d find in any of these:​​
​​And that’s only about half of what experts believe we need to eat daily to ensure good health and a leaner, fitter body. One study looked at the dietary habits of middle-aged women; when the researchers followed up 20 months later, they found that every additional gram of fiber the subjects ate correlated with a half-pound less in total weight and a quarter-percent less fat.​​
Top foods: Whole wheat pasta, bread, tortillas and crackers; oats; brown rice; beans; vegetables such as potatoes (with the skins on), brussels sprouts, peas, broccoli and corn; and fruits​​
​​If you’ve been trying to lose weight by eating less fat, we have a word of advice: Stop. In fact, there are three types of healthy fats you should be enjoying more of.​
​​Top foods: Seafood, oils (olive, safflower, peanut, sesame), nuts, seeds, avocado and olives​​
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​​A significant source of empty calories is beverages. Soda, sweetened iced teas, specialty coffee drinks, sports drinks, oversize smoothies and shakes, even fruit juices can be loaded with sugar. Avoid calorie-laced drinks as well as diet sodas, which have been shown to increase appetite and, in some studies, have been linked to health risks.
​​Top calorie-free drinks: Water (still or sparkling), unsweetened tea and coffee​​
Breakfast ​
Kale and hearty smoothie: 1 cup ​1-percent milk, ½ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, 1 cup frozen strawberries, half a small banana, ⅓ cup oats, ½ cup fresh kale, chopped. Blend all ingredients.​
25g protein, 7g fiber, 374 calories
1 apple with 2 tablespoons peanut butter
​7g protein, 7g fiber, 270 calories​​
​3½ ounces tuna, chunk light, with 1 tablespoon mayo, 2 slices whole wheat toast; plus 1 cup of cherries
​35g protein, 8g fiber, 412 calories​​
Steak in chimichurri sauce: ​Use steak cubes marinated in chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Include chunks of onion, orange bell pepper, and baby bella or button mushrooms ​on skewers. A chimichurri sauce includes cilantro, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, chili flakes, water, apple cider vinegar and extra-​virgin olive oil.​
Nutty sweet potatoes: Baked with olive oil, coconut oil, nutmeg and cinnamon. Dressing includes orange juice and zest, lemon juice and zest, ginger, honey, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Topped with hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds.
Total: 42g protein, 6g fiber, 588 calories​​
The Whole Body Reset contains detailed recipes for these and other dishes.​​
Copyright 2022 by AARP. Adapted with permission from The Whole Body Reset: Your Weight-Loss Plan for a Flat Belly, Optimum Health, and a Body You’ll Love — at Midlife and Beyond by Stephen Perrine with Heidi Skolnik, published by Simon & Schuster Inc.​​
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