Tip for Seniors Looking to Lose Weight and Eat Healthier: Get a Pro and a Plan
What changes would you like to make to the way you eat? Are you looking to lose weight or bring down your blood pressure? Do you want to see how you can decrease your risk of diabetes? Do you want to eat more fresh vegetables and whole grains, but don’t know how to buy and prepare them?
A story about a senior making some big changes in the way he eats and lives helps illustrate that no one is too old to learn new tricks.
Meet Chester, a 70-year old bachelor. Over the past 10 years since his retirement from construction, he’s reached a weight of 315 pounds—the result of a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating choices. Arthritis in his hip made exercise increasingly painful and then impossible. The pounds piled on. Last year Chester had his hip replaced, but by that point his weight was really the obstacle to exercise. He continued eating a diet high in red meat and processed convenience foods because it was easy and it was habit. Living alone, there was no one encouraging him or showing him how to improve his poor eating patterns.
Finally, at the urging of his daughter, Chester agreed to meet with a nutritionist. She came to his home, assessed his diet, and developed a plan that was custom-fit to his caloric needs. She’s on hand to answer questions, provide encouragement, and make changes along the way.
Chester has now lost over twenty-five pounds and hopes to keep going. “I never thought losing weight would be this easy. I get plenty of food and I like it. I don’t even miss the old garbage I was eating. I mean, I’m not saying I’m never going to eat pizza again, but maybe just not the whole pizza.”
Get help from a pro. What made the difference? Chester said that it really helped to have the help of others. He realized how little he knew about good nutrition. He’d gotten used to living on whatever was easy and convenient—thinking little about what was on the label. He also said that having to pay for a few sessions with the nutritionist helped keep him accountable—he wants to get his money’s worth.
There are a couple occupations in which people design specific diets suited to the needs of individuals. Working with a nutritionist or dietitian who is experienced with senior diet planning can help you determine a proper weight and a healthy level of calories. He or she can also help tailor your diet to individual health conditions, allergies, medications, and physical limitations. The difference between a dietitian & a nutritionist is that nutritionist often has a master's degree in nutrition. A dietician has at least a four-year Bachelor's degree in nutrition and dietetics (or graduate degree), has completed an internship and has passed a national registration exam from the American Dietetic Association. To find a Registered Dietitian, go to http://www.eatright.org/programs/rdfinder/. Though some may worry about the cost of hiring a professional, a few sessions that can get you going in the right direction are far cheaper than the diseases that can result from poor diet. And as health insurance companies realize the severe impact of obesity-related illness on the cost of health care, many have agreed to reimburse nutritional counseling with a dietician or nutritionist.
Get a plan. A personalized food plan takes the guesswork out of trying to determine what your body needs and what will be healthy for you. A food plan that is structured around regular meal times and that incorporates fairly exact portions for each meal helps keep you on track. For example, Chester’s eating plan tells him how many servings of protein, starch, vegetable, fat and fruit he is allotted at each meal. He then plugs in the foods that comprise the meal. A consistent food schedule helps to keep the metabolism active and sparks a normal appetite.
Said Nancy Rouch, owner of Healthy Solutions MN and a nutritionist specializing in senior nutrition, “Many seniors are actually malnourished. Lack of appetite, energy, and interest in cooking combined with decreased mobility and access to food, can make it especially hard for seniors to get the nutrients that their bodies need.” Many nutritionists that work with seniors find it especially beneficial to go directly into the home rather than to meet at a remote office. This way they can observe lifestyle practices that may contribute to poor eating habits. They can also educate the client right in the kitchen where they will be preparing the meals.
Start small. The first suggestion that Chester’s nutritionist made was, “Eat breakfast!” Nothing else needed to change immediately—she just wanted him to incorporate this one new habit. Don’t try to overhaul your life in one sweep—small changes that become grooved for life are of far greater benefit than an impractical laundry list of resolutions that don’t stick.
Food is about more than just taking in vitamins and minerals—eating is about remembering the past, enjoying the present, and expressing love. Healthful eating shouldn’t take that away, but rather insure the good health that will help seniors to live longer and more vibrantly—making more happy memories as a result!
Eden Prairie Professionals in Aging is a non-profit organization based in Eden Prairie, a town of 50,000 in the southwestern Twin Cities. Our diverse member organizations are all committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. Our purpose is to provide networking opportunities for individuals who provide services to elderly persons in Eden Prairie by meeting bimonthly for information exchange and problem solving in our field. For more information on EPPIA and a list of resources regarding activities in Eden Prairie, please visit our website at www.edenprairieaging.org.
Submitted by EPPIA Members:
Jacki Christopher, Promise Care Inc., www.promisecareinc.com/
Lisa Schmidtke, Able Deluxe, www.AbleDeluxe.com
Barb Howe, Barb Writes, www.barbwrites.com
Joanne Bartel, Prairie Adult Care, www.prairieadultcare.com