Creating a path for seniors to maintain a healthy weight

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 1, 2023

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By Jill Davis

Local Health Educator at the Winston-Salem Humana Neighborhood Center

As we age, we grow wiser, more patient, and often happier — we may also grow a bit around the middle.

While weight gain as we age may be normal, it is still important to monitor closely.

Maintaining a healthy weight is important to healthy aging. It can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems and high blood pressure, according to The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

For seniors, following a nutritious eating pattern can help your body stay as healthy as possible, and some elements of everyday life can affect your weight. To help you improve your lifestyle as you age, it is important to have a clear understanding of what factors can cause unhealthy weight gain and how to counter them. This can include:

  • Distorted portions: People consistently eat more food when they are offered larger portions. Serving sizes and portions are not the same. Use the eyeball method to focus on portion sizes, and remember to stop eating once you are satisfied.
  • An unhealthy stress response: Stress triggers the “fight-or-flight” response, which causes the release of two hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. According to research published by Obesity, there’s a link between high cortisol levels and being overweight. To help manage stress, try to avoid people or situations that cause stress, or alter those situations by doing things differently. You can also adapt your responses by turning negative thoughts into positive ones.
  • Mindless eating: When you eat mindlessly, you likely are not listening to your body’s cues to tell you if you are hungry or full. To eat more mindfully, avoid distractions like using a smartphone or watching television so you can slow down to savor each bite.
  • Lack of sleep: Not getting enough sleep affects your hunger hormones, making you hungrier throughout the day. According to the National Institute of Aging, older adults should get 7 to 9 hours each night. Create a bedtime routine and get rid of distractions before bed.
  • Needing more exercise: Exercise has many benefits for your body and mind, including weight control. When you don’t get enough, it may lead to weight gain. To exercise safely, you can go for a walk with a friend, or see if your health plan benefits include fitness classes near you.

Recognizing these unhealthy habits and taking proactive steps to combat them can set you up for success and start your weight loss journey. Before starting the path to managing your weight, it’s important to set up goals, and remember to keep them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Learning more ways you may be able to improve your health is another step in the right direction, like attending educational health classes at your local Humana Neighborhood Center.

Lastly, stay flexible. If you slip up, think of it as a learning experience and apply your findings to your plan to prevent future slip-ups.

 For information on upcoming health and wellness classes offered at the Humana Neighborhood Center in Winston-Salem, call (336) 293-0122, or visit the center located at 1045 Hanes Mall Boulevard to pick up a monthly calendar of events that are open to the public at no cost.