By Jordan Chen, Registered Dietitian
Now that Baby Boomers are getting older and reaching retirement age, many of my clients are struggling with knowing just how much to eat in order to maintain a healthy weight.
Some patients have put on a few pounds due to changes in metabolism after reaching menopause. Other patients have gone through chemotherapy and don’t know how to put weight back on.
Are you wondering how much you should eat each day in order to maintain a healthy weight?
No two people are the same. Even if a husband and wife are the same age, it doesn't mean they have the same amount of energy needs.
On average, our calorie needs decrease as we age because we lose muscle mass, which is more metabolically active than fat mass.
Another downside to aging is that we tend to store more fat in our abdominal region (belly), where it increases our risk for cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.
Resting Metabolic Rate
Calculating your resting metabolic rate can give you an idea of how many calories you burn at rest. This includes calories burned through essential functions such as breathing, circulating blood, your heart beating, food digestion and sustaining your organ function.
Use the following formulas to calculate your resting metabolic rate (RMR):
Age 31-60: 11.6 x weight + 879
Age 60+: 13.5 x weight + 487
Age 31-60: 8.7 x weight + 829
Age 60+: 10.5 x weight + 596
These formulas come from researchers with the World Health Organization.
While these calculations aren't an exact measurement, they can give you an idea of how much exercise you may need in order to burn your daily calorie intake and maintain and/or lose weight.
Besides age, each person has characteristics that can affect the amount of energy you burn, including activity level, body composition and the thermal effect of food (how many calories are burned just by digesting the food you eat).
Watch What You Eat
Here are three tips to watch what you're eating, especially as your metabolism slows down with age:
Watch snacking — Many people who "graze" throughout the day tend to struggle with weight loss. Some people think a bite of "this" or "that" won't add up, but it does. I usually recommend for patients to keep treats or snack foods out of the house if they struggle with grazing. If you really want to enjoy a treat, I recommend buying individual serving sizes when a temptation hits.
Watch portions — Many patients who struggle with weight loss end up eating much more than they think they are. One suggestion when trying to watch portions would be to use measuring cups and measuring spoons every once in a while to visualize exactly what 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1 tsp, etc., would be and then to use that visualization to estimate the next time.
Are you actually hungry? One thing to ask yourself before you eat is "Are you actually hungry?" or if there is some other emotional reason you're eating, such as boredom, sadness, etc. Another thing to consider is oftentimes we mistake hunger for thirst. I usually recommend drinking a glass of water and waiting 10 minutes. Ask yourself if you're hungry before you begin eating. If you aren't hungry, maybe you could do something else you enjoy for the time being, such as reading a book, taking a walk, or playing with a pet.
If you are interested in seeing what your body composition levels are or if you are struggling to maintain a healthy weight, a registered dietitian can work with you to find out what healthy diet will fit best with your lifestyle to meet your energy needs.
Contact Jordan Chen, Registered Dietitian, if you would like to schedule an appointment.