Weight loss in later years

My parents are both trying to lose weight at the moment but are finding it very difficult. They are on the Optifast diet at the moment which restricts them to around 800-1000 calories per day but after a large initial loss (mostly water I don’t doubt) things have levelled off and they are becoming disheartened that they are consuming so few calories and their weight is remaining constant.

The logical assumption is that they need to include exercise in order to push things along, the human body being exceptionally good at mitigating reduced calorie intake by lowering the basal metabolic rate.

So, does anybody have any advice on what kind of exercise might be suitable for them? My dad is in his mid-70s and mum is around 70 so heavy exercise is out of the question. They like walking but can only do so gently as dad struggles to walk quickly and a couple of hours strolling around doesn’t burn many calories.

I have been reading about the Wii Fit and assorted games such as EA Active: Personal Trainer being good for older people to use as it allows them to work out in the privacy of their own home, does anyone have experience with these games, do they actually get the heart rate high enough for there to be benefits if used regularly?

This is not just an issue of exercise. They are starving. When your body goes into starvation mode, you will no longer lose weight. Given a low enough caloric intake, your body may actually start to devour muscle tissue to feed itself.

Tell your parents they are far too old to be crash dieting. Because they are, and this is DANGEROUS.

A sane way to lose weight is to eat the RDA of calories for your body height and sex, get plenty of veggies and water, while exercising a moderate amount. Drastically cutting calories is so ridiculously unhealthy.

I don’t want to be rude, but what exactly put them on this flawed path so late in life? Obviously their lifestyles have been average or above average for them to have lived so long. Starving an elderly person could set off a weak heart. I’d hate to see that happen =/

Rachelellogram has an excellent point. Reading the OP, I assumed they were on a program under a doctor’s care. No adult should be consuming under 1200 calories a day without frequent monitoring by a doctor, or at least a nurse practitioner (assuming they are in the US). Frequent means every couple of weeks. This would probably not be financially feasible unless they were in some kind of program like this.

Having said that, exercise is the only way to improve their weight loss. At their ages, this should also be part of the doctor’s oversight, in conjunction with someone like a physical therapist.

In my opinion, in general, they should probably be doing some combination of aerobic exercise and strength training. Older people tend to be too weak physically, especially in their upper body, and even a small improvement there will greatly improve their quality of life. Aerobic exercise will burn calories immediately; increased muscle mass will burn calories even when they are not exercising (although a very modest amount unless they become body builders). The easiest way to do all of this is probably to join a gym - it is easier there to get a range of different aerobic exercises (also important in both weight loss and general conditioning) and to work your way up gradually in both speed and endurance. And they have weight equipment that is easier to use than free weights.

I wish them luck (again, assuming proper monitoring by someone medical). I know how easy it is to get discouraged and fall off the wagon, only to end up worse off than when you started.

(bolding added) Not necessarily. Optifast is what is known as a “protein-sparing modified fast” product, which means that it is very heavily loaded with protein, so that the body only (mostly) burns the stored fat for energy, and leaves the muscle tissue undevoured.

The sane way to lose weight that you describe doesn’t work well for people who need to lose a lot of weight (again, I’m assuming that’s the case here). Studies show the most that is usually lost using non-drastic methods is about 10% of the original weight. If they are obese, the benefits of additional weight loss could certainly outweigh the risks of this kind of modified fasting, again assuming medical monitoring.

If they’re in their 70’s then they need to make their doctor aware of what they’re doing, and perhaps consult on appropriate exercise.

And if they exercise in any meaningful way, they will need to eat more than 800-1000 calories a day. And if dad has to “struggle to walk quickly” I have to wonder what the heck is going on with him.

I would expect that resuming a healthy balanced diet with some light excercise is likely to be more beneficial.

They should consult their doctor first and get advice, a balance must be made between the risks and benefits.

As you age, it takes longer to recover from physical activity, and it takes longer to gain fitness, this I know becuase I am trying to regain race fitness nearly 15 years after racing competitively - physically I simply cannot train every day as I once did - I have improved, when I first started I could only train twice a week and only for maybe 40 minutes - after 5 months I can train on 5 occasions a week with 4 sessions of one hour and one of around 4 hours - its damned hard to regain fitness.

I reckon it will take another year to regain most the muscle mass I have lost, maybe 2 years to get anywhere near my former ability.

The compensation is that I can eat much more, and yet I have lost around 2inch from my waist - bear in mind I am rather younger than your parents, it will take them far longer and other health issues may well come into play.

I vote for forgetting the diet and just eating what we all know we should, and in moderation. As for exercise, have they considered water aerobics or the like? Water provides great resistance with little or no impact on joints. Is bicycling a possibility? They make comfort bikes now that eliminate a lot of problems seniors may have with regular bikes–if balance is an issue, recumbent trikes can be a solution. Wii Fit is ok but I would suggest EA Sports Active. Can they do the Wii bowling or golf, just to stay limber? I wish them luck, weight loss will take stress off their joints and heart.

A starvation diet is terrible for them in every way. If they are losing weight, they are probably losing whatever muscle they had. I recommend doubling calories, eating lots of protein, moderate fats, and minimizing sugars and starch. At their age they need to focus on building lean mass above all else, for the sake of their health. Doing what you need to to build muscle (the right diet more so than exercise) usually reduces body fat as well.

Weight training for exercise. They can do it at home. ‘Heavy exercise’ is something you work up to. You can build strength and muscle at any age, but you have to give your body what it needs - which is much, much more than 800 cals per day!

I’m 73 and the main exercise I get is walking. Generally, about 20 miles/week. In very cold or very hot days, my wife and I drive up to the local enclosed mall and walk for an hour, often very day. Otherwise we take hour and a half walks.

Aside from that I do about a half hour of basically stretching and setting up exercises (nothing aerobic and nothing that consumes calories except by goosing the metabolism maybe). I am overweight and ought to lose weight, but at least I am not gaining. My wife likewise. She refuses to see her cardiologist because he will start berating her about her weight (not that he is a bag of bones, himself; definitely overweight, but not unusually so). Like she needs more stress from her doctors.

Anyway, I strongly recommend walking. It is not stressful, doesn’t damage any part of your anatomy and, unless you are circling a mall, generally pleasant.

800 to 1,000 calories??? Good grief they need to up that to at least 1,200 AND they better be taking a good multivitamin every day.

First of all an average person uses about 11 calorie per pound to maintain weight. So if you weigh 175 pounds that 1,925 calories a day, if you do nothing.

So basically that’s 80.2 calories per hour just living.

You can’t use exercise to increase weight loss more than five or ten pounds. Why? Because you don’t exercise enough. Let’s say you went out for a walk. OK so instead of burning your 80.2 calories per hour, an hour walk will burn you 90 calories or 100 calories. That’s only 19.8 calories MORE than if you sat around and did nothing.

I would guess the real reason the weight loss stopped is your parents are cheating. You can’t live on 800 and not lose weight. I read this all the time. You would be not only losing weight but you’d be getting sick too, unless you’re in bed all day in a coma.

People don’t realize how much they eat. They count calories incorrectly. I recall one study of dieticians and nutrionists found the best of them underestimated their calorie intake by 25% most were underestimating by 30% or more.

Assuming your parents are healthy and no real metobolic illness like thyroid or diabetes, they should focus less on losing weight and more on health.

They should be in a gym or the YMCA or whatever. They need areobic exercise first. This needs to be 60 mintues per day, FIVE times a week. They need to be doing this at 85% of their maximum heart beat

Formula is (220-AGE) X .85

So for me I’m 46. That would be 220-46 = 174

174 X .85 = 148

So I should be doing aerobic exercise that raises my heart rate to no more than 148. You want to keep it between 65% and 85% for at least ONE HOUR per day, FIVE days a week.

They next need to to yoga and stretching. Older people lose flexibility. We all lose this as we age. This is problematic, as it’s serous when an older person breaks something. This streching will losen tendons, harden bones and make a person ache less.

Then if they want they can work out with light weights.

If your parents do this, the weight will fall off without much effort.

It’s nice to be thin and it’s bad to be overweight but right now it’s more important to get the heart pumping.

The goals I stated can’t be done overnight. Your parents need to go slow and worth their way up to it. It might take a year or more to do it. Which is fine.

In the end any exercise is better than none, simply because they’re not eating. The three reasons why people eat is: They’re bored, they’re at the computer or they’re at the movies/TV. They mindlessly eat.

If you’re out walking you’re not eating. It’s not the extra walking that keeps the weight off, it’s the fact that instead of being in front of the computer eating, you’re away from food