A health enthusiast and writer shares her insights about why weight loss becomes harder for ageing women.

It’s a story most of us are familiar with. You step on the scale after a long gap, and suddenly discover you have gained five kilos.

All of a sudden (or so it seems) layers of flesh have settled around your tummy, hips and arms. The worst part is that you’ve been eating more or less the same food. “Your body has slowed down,” murmur sympathetic friends.

Cutting back doesn’t have the same effect

But you won’t accept this. So you embark on a diet that has worked for you in the past. You eat a roti less at meals and cut down sugary snacks. Two weeks later you step on the scale again. The figure is the same. Not an ounce less!

What’s going on, you wonder? The answers are long and uninspiring, but the common thread that ties them all is that it’s not as easy to lose weight as we grow older. Read on to understand why.

#1 Your rate of burn has declined

With every passing year, the body’s metabolic rate drops, and more work is needed to work off those extra pounds. Diets may help you shed a few pounds, but the minute you go back to eating normally, the weight climbs right back on. So what can you actually do?

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#2 You may be an emotional eater

Begin by analyzing your eating habits. You could start a “food diary” to help you with this. Food is a highly charged emotional issue for many people, and the reasons so many diets fail is that they don’t address why we overeat in the first place.

So, write down everything you eat, when you ate it and how you felt at the time. This action will help you confront the emotional causes of overeating. The next step is find a way to deal with your negative feelings, that doesn’t involve food.

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#3 Your diet is designed to satisfy cravings rather than build health

One thing is for sure. Changing your diet to create health rather than lose weight will eventually help you lose weight, and maintain the weight loss. What this means is simply choosing food that will nourish you – brown bread rather than white, fruit instead of biscuits, a bowl of yoghurt every day, and so on.

#4 You don’t eat enough protein and fibrous carbohydrates

The majority of carbohydrates you consume should contain fibre and raise your blood sugar level slowly. Good examples of carbohydrates like this are beans, wheat products, most vegetables and fruits. Cut back on pasta and dessert. By introducing some exercise, you can start increasing your intake of carbohydrates slowly.

Any diet you adopt should have a reasonable amount of protein. Lean body mass is built and maintained by protein, and eating more protein has many benefits: more energy, less grogginess in the morning, a decrease in indigestion and bloating, and insomnia.

#5 You haven’t learned to eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are full

Drink some water if you think you are still hungry, and wait for 15 minutes to see if the urge to eat still persists. Eat slowly, savour your food and you will enjoy it much more.

#6 You don’t move enough

Creating an exercise routine for yourself is a part of the overall commitment you need to make to yourself to have a better body, and maintain your weight loss. Everyone’s approach to exercise is different, and it’s essential to develop an innate sense of what feels right for our bodies.

For some a 20-minute walk every alternate day works well, whereas others respond better to a swim in the pool or aerobics. What matters is that you keep your own nature in mind when you choose an exercise programme. All the best.