Lori Johnson, a personal trainer and nutritional consultant, says many of her clients deal with the creeping weight that seems to come on as they grow older.
The owner of Fresh Start Fitness Training and Nutritional Consulting in Bellingham, she says more than half of her clients are over 65, and unexplained weight gain is a common complaint.
Johnson says that as people age, it takes fewer calories to do the same amount of work. Add to that a loss of muscle mass, which requires calories to maintain, and even fewer calories are burned each day as people grow older. Hormonal changes also can make it more difficult to keep off the pounds.
Fortunately, some easy changes to nutrition and daily habits will add up to weight loss over time, Johnson says. And while it's difficult not to want to lose a lot of weight in a short time, a safe pace for losing weight typically is one or two pounds a week, says Johnson who also teaches fitness classes at Sudden Valley's health club.
USE RESISTANCE TRAINING
Instead of using only aerobic exercise to melt off the fat, people starting a new fitness regime should focus first on building muscle, which is its own calorie-burner, Johnson says. Resistance training doesn't mean heavy weight lifting; rather, it's exercise that involves just mild resistance.
Small weights, stretchy resistance bands, and isometric exercises found in yoga all help to build muscle, which takes calories to maintain. Swimming, water aerobics, and walking in water also provide mild resistance if you're getting started building up your muscles.
Building up your muscles also helps to stave off osteoporosis, which can lead to brittle bones and health problems as women grow older, Johnson says.
Johnson says protein is required at every meal to build muscle and to keep you satisfied enough to avoid binging when mealtime comes around.
"The more you age, the more protein you need," she says.
Often, a typical American diet leaves most of the protein consumption for dinner. But Johnson says protein throughout the day is a key to good health.
Typically, a person needs as many protein grams as half of their numerical body weight. In other words, a 150-pound person needs 75 grams of protein a day.
Healthy protein options include skinless chicken breast, turkey, eggs, peanuts and a variety of beans. Adding protein-rich snacks also can help.
Using an online food log - such as myfitnesspal.com - can make it easy to keep track of calories and nutrients.
SNACK - THAT'S RIGHT, SNACK
People need more than three meals a day. Johnson suggests adding two snacks daily to keep you from becoming ravenous and overeating at regular meal times.
Snacks that she recommends include low-fat string cheese, some nuts, and dried fruit. It's important to keep such items in your car or purse so, say, if a meeting goes long or you become stuck in traffic, you aren't tempted to visit a drive-through restaurant famished.
Two snacks a day also help to keep your meal sizes smaller, since you're not as hungry when you sit down for lunch or dinner. Although calorie counts vary for each person and for their weight-loss goals, meals should be under 500 calories each and snacks should be under 400 calories.
Johnson also recommends that people's main daily meals should shrink as the sun sets, so you consume the most calories with enough time left in the day to burn them up.
"You need to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper," she says.
CHANGE YOUR LIQUIDS
Water, coffee and tea should accompany your meals as well as be your daily liquid fix. Avoid soda, energy drinks and other high-sugar drinks - they add unnecessary calories.
Johnson suggests using smoothies and freshly juiced vegetables and fruits as a meal replacement occasionally.
"Some people just juice for lunch," she says. "I've had clients who have lost weight, had skin problems disappear and feel better just by juicing one meal each day."
People who consider juice not substantial enough for lunch can make a smoothie, which keeps filling fiber in the drink. Add spinach, kale, cucumber, celery or other green vegetables, which disappear among the sweet fruit flavors.
FIND PROPER MOTIVATION
Johnson often has her clients watch the movie "Touching the Void," about a disastrous mountain climbing accident in the Peruvian Andes. The movie tells the story of one man's struggle, despite severe injuries, to pull himself off of the mountain alive.
It's a dramatic story, one more life-threatening than any that her clients might face. Johnson says her clients are often amazed that a person's will can be so strong.
The motivation to make fitness and health a new habit, rather than just a short-term goal, is more likely to help people maintain weight loss than any quick-fix diet, Johnson says.
A recent motivation for Johnson is Charles Duhigg's book "The Power of Habit," which maintains that anyone can change their life if they make small changes part of their normal routine.
Adding healthy foods and more consistent exercise, and starting off with small changes, will lead to big returns and big weight loss, she says.
"You can do a few exercises with just a kitchen chair," Johnson says. "There's really no excuse."
CONSIDER THE QUICHE
Quiches are a great way to add protein to your day. Eat them for breakfast with a side of fruit, for lunch with a salad, or warmed up for a quick snack.
They can be stored for a day or two in the refrigerator and warmed in the oven or microwave, and can be frozen for later use.
Easy recipe for mini quiches
1 dozen eggs, or one carton of egg substitute or egg whites
1 cup of shredded low-fat cheddar cheese (or another cheese you prefer)
Two cups of a variety of vegetables - broccoli, red peppers, onions, scallions, spinach
Salt and pepper to taste, or other fresh or dried herbs
Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl and fold in the other ingredients.
Line a muffin pan with muffin cups.
Ladle the egg mixture three-fourths of the way up the muffin cup.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until puffed up.
Ericka Pizzillo Cohen is an Ohio-based freelance writer and former reporter for The Bellingham Herald.