If you are reading this with the expectation that I have an easy answer for how to maintain your ideal weight over 40, you will be disappointed. If you are looking to lose a lot of weight, my techniques may not be effective. If you are within 10 pounds of the weight you want to be and are constantly up and down, this may be the right article for you.
Every decade brought with it a tougher time to maintain my weight. Before I turned 20, I could eat anything I wanted and not gain weight. At 30, I had to practice portion control. The forties required something more – I had to count calories. No one wants to hear this, and some may choose to just add a couple or more pounds per year because the process is too hard.
I am 5’3″, which is unfortunate in the calorie-counting world because it means I can only have around 1,700 calories a day to maintain my weight. Add a 30-minute workout, and I get up to 1,900 – still not a ton. Dividing into breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner, this translates into less than 500 per meal. For those that have any experience looking at calories, you already know that most restaurant meals are one and a half times or double this limit. Which means you have to be creative and, at the same time, practice portion control. Also, it is important to include healthy options in the limited calorie count – I try to have a protein, a whole-grain, and a vegetable at every meal to make sure adequate nutritional needs are met and hunger is satisfied.
It is also difficult to maintain the sacrifice without some breaks, so I have chosen to reduce my weekday (Monday -Thursday) allotment by 500 calories per day and add the extra to my weekend (Friday – Sunday) for some treats. Small amounts of dark chocolate (under 100 calories) as an after-dinner tidbit can also help take some of the sting out of an austere day.
My day starts out with one of a few choices for breakfast:
- 1/8 cup raw oatmeal with 1/2 tablespoon flax seeds, 1/2 tablespoon chia seeds, 1/8 cup grapenuts, and 1 teaspoon shredded coconut either with 1 tablespoon of labne (can also use yogurt – 30 calories worth) and 5 strawberries (or equivalent blueberries, raspberries, etc.), if in town – 213 calories, or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and a Halo tangerine, if traveling – 280 calories;
- 1 serving (29 biscuits) of Kashi Autumn Wheat cereal, a hard-boiled egg, and a Halo tangerine or similar fruit – 290 calories;
- 1 english muffin (130 calories), 1 egg cooked in 1 teaspoon butter, 1/4 ounce of cheese with a Halo tangerine or similar fruit – 300 calories
Lunch is usually leftovers (250-400 calories), which you will read about in the dinner section, but I also need to eat out at times. Some restaurants provide calorie counts to make decisions easier, such as Sugarfish and The Little Beet. Sugarfish’s Trust Me Lite is 349 calories and you can have half of an Avo Fresh Bowl (save the other half for snack) for 285 calories. The best options for eating out otherwise are:
- chirashi (bowl of sushi rice with sashimi on top – eat 1/2 cup of the sushi rice, 5 ounces of sashimi, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, some nori, pickled ginger, and a salad with the ginger dressing on the side – dip the chopsticks in the dressing and then pick up the salad) – 375 calories;
- salad with dressing on the side (dip fork in the dressing, and then grab the veggies) and 5 ounces of grilled salmon, grilled chicken, or grilled shrimp (be careful of croutons, cheese, nuts, etc.) – 350 calories;
- take the meat, cheese, and vegetables out of your sandwich and use mustard and pepper as your flavor enhancers
- fajitas – no tortilla and limit the meat to 4 ounces, 1/2 cup grilled peppers and onions, 2 tablespoons of guacamole, 1/2 cup black beans, and 3 chips (just enough for a treat) – 385 calories
- 4 ounces of meat (chicken, beef, fish, etc.), small amounts of vegetables (not including potatoes or other starchy, caloric ones with a lot of oil or butter).
Snacks are normally either 1 ounce of nuts and fruit or 1 ounce of cheese and fruit – both around 200 calories. If you are feeling hungry, think about having drinks such as tea or flavored sparkling water (no sugar or artificial sweeteners in either) or low-calories foods like sauerkraut, pickles (dill, not bread and butter or sweet), or raw vegetables.
Dinner is much easier when eating at home, but follow same guidelines as lunch if you have to go out. Some of my favorite dinners, for which I will post the recipes soon, are:
- Meat-Lite Chili, which is a mostly vegetarian chili, with a bit of ground beef – 300 calories
- Send the Rice Down Celery with Ground Beef, Stir-fried Chicken and Shallots, Pock-Marked Woman Tofu, and many other options served with 1/2 cup (cooked) jasmine rice – recipes from The Breath of a Wok and Every Grain of Rice – 300-400 calories
- Save Your Life Garlic Soup or Fresh and Wild Mushroom Stew from David Tanis – 300 calories
After dinner, we normally have dark chocolate, a piece of See’s Candy, or some other sub-100-calorie treat. On days that I have a surplus, an ounce or 2 of bourbon or a dirty martini with a bleu cheese-stuffed olive make the sacrifices of the day bearable.
You just have to make sure you are weighing things, measuring to ensure the proper serving size, and using an app like My Fitness Pal to track. Also, with My Fitness Pal, it is important to not just choose the first item in the search. Check a few to make sure they make sense. It’s about balance and trade-offs. If you have a birthday at work, have a small piece of the dessert and skip your snack that day. If you know you are going to a happy hour event, skip the snack for the glass of wine. Learn what an ounce of meat or cheese and 5-ounce glass of wine look like.
On the exercise side, it seems to be key to have cardio and weight training in the mix. I work out with weights (large muscles) Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and then switch to a toning routine (smaller muscles) on Thursday and Friday, adding spurts of cardio into each. More on this later.
This is only a peek into my strategy, but hopefully enough to give you an idea of how to start. I’ll post more about the plan, as well as meal ideas and recipes, in the future. The process is definitely not pain-free, but I’m finding it is worth it to fit easily in my clothes every day with no struggles to button or discomfort throughout the day.