February 4, 2013
BERLIN (Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)) -- Excess weight is a growing problem among the elderly according to a new report by the German Nutrition Society (DGE).
Seventy-four per cent of men and 63 per cent of the women between the ages of 70 and 74 weigh too much. Many elderly people believe it is impossible to lose weight but experts disagree. Discipline is paramount but it does not require a radical change in diet.
"Every person will lose weight if their energy consumption is higher than their intake," says Hans-Michael Muehlenfeld, a general practitioner. But any radical diet aiming to loose weight quickly will be counterproductive.
"It's not about instant success but about finding a way that suits my life," says nutritionist Dagmar Amberg-Duenne. There's no point in banning certain foods. "Because what's forbidden becomes interesting," she says.
Over the long-term it's best to look at one's eating habits and to write down everything that one eats. "You should also pay attention to why you eat -- maybe because you are sad, nervous, disappointed, angry or stressed out," Amberg-Duenne points out. It might prove helpful then to stop for a moment, breathe deeply -- and look for a different way of finding comfort.
General practitioner Muehlenfeld says: "Many patients say that they don't eat a lot. This might be right about the amount of food, but they eat too much food high in energy."
Amberg-Duenne recommends eating certain foods to shed the kilograms but drinking a lot also helps to lose weight. Two litres of water, unsweetened tea or fruit juices should be part of your daily intake of liquids.
Five portions of fruit and salad and three portions of vegetables should also be on a daily meal plan. Your own hands can serve as a reference for the right amount: for loose foods like berries both hands serve as a portion, for firm foods like apples it's a single hand full.
In addition come four servings of carbohydrates such as pasta, cooked rice, potatoes and bread -- one hand equals one serving. Red and white meat, fish and eggs add another three servings rich in protein. And two servings of fat can either come from two teaspoons of oil or butter. Snacks, wine or sweets should only be consumed in moderation.
The second pillar to losing weight is exercise. A slender figure's best friends are muscles, which even burn energy when one is being lazy. "One kilogram of muscle needs 75 calories even while resting, one kilogram of fat needs just four calories," says Joern Giersberg, a personal trainer.
But muscles don't remain active by themselves. Muscles start to diminish continuously by the age of 30 if people don't do sports.
Giersberg recommends training two to four times a week for between 20 and 60 minutes. The good news: even at a higher age muscles can be built up and retained. And exercise boosts the metabolism.
For those who don't like going to a gym, try working out at home with dumb-bells, knee-bends and press-ups. Yoga and Pilates are good alternatives. Even with arthritis and high blood pressure, exercise is possible by walking, swimming and cycling but a doctor should do a check-up in advance.
From a medical perspective reducing weight is necessary if it causes a risk to your health -- like diabetes, high blood pressure or secondary diseases related to coronary heart disease. But weight alone is not decisive: "Many people who are fat are fit. In the end it's about feeling good," says Amberg-Duenne.
Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH