Richard at Primal Fed has a thought provoking post on “When is it Too Late to Get Healthy”. At least it got me thinking not only of my journey, but also of attitudes toward diet and exercise from different perspectives.
Richard states he is a 26 year old male, and his personal bio on the site shows his amazing quick transformation simply living a primal lifestyle. His wife, Amanda, is a few years younger and also has an inspiring story.
Kids today …
In their cases, change was quick and satisfying. Like most who adopt a low carb / paleo lifestyle, they can’t imagine going back to their old ways. But coursing through their bodies are the hormones of youth, making weight loss easier and exercise more beneficial. That’s not to diminish the dramatic improvements they have made; its just a biological fact. For women generally, and especially after menopause, losing weight is much harder. Men over 50 have much the same problem. And for both sexes, middle age brings biological changes that make it harder to build muscle mass. There are individual exceptions, but in general, a 50 year old man is going to have a harder time than a 25 year old building muscle. Sorry folks, that’s just the way it is.
Richard mentions in his post that his grandmother stated it was “too late for her” 15 years ago, when she was 50 years old. Too late?
Is it Too Late?
If you are thinking about having a perfectly fat tummy, yeah, 50 is probably too late. If you are thinking about having defined abs, huge arms and massive muscles, yeah, 50 is probably too late. But if you are thinking about getting healthier, jettisoning all those pills for high blood pressure, GERD and cholesterol, then 50 is not too late. 60, 70 and even 80 years old are not too late.
Here’s the thing: body composition changes as we age. The alternative to this happening is to die young. So you won’t look like a 26 year old if you are 50. You might get close with a ton of work, effort, hair dye and plastic surgery. But you won’t really have the body of a healthy 26 year old.
The focus for the over-50 set should be getting healthier. Following a low carb or primal lifestyle will result in weight loss, but not to the same extent as a 26 year old. The goal should be to be healthier, and the key to that is to reduce processed carbohydrate rich foods, reduce triglycerides, fasting blood sugar, and yes, lose weight if in the obese category. But don’t lose too much weight.
The Myth of “Normal Weight”
As we’ve shown before, the charts and formulas used for “ideal weight” are wrong. Studies have shown that BMI, the formula used by most doctors, reveal that those in the overweight category are 17% less likely to die than people in the “normal” weight category. That’s right; the reason you see so many fat old people is that the skinny ones died already. It is better, statistically, to be in the overweight category when using BMI than in the “normal” weight category.
Two years ago, I was 53 years old, weighed 248 pounds and had triglycerides of 344, high blood pressure, GERD and didn’t sleep at night. Six weeks after starting a low carb diet, I had lost a little weight, but my triglycerides fell to 106, I was off high blood pressure medicine and my GERD was gone.
I lost weight steadily that first year, then plateaued at just over 200 pounds, where I am now. I could lose more weight with some effort, but I’m now simply “overweight” rather than “obese”, my blood panel is much better and I no longer have a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetic. I’m pretty satisfied with that. So I’ll continue on this road.
And if I lose more weight, that’s great. If I don’t, that’s OK too, because I’m improving my health. I’d rather be alive and have an overweight BMI at 85 than assume room temperature in a prettier body at 70.
Its Not Too Late
Managing expectations is probably as important as managing your diet. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re a premenopausal female and your male partner loses more weight while eating more food (the bastard!) Unless you want to grow facial hair and deepen your voice by taking testosterone supplements, that’s the way it is.
Don’t beat yourself up if you are over 50 and you aren’t getting the same results as a 25 year old. They have youth as an advantage, and its one that you can’t borrow, buy or otherwise obtain, no matter how many late night infomercials you view.
He’s not your enemy. Most of the time, anyway.
You can improve your health, often dramatically, by adopting a low carb or paleo lifestyle. Ask your doctor about it, and phrase it this way: “Are they any health problems I currently have that would be exacerbated by eating a low carb diet?” Get the straight answer to that question. Certain health conditions like kidney or liver disease, gout or digestive disorders may argue against adopting a higher protein diet, and only you and your doctor really know if you have those.
Beyond that specific question, your doctor may recommend the standard, low fat bound-to-fail diet they are so fond of in medical circles. Barring a specific medical reason to avoid a low carb diet, see if your doctor will work with you to adopt either of the low carb diets featured below.