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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: July 2023 | Health

Weight Management for Seniors

Seth D Kramer


  • As people age, metabolism slows down and weight management becomes more challenging.
  • Traditional, common-sense methods for weight control can help seniors maintain a healthy weight and improve overall well-being.
Weight Management for Seniors

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One of the interesting aspects of watching the NBA on television is listening to former-players-turned-commentators Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. Their basketball knowledge and rapid repartee are true standout traits. But there is another inescapable fact about the two: their enormous post-retirement weight gain.

Although neither was known for being svelte when they were playing in the NBA, both men have commented on their struggles to lose weight. From a 30,000-foot perspective, the weight gain is understandable. Playing professional basketball is a great workout that also helps control weight. Pro ballers are known for living large—and that often means excess in all aspects of life, including eating. When the playing days are done, weight can pile on.

But even for people who are not retired NBA players—like attorneys—as you age, your metabolism slows down and weight gain can occur. According to Claudia Drum, a registered dietitian quoted on the US Army’s official website, “your body composition gradually changes as the proportion of muscle tissue decreases and fat tissue increases.”

This common condition is known as sarcopenia. And although it naturally occurs as part of the aging process, sarcopenia accelerates after age 60. Writing on, dietitian Diana Licalzi explains, “Muscle loss is often replaced with fat, which requires less energy to operate than muscle. And if we don’t adjust for this decreased calorie need, then weight gain usually occurs.”

Lifestyle changes related to retirement can also create impediments to maintaining weight. Snacking can become a companion to the slower-paced life that retirement lends itself to.

What, then, is a senior supposed to do to deal with the inevitable challenge? In searching the web for answers, it becomes clear that traditional, common-sense methods are still the way to go.

Christian Simmons, writing in, lists the five key points to weight control after 60. Most of these points are obvious, but they work and are worth exploring further.

“Keep Exercising.” One of the classic ways to maintain and/or lose weight, an exercise regimen should include not just cardio (like walking and stair climbing) but also some form of weight training. As one gets older, bones become more brittle and more subject to breakage. Weight training strengthens the bones. “This greatly reduces the risk of fracture over your lifetime, especially in old age,” per the website And breaking a bone may lead to inactivity, and hence weight gain. That is why it is important to strengthen your bones by weightlifting.

“Eat Smaller Meals More Often.” Anecdotally, the people I know who have consistently maintained the same weight over the years have done so through portion control. And there are numerous health benefits to this method. Per, “Consuming smaller amounts of food more frequently is better for the digestion system and blood sugar levels.”

“Hydrate Often.” Since about 60% of the human body is water, hydration is key—and it also makes an important contribution to brain health and overall mental function. Mental processes slow down as we age, and according to, “Cognitive function is enhanced when the brain cells receive the appropriate amount of hydration.”

“Cut Carbs and Extra Sugars.” Another piece of ageless wisdom. You are what you eat. To maintain your weight and be healthy, you need to eat healthy. As states, you should avoid foods with “empty calories, like sugars and foods with little or no nutritional value.” And eating sugary things can lead to a multitude of health problems. In fact, excess sugar in the brain “can also cause slowed cognitive function and even memory and attention problems for seniors,” according to

“Manage Stress and Sleep Schedule.” As you age, symptoms of stress—fatigue, insomnia, headaches, and stomach upset—can often be misattributed to existing health problems. According to, chronic ailments “may mask these common symptoms of stress.” Although the literature dealing with stress is substantial, combining the above four points with mindfulness has helped me identify and manage stress.

Recently, there has been lots of buzz in the media about the use of medications based on semaglutide—such as Ozempic and Wegovy—for weight loss. The medicine has been approved by the FDA for treating type 2 diabetes. Apparently, one of the side effects of semaglutide is weight loss. As such, the medication has been used as an after-market weight-loss drug—which has been prominently mentioned in television advertising. The appropriateness of these medications for weight loss is clearly beyond the scope of this article. But this is certainly a topic that seniors should keep an eye on for further developments.

So, until the Baby Boomer credo comes true and there is “better living through chemistry,” the ongoing struggle over weight issues is best addressed through practices that have worked through time immemorial.