How to Lose Weight in Your Late Forties

Lose Fat, Not Weight

The general belief is that it is far easier to lose weight when you are young. In your forties, what you got is what you got, they say. I wanted to put this belief to the test this year. So my new year resolution for 2013 to lose weight. By the way, the 2012 resolution was to take it easy and let go a bit; so my weight at the beginning of the year was about 82kg (180lb). With my unenviable stature of 170cm (5’7″), that weight put me firmly in the overweight category. So this year, I started with a modest target of getting to the other side of 75kg (165lb) and staying there by the end of the year, although my ideal weight is less than 70kg (155lb).

Before we go much further, a word of caution. The program outlined below is something that worked for me, but your level of fitness may be different, and you may need a completely different regime. My regime is borderline extreme. So please use your better judgement before adopting it. If in doubt, of if you have any health conditions, please consult your doctor first.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let me give you the good news first. With barely two months into 2013, I’m hovering below 73kg. I have already recalibrated my target to 72kg, but that’s going to be breached in a week or two. Then the target will have to change to an enviable “don’t lose too much” kind. How did I do it? That, of course, will involve a bit of bad news.

The mathematics of weight loss is pretty simple. In order to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you eat. In other words, you have to create a caloric deficit. That means you have to know the number of calories in everything you eat. At this point, most of us give up. Who has the time to memorize or look up all that ? Fortunately, I have an easy answer for you. If you don’t know the number of calories in something you are about to devour, and if you feel that it is kind of good, or the portion is kind of small, assume that it has 100 calories. So a glass of juice, a fruit, a small serving of nuts, a slice of bread, a strip of bacon all have about 100 calories. If it is something a bit sinful, assume it has 300 calories. Examples: a scoop of ice cream, a milkshake, a good streak etc. If it is something kind of in between, assume it is 200 calories. Say a latte or a cocktail or a glass of wine. Of course, this counting will never be perfect. It is only an approximation. But then, so are all the calorie numbers you would read up on the Internet. After all, how do they know how big your ice cream scoop or your wine glass is? My point is, it is much better to have a rough idea than to give up and have no clue at all. Besides, the errors tend to cancel each other (as Enrico Fermi used to say) and your estimate is going to be probably much better than you think.

Ok, now you know how to count calories — which is the first step in creating a caloric deficit. The second step is to know host many calories you burn. They say a man burns 2200 and a woman burns 1800 calories a day. I don’t know why this estimate is sexist, but there you have it. The highest caloric deficit your body can tolerate is about 1000. So you need to eat at least 1000-1200 calories, plus about 300 calories more if you work out. But realistically, you will miscount your calories probably by about 200-300 calories, which is something to remember. With a deficit of 1000 calories a day, you will lose about 1kg (2lb) a week, which is what I did in the last 10 weeks or so.

The next part is the hardest bit. How do we shed 1000 calories worth of food? Let’s take a look at a typical day and do a calorie count. (Actually, this was my typical day last year.)

Morning coffee 100
Breakfast (egg, toast, bacon, juice) 500
Latte at work 200
Lunch 500
Afternoon snack 200
Dinner 500
Wine 200
Nightcap 200
Uncounted 200
Total 2600

How in the world can we bring it down to 1200? Yes, we can. Here is my day now.

Morning coffee 0 Scrapped
Breakfast (egg, toast, bacon, juice) 400 One of each
Latte at work 0 Scrapped
Lunch 200 Two portions of fruits
Afternoon snack 100 Some nuts
Dinner 300 Reduced quantity
Wine 0 Scrapped
Nightcap 0 Scrapped
Uncounted 200
Total 1200 Deficit of at least 1000

The main thing is that I gave up coffee and alcohol, and took up Perrier instead (as if to celebrate my French connection). That is what you will have to do as well, if you want to shed weight. I know, I know – you really really need that coffee, or you will feel like a zombie the whole day. You are so stressed out, you cannot unwind and fall asleep without a drink, what’s the harm in that? Well, if you are serious about losing weight, every calorie counts, and you need an iron will.

I also hit the gym four or five times a week, and play badminton two or three times, often both on the same day. If you think that is tough, consider what a black belt test entails – 100 pushups, 100 burpees, 100 squats, 100 kicks and 10 board breakings. Impossible in your late forties, right? A classmate of mine has just managed it. And no, he wasn’t one of those health nuts throughout his life. He says it took him about six months to get to the black belt level. I guess that also calls for an iron will. And an iron will is what some of these dudes have bucketfuls of. Me included, fortunately.