Maria Cecilia Asnis, an endocrinologist at the Stamford Health Medical Group, who says that people are not overweight because of a lack of willpower. An overweight body does whatever it can to conserve calories, Asnis said, so someone who is obese and trying to lose weight will probably need to eat about 15 percent fewer calories a day than someone who has been in the normal range and is just trying to drop a few pounds. Weight loss for someone who is heavy “requires an enormous amount of willpower and very few calories—which is difficult to sustain,” Asnis said. That’s why people with a lot of weight to lose may need the extra help of medications or surgery, which change the body’s regulatory mechanisms, she said. Medications can generally lead to a 7 to 10 percent loss of body weight, she said, while people who undergo surgery can drop 50 to 60 percent of their excess weight. Schmidt likes to consider food and exercise as her medications. Combating middle age weight gain requires speeding up your metabolism—and there’s no better way to do that than by pumping some iron, Schmidt said. “Many times, women are doing cardio, cardio, cardio. But they need to do weight training, weight training, weight training.” Transforming fat into muscle increases the metabolism and helps the body burn more calories naturally, she said. Women over 50 should be doing weight training twice a week, in addition to getting some aerobic activity at least 30 minutes a day the rest of the week. In terms of diet, Schmidt recommends filling your plate at least half full with vegetables before adding carbs. And not all carbs are created equal: minimize processed foods and sugar, she advised. “If I’m eating foods that are high in fiber, it’s going to take more energy for my body to process it, and therefore I’m going to be taking in fewer total calories,” she said. For her part, Boland said it’s the combination of eating more carefully and building muscle that has made such a big difference for her.
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