Tips to Eat Right & Exercise for a Healthy Midlife Body

Let's face it: Once you hit a certain age, your body starts to change. Your jeans don't quite fit right anymore, those perky parts aren't as perky as they once were and just what is that pooch around your middle all about? We asked David L. Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and author of Disease Proof (Penguin, 2013), to answer some of these pressing questions:

Q: I eat the same, if not better, as I did when I was younger but I'm still gaining. Why?

A: As you get older, you lose lean muscle mass, which acts as the calorie-burning engine in your metabolism. Lean muscle mass uses more calories just to maintain itself than any other tissue in the body.

For every pound of muscle you lose, you probably need about 50 fewer calories per day. Because there's no way to gauge exactly how much muscle you've lost, it can be tricky to figure out how many calories you'll need to cut to maintain your usual weight. It requires a bit of trial and error.

Q: Should I eat fewer carbs now that I’m older?

A: I don’t like to focus on specific nutrient categories. What's important is getting high-quality nutrition—that is, eating more nutritious foods that fill you up on fewer calories.

Focusing on eating reasonable portions of real foods—lean meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables—that are minimally processed and low in sodium is the best way to maintain a healthy weight.

Q: I walk every day. Is that enough exercise?

A: It depends on your goals. For overall health, it may be. If you're walking briskly up and down hills and getting your heart rate up for an hour a day, five days a week, you'll be getting cardiovascular exercise and building muscle in your lower body. (A pace of roughly three miles per hour is generally needed to get a meaningful conditioning benefit if you're walking on flat ground.)

If you're trying to lose weight, however, you'll want to add in some resistance exercise, such as lifting weights, at least twice a week. (Remember, the more muscle you have, the more calories you'll be able to eat without gaining weight.)

Another benefit of muscle is that it's denser than fat—so the more you have, the leaner you'll look.

Q: Should my goal weight change after I reach 50?

A: There are two considerations when it comes to weight—your appearance and your health. I have patients who gain just a little bit of weight in the wrong places and their blood pressure shoots up, their cholesterol levels worsen and their glucose rises. As a physician, I can't say that's okay because their health is in danger.

On the other hand, I have patients who are fixated on their weight and yet they're energetic and vital, they have no health problems and they look great. If your health is fine and you're taking care of yourself, then maybe it's time to try to accept yourself at the weight you are.

From our sister publication REMEDY'S Healthy Living Spring 2014

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 12 Feb 2014

Last Modified: 12 Feb 2014