She is 5’10" 51 years old. She recently retired from teaching elementary school and mother of three. Never an athlete, not competitive, hates to go fast etc…but, absolutely brilliant and a fighter with real word issues. For example, we went through the death of a child; she’s stayed with me through a very turbulent career with multiple cross country moves (USA); was our son’s advocate for years helping him through some serious health issues; she married me 27 years ago!
Through her 30’s and 40’s she was stable body composition and weight wise around 125 pounds. We started counting calories and no alcohol 5 weeks ago (she initiated it I joined in). We have always eaten whole food, limited takeout/dinning out etc…she is bummed that her weight is now 141.
I’ve done this before (calorie counting) losing nearly 20 pounds from 165 to 147 about 10 years ago. I did it when I was injured and the only cardio I did was 15 minutes on a stationary bike 3x/week prior to my PT visits. Point is, weight loss can be done easily with out much cardio.
She is very frustrated and I’m starting to sense she might give up. We walk together; cook together; raise the kids together; travel a bit until COVID…I have remained silent and am very aware how husbands can be not helpful with their “just do it” approach. Husbands can be the absolute worst at helping and I’m fully aware and feel like I’m the polar opposite. I mostly encourage her to stay the course for a few more months as these things take time (IME). Offer insight only when she brings it up. Have never made comments about weight or body comp.
Only meds she takes are for high blood pressure. She just had a full blood work done-all normal including thyroid and negative COVID. Endometrial ablation 10 years ago…
Any females out there who are 50’s and older that can relate or maybe have some pearls of wisdom? Or husbands who have been through the same situation I’d be grateful to read what helped your wife/SO. Best and thanks!
Changing your body composition tends to work differently for men and women, especially around and after menopause. Strategies that work easily for you will not work for her, and your experience with weight loss will not match hers. Stacy Sims has written a bunch about training through and after menopause: she’s written a ton of articles, guested on a bunch of podcasts, written a book, and I think she’s about to teach an online course about it. (My memory of the gist is “lift heavy s**t and add BCAAs to your recovery” but I’m sure there’s more to it than that, heh.)
Make sure your wife knows that her body is not going to respond the same way your body responds, and she’ll need to do things differently to achieve the same results. (And kudos for being supportive and empathetic, I’m sure she appreciates it!)
At the end of the day weight loss comes down to caloric deficit, only.
The thing that may change is motivation, how you achieve that deficit (cardio versus eating less), how you can create better habits.
Heres a few great tips.
First of all I think it’s important to ask yourself whether she actually want your help or whether she just want you to remain silent. If she just want a loving husband, that’s the best you can do!
Second I would approach this with curiosity. Surely weight gain and loss is a mattor of caloric balance, but why is she having a hard time maintaining a caloric deficit? Is it a matter of portion sizes? Is she eating very caloric dense food? Is she eating because she’s bored? Because she is stressed?
Furthermore you might want to ask her why she want to loose weight. Is it to look better? To get healthy? Is it to please you? Do you even want her to loose weight? Or do you actually find her beautiful and sexy as she is?
None of us can tell. And if you and your wife don’t know the real problem you cannot solve it.
As a 50 year old woman with friends of the same age and gender, I find this to be a topic filled with land mines. Wow. First, 5 feet 10 inches and 125 for most her life! What a very slender person! Second, 5 feet 10 and 140 ish is still a very slender person (at least by American standards). If she were one of my friends, I would tell her “You look very slim… maybe your body just wants to carry a little more weight because it wants to keep you safe in case you get sick or something. You are beautiful. I wish you weren’t so hard on yourself.”
So many women, myself included, struggle with body acceptance — even when we are not “overweight” or suffering from any health related issues. It makes me sad. I hope she is and remains healthy and happy. She sounds like a very accomplished and neat woman. Life is so short. I’m glad she has such a loving and caring partner.
First of all, 141 at 5’10 is not heavy! I’m 5’7 (170cm) and hover around 147-150 (67-68kg) which is a perfectly healthy weight. I am an athletic build and I know I would struggle to be 141, but, having said that, we’re all different shapes. Either way, regardless of how petit she is, 141 is a healthy weight at 5’10!
Focusing on weight is rarely the right answer, the real question is why? Tone up? Feel fitter? Get stronger? It sounds like you’ve generally got a good food regime already so lifting weights (which is solid advice regardless) could be the thing to move whatever needle it is she’d like to move. Make sure she knows that lifting heavy won’t make her look like a body builder (so many women seem to think if they lift heavy they’ll start to look like Arnie, no ladies, you really won’t, you don’t have the testosterone, you’ll just look toned and it’s awesome to be strong!)
Thank you for being a supportive spouse!
All the talk of toning up above made me think of the plan that my wife has signed up to; like your wife she is a healthy weight but just wanted to tone up.
It’s a british guy called Joe Wicks
Without knowing him I just assumed i’d hate the guy but it’s absolutely impossible to dislike him. During covid he did free youtube workouts for kids every morning…
Anyway, the plan essentially consists of (what he says is) tailored healthy meals and exercise aligned with your goals.
I certainly wouldn’t have suggested it to her though… too many land-mines!
First off, she’s on the low end of the "normal’ range for BMI. Wait loss for already thin people is a different game than for folks who are actually overweight. While weight loss can be easy as you say, that is not true for 51 year olds (especially females) who do not burn a ton of calories in endurance sports and are already reasonably thin. Life is easy when you’re young and/or have an extra 800-1000 calories a day to eat from that run or ride! And do not discount the aging effects. They are real and especially for females. She literally does not have the same body she had 20 years ago.
I’d focus on helping her establish a daily simple general fitness routine that is doable and will tone up the body - 15-30 minutes of something she’ll do 4-5 times a week if not every day. That may lead to more, or not, but let her drive the ship.
My wife had great success with the Whole30 diet. She lost somewhere between 20-30 pounds, just on the diet. She did not really exercise while on it and the weight came off pretty quickly (especially at first).
If you do it, you have to be all in on it…and it ain’t easy. I tried it last year and made it about 10 days…went down for a trainer ride, could not get my power above 170w, promptly gave up and had a huge bowl of Corn Pops.
But it does work…and once you get through the first two weeks, it kinda becomes second nature. As for support / encouragement, just do the diet with her (but maybe with the understanding that you will need some carbs while on the bike).
If she recently retired from what’s quite an active job, maybe she is getting less ‘exercise’ than before? Is she missing it? Maybe she’d like a new hobby, something that gets her out of the house, but isn’t ‘exercise’ (in name). Do you have a dog, or a garden? Volunteer in a community group?
Also agree with the comments above re her weight - 125 at 5’10 is very thin! I’m 5’11 and about 148, and I don’t think I’m overweight!
@Landis: Your wife sounds like an incredibly strong, hardworking woman. While it sounds like she “should” be losing weight, she’s not, so…why?
Like one above poster said, women are different physiologically than men. So that’s one point to consider.
A second point would be something I’d suggest as a priority to all 40+ individuals: protein (~30g/meal) and strength training.
However, there might be something else to consider. Without talking to your wife, I don’t know if this would be the case, but sounds like she is carrying around a lot of life stress. This can pop up in the body in the form of elevated cortisol, among many other things. You mentioned high BP, holding on to weight despite diet…all natural responses to stress. She will have a tough time with weight loss until she addresses the psychological underpinnings of these downstream effects.
Just a guess, but she probably is used to being strong and putting others’ needs above hers. So—keep on being emotionally supportive as she goes though this and perhaps help her make time for getting enough sleep, relaxation, etc.
@ellotheth thank you! Great info.
No huge life issues. She is really grounded, intelligent and now that she’s not teaching, she has said she isn’t stressed. Probably for the first time in our adult lives I should add.
I think she wants to lose weight to feel good about herself which is exactly like 99.9% of humans. That and not fitting in clothes is pissing her off.
Thanks for the reply! Much appreciated.
I mean, it’s not uncommon for women to gain a little bit of weight as they age and I do agree with the above posters in that it sounds like she is well within a healthy weight range. However, if she’s unhappy or doesn’t feel good at her current weight then I think there’s nothing wrong with wanting to change that as long as it comes from a reasonably objective place. I’m pretty short and lightly built, and an extra 5-10 pounds can make a pretty big difference to the way I feel even if i’m still well within a healthy BMI.
It’s a sensitive topic for sure, and I do think you’re taking the right approach. It may well take a bit longer for her than it does for you- being a small, sedentary woman means her daily energy needs are fair bit lower so it’s harder to maintain a sizable deficit, and generally speaking the less weight you have to lose the slower it gets. (Think: “the last stubborn 5 pounds!” when people are dieting)
It’s also not uncommon for metabolism to lower a bit with age as you lose muscle mass- this is especially pronounced if you’re more sedentary. I think there’s a lot of benefits to exercise for this reason, both from a weight loss standpoint and for general wellbeing.
Retirement, or change in career can be a big impact, and it’s not often the big things, it’s the little things. Im in the military, and as I promoted, I found that I didn’t have to make all the little trips I made throughout the day as a junior Soldier. I would walk from my Headquarters to the Battalion or Brigade numerous times throughout the day, as a senior Soldier, someone else was making that trip. This is multiple miles each day that I wasn’t even aware that I was losing until I started tracking steps, and things like that.
@JMT thanks for the response. Like every forum too much or too little gets conveyed or not conveyed or taken the wrong way. This isn’t a huge deal and yes she is still “slim” compared to many American’s. She was blessed with good genes and a very healthy progressive family. It’s the trend she is seeing and feeling. While I think we can be too hard on ourselves I don’t for a second think this is the case here.
Thanks for the reply! Very interesting reading women and men respond and what I was hoping to capture…
This may be true, but I think folks forget that metabolic rate varies from person to person and that makes this tougher on some than others. Reducing caloric intake may be easy when you are working with a 3500 calorie budget, but not when it’s 1400.
@splash yes we (I am trying to help) figure out how to replace the time she spent working, which was basically 6:30am-5pm with something else. I think this is part of it as well. Cheers!
@EmilyS great insight thank you!
Thank you for the support everyone! Will keep supporting her through thick and thin as we have done fro each other for decades. Cheers!