Assessing Your Weight as a Senior

The best way to determine if you're carrying around too much weight (and probably not enough muscle) is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). BMI is just one indicator of good health, but it's a good place to start. A lower BMI indicates you're more likely to be healthy.

Here's how to figure your BMI:

  1. Weigh yourself first thing in the morning, without clothes.
  2. Measure your height in inches.
  3. Multiply your weight in pounds by 700.
  4. Divide the answer in #3 by your height.
  5. Divide the answer in #4 by your height again.
  6. The answer in #5 is your BMI.

What Your BMI Means:

  • 18.5 or less is underweight
  • 18.5-24.9 is a healthy weight
  • 25-29.9 is overweight
  • 30 or more is obese

Knowing how many calories you need each day is another important piece of information that will help you manage your weight. Most experts say that 2,000 to 2,600 calories a day should meet the energy needs of men older than 50 who are lightly to moderately active.

For women over 50 who are lightly to moderately active, 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day should do it. However, these are just ballpark figures. Individual calorie needs can differ greatly depending on muscle mass, physical activity, and genetic differences.

On page 40 you'll find a guide for calculating your calorie needs if you're lightly to moderately active (you're not a couch potato but you don't work out five times a week at the gym, either). You'll need 20 percent to 30 percent more calories if you're very physically active (you regularly participate in competitive sports, run, or go to exercise classes or the gym and spend little time just sitting and watching TV or reading).

While it's true that the more calories you cut, the quicker you'll lose, don't make the mistake of cutting back too much. If you go too low (below 1,600 calories a day), you won't get enough nutrients, you'll be fatigued, and your body will simply compensate by slowing its metabolic rate even further so that each calorie is used as efficiently as possible.

A slower metabolic rate means that your food sacrifices won't amount to the weight loss you expected: You'll have sacrificed for little reward.

For men: Multiply your goal or ideal weight by 13.5 to get your daily calorie needs. For women: Multiply your goal or ideal weight by 13.2 to get your daily calorie needs.

So you've figured out how much weight you need to lose. The next step is to come up with a weight-loss plan. Continue to the next section to prepare to lose weight as as a senior.

To learn more about senior health, see: