My Journey of Getting Fitter in My Fifties

A while back, I watched Doctor Tim Spectre’s interview on The Diary Of a CEO (Steven Bartlett). It got me thinking about how I have eaten over the last twenty years, So I watched more episodes with people with different qualifications all around health, nutrition and how we eat today. The modern-day Western diet is more harmful to us than it ever has been before. 

I decided that I needed to do something because, aged 56, I was not in good shape. I am a freelance SEO consultant, so I sit at a desk for 8 hours a day and do not do any physical exercise. 

I decided that changes needed to be made, and I watched another YouTube video of a professional eater who eats mega amounts of food but is in great shape. Someone asked why he isn’t fat; he explained why and then stated, “It all starts with measurements; if you can’t see when the weight is going up, how will you know to correct it? So the next day, I decided to take some action. 

The Weigh-In 

So I bought a set of weighing scales, the type that measures everything, body fat, BMI and many other measurements. (Find it here or Argos)Then I went and bought an Apple Watch (entry-level) because that also measures lots of health data. I haven’t been on a set of scales in over 20 years, so that it would be a surprise. So I first looked at the average weight for my age and height; the range is 65kg to 79kg. 

So stepping on the scales, my weight is 79kg, right on the edge of being overweight. However, when I looked at the app for more measurements, I was horrified; it’s not that I am grossly overweight; I have a dad body. The measurements that blew my mind were the BMI and body fat%. I just wasn’t prepared as my BMI was 25.6, and the body fat was 26.7%. That’s proper skinny fat. I could not stop thinking that a quarter of my body weight was fat; shocked, stunned and slightly ashamed. Healthy weight guidelines from BUPA are here.

Ok, three weeks later, my measurements are now, body fat percentage 25.8% and BMI 24.3, so it’s heading in the right direction, and it is a long-term goal and no fad diet. How is it coming down? Keep reading, and I will share what’s working at the moment. Oh, my weight is now 75kg.

The Changed Eating Habits 

So after watching The Diary of A CEO and all the experts, I realised I had to change my eating habits. I live alone (except every other weekend when the kids stop) and have enjoyed cooking all my life. I enjoyed it so much that I created a Cheap Dinner Ideas website to share all my recipes. The recipes are now changing after my subsequent significant discovery. So I diversified my diet; I started having nuts, honey and yoghurt for lunch and some Kefir. The next was to start eating different vegetables and different colours to diversify my gut health. However, at this point, I’m not losing any weight at all. 

Inspired by Tim Spectre’s test with Zoe, I decided it was too expensive and looked for other options. I discovered a reasonably priced food sensitivity test; clicking the link takes you to my results and more explanation on my food site.

Changes On What I Can Eat 

So the results come back from sending a sample of hair; these are sensitivity ratings for foods and not intolerances; you will need a blood test for that. So before the reveal, I had already sorted to cut back on pasta and bread because it made me feel so bloated and full. The kids ate about four times the amount of pasta I cooked. 

So as expected, I am highly sensitive to wheat; yep, it’s everywhere, so no more bread, pizza or pasta for me. There are many other things; the shockers I am madly sensitive to are mushrooms (I love mushrooms), coconut milk, miso paste and soya sauce (I love all of them). I can eat all meats and fish but Nooo cheese; I used to love cheese on toast. So now, for a month, I have been on an elimination diet and keeping a diary of any redactions I get to the food. So at the moment, it’s quite a discovery journey. 

Exercise 

So I had to do something and get more exercise into my day. I discovered watching and reading that muscle mass burns more calories than fat. That was another shocking statistic from my scales; Mens Health quotes muscle Mass – Ages 40-59: 73-86 per cent for men; mine is an abysmal 47%. Devastated because I used to be active all my life; I practised martial arts for 20 years, 3 to 5 times a week. 

For the last five years, sitting at a desk eating what I want has taken its toll on my body. Hopefully, I have caught it in time to make changes. So I bought some weights and now do some gentle exercise every 2 or 3 days until I get in better shape. I have also started consciously walking around the village and parking the car in the furthest spot away from the supermarket entrance. 

Five years ago, I challenged myself to do 100 sit-ups a day, and I did. I kept it going for a few months and then just stopped. During the covid lockdown, I started running to improve my mental health (I never enjoyed running), and I did that for around ten months and jogged three times a week. Then I stopped and as yet never ran again, but I hear you say, doesn’t it help burn calories? Well, it does, but not as much as you think; Doctor Spectre says cardiovascular activity burns some calories, but your mind and body want to put calories back in the system and even add more calories. The Daily Mail covered the story here

Exercise Goals in My Fifties 

I want to gradually increase my exercise activities because I do not wish to sustain any injuries. After all, at this age, it takes longer to recover. The aim is resistance training 3 to 4 times a week, ideally having somebody part aching daily. I want to increase my strength gradually, and then I will train with a friend. He has a total gym set up at home so that I can expand the muscle sets I train. 

Taking time away from work, especially on the weekends, I am alone. I will get from behind the desk and take more walks. To farmer’s markets and look at the food I can’t eat. 

Eating Habits and Fasting 

So, on my journey, I discovered the topic of fasting. I was intrigued because, quite often, I wasn’t hungry first thing in the morning and would work all day and then eat at night. The only problem was that I was eating the wrong foods and so much because I was hungry. After more discovery, I started with the Intermittent fasting, 16/8 method. So that means I fast for 16 hours and have 8 hours to eat. Actually, I fast closer to 18/6. 

My first meal is around 6 pm which usually consists of griddled meat or fish and probably either kimchi or sauerkraut to improve gut health. Then I eat again around 8pm the same fish or meat and a light portion of cooked vegetables. I start the day with a black coffee with no sugar, then a pint of infused water and another 3 pints throughout the day. I have a few glasses of wine after the first meal and the second and count the wine as part of my eating window. The reason it’s in the eating window is because wine has calories in it along with sugars which break the fast. Portion size is difficult to judge if you’re cooking in an oversized pan; I have written a guide on essential cooking equipment for singletons. 

So far, I am gradually losing weight, but more importantly, my BMI and body fat % are reducing. Follow me on this journey to getting healthier in your fifties. 

Intermittent Fasting Why & What 

Intermittent fasting is a dietary approach that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. 

What

  • The 16/8 method is a popular type of intermittent fasting, where you fast for 16 hours a day and eat during an 8-hour window. 
  • Choosing a suitable eating window and staying hydrated during fasting is essential

Why 

  • Intermittent fasting helps with weight loss through various mechanisms. 
  • The reduced eating window leads to a decrease in overall calorie intake, creating a caloric deficit.
  • Improved insulin sensitivity and increased fat-burning contribute to weight loss. 

The Role Of Ketosis 

  • Ketosis is a metabolic state where the body primarily uses ketones (from fat breakdown) for energy instead of glucose from carbohydrates. 
  • Ketosis is induced by deficient carbohydrate intake, moderate protein intake, and higher fat consumption.
  • In intermittent fasting, ketosis may occur during extended fasts or with a low-carbohydrate eating approach.
  • Ketosis enhances fat burning, suppresses appetite, and provides steady energy levels. 

We have produced a longer post on why and what intermittent fasting is. 

Overall Goals 

My main goal is to reduce body fat and BMI to healthy, acceptable levels. I will be happy if this takes me 12 months; no rush as it’s a lifestyle change I am looking for in my Fifties. Muscle mass increase will be a very long journey, so a long-term goal of 5 years gets into the habit of regular resistance training.