In most areas of my life, I’m an adult. I think like an adult and behave like an adult. But when it comes to food and dieting, I’m a bratty 14-year-old girl. 

I don’t want to portion control. I don’t want to eat just one slice of pizza. And when I walk into the theatre and smell the popcorn, I want some. Unfortunately, I’m part of the 73.6% of American adults who are either overweight or obese as defined by the CDC. There are a lot of us.

As we age, our nutritional needs don’t vary greatly from when we’re younger. The National Institute of Aging recommends a diet that consists of a wide variety of foods with significant sources of protein to maintain muscle. Fruits and vegetables are vital for vitamins and minerals, and we should avoid added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.

I think most of us know what we should be doing, but many of us have overindulged too many times and need to take off pounds. And being overweight puts us at higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even cancer.

Let’s do a quick overview of a very complex subject: losing weight. There are as many kinds of diets as there are dieters. Finding a perfect fit is not easy. But I want to highlight some programs and strategies that are particularly helpful for older Americans.

Diets created for apps

Karen Troutman leading a Weight Watchers program in Tucker, GA (Photo: Shelly Howell)

There are popular diets that are impossible without a smartphone but are affordable and lend structure to a weight-loss program. You put in your statistics, establish goals and track your food plan throughout the day on your phone. They range from paid services, like Noom, to free apps with advertising, like MyFitnessPal.

If you like flexibility and are comfortable with a smartphone, these might be programs that will fit well with your life.

Proven published programs

There are many trendy programs that drastically restrict carbohydrates, proteins, or fats. But most come with side effects and limitations that make them questionable.

Among the most popular programs, with safety records, are the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet, and the Mayo Clinic diet. They consistently appear on the top of studies for long-term effectiveness and help seniors who are working to control diabetes and high blood pressure.

Online guides are available as well as books that outline how to manage your food and lose weight.

Diets with prepared meals

If cooking is not part of your skillset, there are programs like Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig that require you to purchase prepackaged meals. While these tend to be more stringent with less flexibility, they can be convenient and effective programs for many people. And there is personal coaching included. They are much more expensive than some of the other options, so look closely at the total cost.

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers has been around for over 60 years. I recently spoke with Karen Troutman, a leader at the Weight Watchers location in Tucker. She’s been a coach at WW for 30 years.

“WW is for everybody — across age groups and lifestyles,” she said. “We meet you where you are on your weight loss and wellness journey.”

While the diet has evolved over time, based on the latest science, it claims to be the most recommended program by physicians. “Our members love that everything is on the menu,” Troutman went on to say, “with no restrictions or deprivation. WW has a diabetes-tailored program as well.”

While you can manage a WW program using the app, it has always included a weekly meeting where members get the support of a community. “You can easily find your tribes, such as fellow seniors who might share your similar interests, via the app or an in-person meeting,” Troutman added. “You get a sense of belonging and connection guided by coaches who inspire you along your journey.”

Whichever plan makes the most sense for you, look at what is offered in terms of maintenance after you’ve shed unwanted pounds. It’s difficult to lose weight — and frequently harder to keep it off. 

Like many of you, I’ve tried many of the programs listed here. It is not easy. I may have to stop acting like a brat.

Shelly Howell is the author of "Don’t be a Wuss: Inspiration for Creating a Great Life after 60."