Ask Stew: Suggestions for Losing Weight When You're on the Other Side of 50

Patrons exercise on treadmills at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
Patrons of the Warrior Fitness Center exercise on treadmills June 17, 2013, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. (Senior Airman Matthew Lancaster/U.S. Air Force photo)

Here is an email that often is received from men and women seeking to lose the "spare tire" or weight around their hips, help reducing their blood pressure and overall just get healthier. It is a journey that can lead to many enjoyable future years if you can catch up with Mother Nature and Father Time before they catch you. Here are a few questions posed by a gentleman in his early 50s:

Stew -- I do appreciate your time and your website has been a huge help to me personally. I do have a few questions for you.

1) I need to shed belly fat. I am on blood-pressure medications, and I hate it. I have no restrictions from my docs, but I would rather not lift free weights. (Body weight at my age, 52, I feel, is better for me.)

I understand and agree. Body-weight exercises can help tremendously and not temporarily spike blood pressure like weight lifting can. If you like body weight/calisthenics exercises, you came to the right place. I like to focus on physical fitness testing methods, and most of them are calisthenics and some form of cardiovascular exercise. Both will help you with weight loss (fat loss) and blood-pressure reduction.

I have had many readers say that they were able to reduce the dose or completely get off prescription blood-pressure medications (with doctor's approval, of course) after a few months of starting the programs I am recommending to you below:

For some quick results, which will help with water retention, too, try the 10-Day Water Challenge. This usually works best for those who neglect adequate amounts of daily water intake, and you will see noticeable weight loss within a week by simply "adding water."

10-Day Water Intake Test

2) Equipment-wise, I have the following: Sleds, rings, tires, sledgehammer, ropes and a huge high school pool. Treadmills.

If your doctor recommends not lifting weights, I would not lift a tire, climb ropes, pull a sled or even swing a sledgehammer until your blood pressure is under control without medications, but ask your doctor to see whether he agrees.

The rings are another issue. I like them in TRX form, but I would avoid any position where your head is lower than your heart while exercising. The rings are gymnasts' rings, and if you are overweight or not in shape, using them can be painful or potentially injurious. Just take a look at the average gymnast. They are usually lightweight, ripped, with a pound-for-pound muscle strength and endurance that is highly uncommon and requires years of practice to build.

The rings can be for beginners or those overweight, but you need to learn a few basic exercises with the rings or TRX that are great options to body-weight exercises. (See video on TRX page for more information.)

3) A suggestion on how to eat to lose body fat. I am up at 5 a.m. and in bed by 9:45 p.m. Any help you can give me is so very appreciated, My kids are having kids, and I want to enjoy them.

You need to eat and drink throughout the day. Not just when you wake up and eat breakfast, lunch, then dinner, but a good addition to your diet requires a snack about every 2-3 hours after a regular meal. This healthy snacking will help you with eating too much at meals and will keep your metabolism higher throughout the day. I would recommend this:

Eat carbohydrates only in the morning (fruits/vegetables). After lunch, limit your carbs to only a salad; just eat protein-rich foods in the afternoon and evening like lean meat, fish, chicken and nuts for snacks.

Now the hard part: Eliminate sugar. If you can take out sweets, soda, white breads and other processed foods, you will be amazed at how quickly the weight around the waist and hips recedes. Replace with nuts, fruits and vegetables that contain fiber to help with the insulin response that causes the sugar stored as fat in your torso area.

This usually is the "last stand" in the battle of the bulge, as your torso is the last part of the body to lose the weight. So be patient and give this no-sugar challenge 1-2 months for optimal results. In a few short days, your cravings for sugar will dissipate, and it will not be that difficult to do.

Check out my food plan for more ideas.

As far as a workout -- it depends on your fitness level -- I usually have people start here:

45-Day Plan: If this free starter plan is too easy, just add repetitions and increase the sets or cardio time per workout to add to the intensity of this workout plan.

But there are other options, like the 15-Day PFT challenge, if you are at an intermediate level and can handle some running and high-repetition calisthenics.

Here are some other ideas for you to add to your daily fitness program:

Lower Back Plan: This is great for torso strength and flexibility.

Running Plans: I would not run if you are more than 30-40 pounds overweight -- yet. Select a non-impact cardio option.

Enjoy the next few months as they will be transformational if you can stick to the above recommendations.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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