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Should I change my eating habits?

You may be surprised that as we get older, we may find ourselves losing weight without meaning to – and end up underweight as a result – and it’s not always easy to tell when this might be a problem.

It’s a mistaken belief that having a smaller appetite and losing weight is a normal part of ageing but this is not the case and it is always important to maintain a healthy weight.

By making changes you should not only gain weight but should also benefit from better health, better mood and increased energy. People who are a healthy weight also benefit from fewer GP visits, fewer hospital admissions, faster recovery time, and have fewer other health complications. This is important to maintaining good health and staying independent.

Is this me?

Whether you are slim or bigger (even if you are seemingly overweight, you can still be undernourished), it is not good to lose weight without meaning to or to be underweight.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you lost weight without meaning to?
  • Do you have a poor appetite?
  • Do your clothes, shoes jewellery or dentures look or feel loose?
  • Do you have low energy?
  • Are you feeling down?
  • Do you feel cold and can’t get warm?
  • Is planning, cooking and shopping becoming more of an effort?
  • Are you catching more colds or infections and find it takes longer than usual to feel better?

If you recognise any of these signs, now is the time to take action.    

What can I do?

Use our handy booklet ‘Eat, Drink, Live Well This gives you some simple steps to help add calories to your meals and make meal preparation easier.

It has also got some tips to boost your appetite and explains that by adding just a few small snacks each day can soon make a difference.

Your local area where you live will also offer support to help you eat and stay well, keep in touch and feel positive and safe.

Your local Age UK is a good place to start or you can search online for organisations near you that offer:

  • Lunch clubs
  • Support following life-changing events such as a bereavement, a fall or ill-health
  • Shopping support
  • Food banks – have a look at this interactive map to find a food bank or other source of food assistance anywhere in Greater Manchester

Eating Well video

Watch this video to hear tips from Jean, Bev and Alf about how to eat well as we age.

To have your meals provided look on the following websites:

For people who don’t eat much meat or dairy or would like to reduce this, there are lots of good recipes and tips on the Vegetarian for Life website: https://vegetarianforlife.org.uk/

Should I seek medical help?

We know that people want to take control of their lives and the advice above is intended to help. It is also important to know when to seek medical help. If you have followed the advice and have seen no change in your weight and/or BMI after 12 weeks or if you answer yes to any of the questions below, you should visit your GP.

  • Have you noticed sudden weight loss (10% of your body weight in 3 months)?
  • Do you have difficulties swallowing food or drinks?
  • Do you get pain in your tummy when you eat?
  • Has there been a recent persistent change in moving your bowels to looser stools and/or increased frequency?

Also, if you have a sore mouth you should visit your dentist.

Here are some ways you can check if you might be underweight or at risk of undernutrition.

The BAPEN online self-screening tool

This simple, 3-step online tool can identify if you are at risk of undernutrition. You need to know your height, weight, and weight a few months ago. You can complete it here:

https://www.malnutritionselfscreening.org/self-screening.html

Weigh yourself regularly

It is helpful to keep track of your weight so you can spot any changes early. Why not buy some scales and record your weight once a week or once a month?

The PaperWeight Armband

The PaperWeight Armband is a simple tool that can show in an instant if you may be underweight. Contact your local Age UK or Age UK Salford if you would like us to send you one.

Talk to someone

If you are concerned about your weight or your appetite, talk to someone about this. This could be a family member, friend, carer, Age UK staff or volunteer or a health professional.