sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

9 Behavior Patterns of Healthy Senior Weight Loss: Forget Diets, Think Behavior!

By Ann Marie Mershon February 07, 2020 Health and Fitness

“Thin behavior” has fascinated me for years. I just don’t get it. I don’t mean the kind of behavior where skinny kids squeezed through fence slats in the alley, or where my teenaged friends stretched thin, nubile bodies on the beach at Shady Oak Lake as I huddled on my towel.


I mean the eating kind of thin behaviors, like:

  • Choosing a bowl of vegetable soup over clam chowder.
  • Preferring a chef’s salad over a burger and fries, or grilled fish rather than steak.
  • Leaving food on your plate (not just the onions you’ve picked out of your salad).
  • Nibbling one Rice Krispy bar for a half hour (I actually witnessed this).
  • Choosing small portions of only three dishes offered at a potluck. (I also take small portions but end up with 20 things heaped on my plate.)

I’m Thin-Behavior Challenged. Why Me?

It all began in my youth. I grew up in the 50s when one of my favorite TV programs was the Ding-Dong School which featured the “Do-Bee” song: “Do be a plate cleaner. Don’t be a food shirker.” I took it to heart.

Another influence that pushed me to eat was Mom’s admonition when I left food on my plate. “Think of the hungry children in China.”

Like any self-respecting child, I knew better than to say they were welcome to it, although I would have happily wrapped my Swedish meatballs and shipped them to those unfortunates.

Another obstacle to thin behavior was the “No dessert until you eat up” strategy. The logic in that escapes me. Eat a lot, then you can eat more. I learned it well, though. I eat a lot, then I have more.

The main reason I’m thin-behavior challenged, though, is that I love food. Lots of it. I love snickerdoodle cookies – hard to stop before 12. I have a good friend who is aghast if she indulges in a third cookie. I’m sure she’s never eaten a whole bag. That’s why I don’t bake.

One slice of pizza is just a teaser, and I’m nearly certain that heaven is lined with camembert and brie.

What Can You Do?

I used to go on crash diets and fast for days, neither of which was wise or healthy. Finally, in desperation, I joined Weight Watchers, which educated me about changing my attitudes and behaviors rather than starving myself.

It changed my life. I went from a binge eater to a sensible one. I revere thin behaviors. I must admit they don’t come naturally, but I’m doing better all the time. These are some of the behaviors that help me:

Drinking Water

I guzzle a glass of water every time I migrate to the kitchen. (It fills me up and deters me from mindless snacking.) That water glass is the first thing I see, waiting by the sink. I try to down at least six glasses of water in each day.

Knowing Your Temptations

I avoid red-light foods (foods I can’t resist), which for me are cheese and crackers, especially in the late afternoon. I know some people can’t resist sweets.

Placing Boundaries

I plant myself far from the appetizer table at gatherings once I’ve tasted a few items.

Shopping Smart

I avoid shopping on an empty stomach. Morning works best for me.

Routine of Rewards

I use rewards. I don’t allow myself a cup of morning coffee until I’ve done 20 minutes of stretches and exercises.

Staying on the Move

I exercise with friends daily, and when that’s not possible, I listen to audio books while I walk, bike, or hike.

Home Spa Relief

Sometimes, I treat myself to a long bath when I’m feeling out of control (late afternoon for me). Food doesn’t go in the bathroom, at least not at my house.

Brushing Teeth

When I’m hankering for a treat it helps to go brush my teeth. It quells my appetite. Dill pickles and candied ginger work, too.

Up the Healthy Servings

I’m trying to eat five servings of fruit and veggies every day, which continues to be a challenge.

I still love food, and I still lose control sometimes, but these basic behavior changes have made it much easier for me to control my eating habits. That helps me feel more in control of every aspect of my life.


What do you do when you ‘feel’ the hunger bangs in your mind, not your stomach? How often do you snack? What is the usual serving size at your table? Please join the conversation so our community can benefit from your experience.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sue Eller

Some times I feel like it’s still my duty to eat for the people in China

The Author

A retired English teacher, Ann Marie Mershon lives on a lake in northern Minnesota with her husband, Jerry, and their two dogs. She’s published three books as well as numerous articles and columns. You can read about her years of teaching in Istanbul on her blog

You Might Also Like