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The Simple Eating Strategy That Helped This 60-Year-Old Woman Drop 101 Pounds


As Patsy Casteen’s weight soared and her health failed, she hit on a simple strategy that rehydrates cells — and shifts the body into slim-quick mode.

“How can I help you?” a flight attendant asked Casteen. The Georgia grandmother glanced up, tears stinging the corners of her eyes. “I think I need, um…” she trailed off, embarrassed to say more. The flight attendant’s face softened. “No problem. I’ll go get it,” she said gently. Seconds later, a neatly coiled seatbelt extender was passed across the row. 

On past flights, Casteen had always been able to force the belt to latch, but not this time. Her weight and health were getting worse quickly. She was now in congestive heart failure, always in pain, and always short of breath. “Pretty soon, I won’t be able to travel at all,” she thought, shifting her five-foot-three-inch, 264-pound body in the tiny seat. Suddenly it hit her: She hadn’t had enough time with her husband, her kids, or her grandbabies. 

Fear rose in Casteen’s chest, her breath becoming jagged. “I want to live,” she panicked. Was it too late? Maybe not. She was still alive, after all. There was still hope. “I’ll figure out a way to get control of my weight,” she vowed. As the plane jolted and took off, Casteen was already making plans.

Slimming Swaps for Weight Loss Over 50 

Casteen knew her fondness for sugary drinks and fried food drove her weight up. Yet they had been her stress relief as she raised three daughters, went back to nursing school, got a job, and dealt with life’s setbacks. Occasionally, she managed to eat better. She joined her local Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) group a few times, and even lost 100 pounds in 1999. Then she experienced a traumatic car accident and returned to bad habits. 

Yet she remembered how good the common sense advice and support at TOPS had felt to her. She craved it again, but this time, she was pushing age 60. Would her body still respond to simple strategies, or had aging and years of bad choices permanently destroyed her meta­bolism? “There’s one way to find out,” she thought. 

She soon found herself at a TOPS meeting with 22 others who were hoping to reach a healthy weight. They chatted about challenges, strategies, and victories. Casteen took it all in, and that night she drove home inspired. Her first goal was a no-brainer: She would trade the Coke she chugged daily for water. 

The TOPS crew also inspired her to replace fried and processed foods with lots and lots of water-rich fruit and vegetables — which they said would fill her up for very few calories, while loading her body with slimming nutrients. She would round out meals with lean protein and a little healthy fat. “It’s a good start,” she told herself.

How TOPS Helped With Weight Loss Over 50

After one trip to the grocery store, Casteen had fixings for fruit plates, fun salads, even “mac ’n cheese” made with cauliflower. Hours and meals ticked by. She was very full, but a bit tired. As a nurse, she knew that was a normal feeling as the body adjusts to a drastically lower sugar intake. “It’ll get better,” she told herself. 

Sure enough, the fourth day she woke with an unusual pep. And at her TOPS weigh-in, she learned she’d lost 10 pounds in a week. She shook her head in disbelief. Her body was responding even better than it had when she was younger.

Fact! Research from the University of Pittsburgh says that high intake of water-rich fruit and veggies is a top predictor of weight-loss success in women over 50.

Reaching a Happy Weight

When Casteen hit a plateau, her TOPS friends suggested exercise. A local senior center had line-dancing classes, so she signed up. She got a bit winded, sure. But the scale was moving briskly again, and she won a prize for being TOPS’ biggest loser of the month. Ten months in, Casteen was down 57 pounds. Her husband, Revis, had lost 66 pounds just by enjoying her new style of cooking. “We’re going to have a long life together,” she thought with a smile. 

At age 60, Casteen reached her goal, shedding an impressive 101 pounds. On a recent trip, not only did her seatbelt on the plane click easily in place, but Casteen, now 63, went kayaking with her grandson. “I’ve realized that life gives back to you what you put into it — so put your whole heart in,” she urges. “You’ll end up in an amazing place.”

Over 50? How Water-Rich Foods Heal and Slim

Eating lots of water-rich produce is the single best way to reverse the age-related cellular dehydration that stalls our metabolism, spikes fat-storage hormones, and contributes to a host of health problems, according to university research. 

The reason is that unlike the water you sip, “water trapped in the structure of food moves slowly through your system, giving cells extra time to absorb it,” explains UCLA’s Howard Murad, M.D., author of The Water Secret ($11.36, Amazon) and founder of Murad Skincare. This “slow water” is a huge advantage for older cells, which take longer to draw H2O inside, where it’s crucial to cellular function. 

Experts say proper hydration boosts energy, immunity, and even heart health, and German studies show it speeds metabolism 30 percent. Aim for at least eight servings of fruit and veggies a day and, as promised by Dr. Murad, “excess pounds will melt away.”

Sample TOPS Meal Plan

Casteen tried to stay under 1,500 calories a day while filling up on water-rich fruits and veggies —especially extra-hydrating options like cauliflower, cucumber, radishes, romaine, peppers, tomatoes, and melon. She also enjoyed healthy portions of protein and fat and drank lots of water. When using these Casteen-inspired menus, flavor your dishes with herbs, spices, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice or Stevia, as desired. It’s fine to add an occasional serving of whole grains, but since they can be dehydrating, compensate by adding an extra veggie. Note: As always, consult your doctor before trying any new plan. 


(Enjoy One Daily)

Option 1: Three omega-3 egg whites scrambled with low-fat Cheddar, 2 slices of turkey bacon, 1/2 plate of assorted sliced fresh fruit.

Option 2: 1 serving fat-free Greek yogurt, Baked Spiced Apples (recipe below). 


(Enjoy Three Daily)

Option 1: Fresh fruit, such as a sliced apple or peach, with an optional dollop of satiating nut butter (such as almond butter).

Option 2: Sliced veggies with Greek yogurt dip.

Option 3: 1 cup reduced-sodium vegetable soup. Heat with extra veggies if desired.

Lunch & Dinner 

(Enjoy One Option at Each Sitting)

Option 1: One palm-sized serving sliced baked chicken over a large green salad with sliced strawberries and toasted almonds. For dressing, whisk one Tbsp. each mustard (spicy brown or Dijon), apple cider vinegar, and olive oil with salt, pepper, and Stevia to taste.

Option 2: One generous serving tilapia prepared with drizzle olive oil, lemon juice and herbs to taste, collard greens cooked in broth,1 serving ready-made seasoned cauliflower rice, such as Green Giant brand, with lemon and garlic.

Option 3: Easy Shrimp Scampi (recipe below), unlimited steamed broccoli, spritz of lemon juice.

Option 4: One serving of lean grass-fed beef, Cauliflower “Mac” ’n Cheese (recipe below).

Option 5: Bunless lean burger with sautéed onions and mushrooms, mustard, sliced tomato, drizzle of olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

Baked Spiced Apples Recipe

Slice one apple, toss with cinnamon and Stevia to taste, then place in a baking dish with 1/4″ water, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until fruit is soft, about 30 minutes.

Easy Shrimp Scampi Recipe

  1. Sauté one tsp. minced garlic in one Tbsp. olive oil until fragrant. 
  2. Add eight to 10 thawed shrimp; cook until pink. Remove from pan. 
  3. Add 1/4 cup white wine and two Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon to pan and simmer for two minutes. 
  4. Add unlimited zucchini noodles and cook for another three minutes. Toss with shrimp.

Cauliflower ‘Mac’ ’n Cheese Recipe

In pot over medium heat, stir three cups cooked cauliflower; a pinch each of salt, pepper, and paprika; two oz. cream cheese; 2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese; and two Tbsp. of Parmesan cheese together. Makes two servings.

This article was originally written by Lisa Maxbauer and appeared in our print magazine.

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