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Staying Slim As You Get Older

The National Institute on Aging reports that by the year 2030, there will be 72 million Americans over the age of 65. But the study also shows that in the future, more seniors will be obese. In its latest issue, "AARP The Magazine" reveals the secrets lean people use to achieve healthy weight as we grow older. Gabrielle Redford, the magazine's features editor, joined The Early Show Thursday.

"There are a lot of people who are overweight and obese in this country and they have to start watching what they eat," she told co-anchor Harry Smith.

Redford started out by debunking the myth about weight gain being mainly a factor of genetics. "It's true that genetics do play a role," she said — but "it's actually a relatively small part. Only about 30 percent of your tendency to gain weight is due to genetics. The rest is your eating habits."

With that in mind, Redford offered a few basic suggestions to help older people stay in control of their weight.

Never say diet

"People who are naturally lean really don't diet. They don't buy into the no-carb, low-carb, grapefruit diets. A lot of these diets put your body into starvation mode — and that causes your body to slow down your metabolism and make your body super efficient so you are absorbing all these extra nutrients. Then when you go off the diet, you are still absorbing all that extra food and it gets stored as fat."

Watch what you eat

"Make sure you know what proper portions look like. For instance, a serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards. The serving of pasta is the size of a CD. An ounce of cheese looks like a big marble."

Food isn't "good" or "bad"

"People who are naturally thin don't see food as the enemy. They don't necessarily see that piece of chocolate cake as a bad food. What they do is say, 'I'm going to have some chocolate cake. I'm going to savor every bite. I'm not going to scarf it all down and take a second piece.' People who see that as a bad food eat it all up quickly and feel guilty about it and tend to overeat."

Punch your snooze button

In other words, get a good night's sleep. "There have been many studies showing a link between lack of sleep and obesity. And they are not quite sure how it works, but lack of sleep tends to affect your metabolism in some way and the way you absorb glucose. It's also easy to confuse fatigue with hunger. So if you are tired in the middle of the afternoon, it's so easy to reach for that candy bar to have enough energy to stay awake."

Trust your brain, not your stomach

"It takes 12 minutes for your brain to get the signal that your stomach is full," said Redford. "You can eat a lot of food in 12 minutes, especially if you are eating quickly. The best thing to do is really take what you think is a reasonable amount of food, savor it, and then push back from the table and wait for your brain to catch up."

To learn more about "AARP The Magazine," click here.