It can be hard to maintain weight loss no matter who you are. At the start of a weight-loss program, dieters tend to be highly motivated. Many people lose that motivation as time goes on and they go back to old eating habits. And although it doesn’t seem fair, once a person has lost weight their basal metabolic rate – the rate at which their body burns calories at rest – can actually decrease. A smaller body means less tissue available for burning calories and that makes it more difficult to continue losing.
For postmenopausal women, there are other contributing factors. Even a woman who has never had a weight problem may find it harder to manage her weight once she approaches and reaches menopause. As a group, menopausal women tend to exercise less than other women, which can lead to weight gain. In addition, we lose muscle mass as we age. If we don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle we’ve lost, our body composition will shift to more fat and less muscle. Because fat tissue does not burn calories as effectively as muscle tissue, we’re likely to gain weight even if we aren’t eating any differently than in the past.
If you are one of the many women who struggle with weight at this stage in life, you may be interested in the results of a recent study that looked at what helped postmenopausal women to lose weight and keep it off for the long term. The study, which was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, included more than 500 women. To lose weight, the women made changes to their eating behaviors which included: eating fewer desserts, eating fewer fried foods, drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, eating more fruits and vegetables, eating less meat and cheese, eating more fish, and not eating at restaurants as often.
When the researchers checked back after 4 years, they found that the women who were successful at maintaining their weight loss had continued their habits of eating fewer desserts and drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages. These women also continued to eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat and cheese.
I have seen a joke that speculates about the potential impact of an army of menopausal women armed with machine guns. Take heart if you are a woman at that life staget. By staying active and making dietary changes, you can win the battle of the bulge. Fight on.