Eating more fruits and vegetables and cutting back on consumption of meat, cheese, sweetened beverages, and desserts are strategies that may help postmenopausal women lose weight and keep it off, according to a study published today in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
After menopause, many women find it more difficult to maintain their weight or to lose weight, partly resulting from the decreased expenditure of energy associated with aging as well as metabolic changes associated with weight loss, according to the authors.
“Not only does motivation decrease after you start losing weight, there are physiologic changes, including decreased resting metabolic rate,” explained Bethany Barone Gibbs, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study, in a statement. “Appetite-related hormones increase. Researchers studying the brain are now finding that you have enhanced rewards and increased motivation to eat when you’ve lost weight.”
To determine which factors might aid long-term weight loss in this population, Barone Gibbs and her colleagues analyzed dietary changes associated with short-term and long-term weight loss among 481 postmenopausal women who were overweight or obese and enrolled in the Women on the Move through Activity and Nutrition (WOMAN) Study. They found that women who reported eating out less; increasing fish consumption; and avoiding desserts, sugar-sweetened beverages, and fried foods were likely to have lost weight at 6 months. But at 48 months, only consuming fewer sugar-sweetened beverages and desserts was associated with weight loss. Other dietary changes were also associated with weight loss in the longer term, especially increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and decreasing meat and cheese consumption.
Barone Gibbs suggested that in the long-term, it may be easier to maintain small dietary changes, such as eating more fruit, than radical ones, such as completely eliminating certain foods.
“Eating fruits and vegetables may not make as big a difference in your caloric intake,” she said. “But that small change can build up and give you a better long-term result, because it’s not as hard to do as giving up French fries forever.”