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Keys to Weight Loss After Menopause

Fewer Desserts, Sugary Drinks Linked to Long-Term Weight Loss
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 28, 2012 -- As she approached her 50s, Susan Williams found it harder and harder to maintain her weight, let alone shed the extra pounds she had been working to lose for some time.

“I was working out as hard as I ever have, but I was gaining weight,” the Atlanta-based film production executive says. “It’s a constant struggle.”

Now 52, Williams says she has recently revamped her diet to include more fruits and vegetables and less sugar and white flour -- and she's managed to lose a few pounds.

Menopause Weight Gain Inevitable?

Conventional wisdom says weight gain is inevitable with menopause and that losing weight is difficult. But a new study questions this wisdom.

Researchers examined eating behaviors among postmenopausal women in their 50s enrolled in a weight-loss study. They identified those behaviors that were common in women who managed to shed pounds and keep them off.

Cutting way back on sugary desserts and drinks topped the list, followed by limiting meats and cheeses and eating more fruits and vegetables.

“People who were able to decrease their consumption of desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages tended to have more success losing weight and keeping it off,” says researcher Bethany Barone Gibbs, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh.

Eat Less Sugar, Lose More Weight

The study included about 500 overweight and obese postmenopausal women with waist sizes greater than 31.5 inches. None of the women had high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes.

Half the women followed a weight loss plan that included regular meetings with nutritionists, exercise specialists, and psychologists. None of these options were available to the other women, but they were given the opportunity to attend seminars on general health.

The women were followed for four years. During this time those in the nutrition and exercise group lost an average of 8 pounds, compared to around half a pound among those in the general health group.

Behaviors associated with weight loss at six months in the combined groups included eating:

  • Less sugar (desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages)
  • Fewer fried foods
  • More fish
  • Eating out in restaurants less often

After four years, behaviors linked to long-term diet success emerged:

  • Also eating fewer desserts and drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer meats and cheeses

The study appears in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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