Post-menopausal weight loss – is it possible?
Post-menopausal weight loss is possible, but short-term interventions are likely to be ineffective and you should focus on long-term interventions to achieve success.
A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that in post-menopausal women, some weight loss behaviors in the short term aren’t effective or sustainable for the long term.
Interventions targeting these behaviors could improve long-term obesity treatment outcomes.
Many people can drop pounds quickly in the early phases of a diet, but studies show it is difficult to keep the weight off in the long term. And for post-menopausal women, natural declines in energy expenditure could make long-term weight loss even more challenging.
There are a number of factors working against long-term post-menopausal weight loss.
Not only does motivation decrease after you start losing weight, but there are physiological changes to deal with, including a decreased resting metabolic rate. Appetite-related hormones increase, too.
Researchers studying the brain are now finding you have enhanced rewards and increased motivation to eat when you’ve lost weight.
Combined with the natural energy expenditure decline in women following menopause, it is extremely difficult to achieve post-menopausal weight loss, and maintain it.
The research on post-menopausal weight loss
The researchers sought to determine if changes in eating behaviors and selected foods were associated with weight loss at six and 48 months in a group of overweight post-menopausal women.
A total of 508 women were randomized to either a ‘lifestyle change’ group or a ‘health education’ group.
The lifestyle change group met regularly with nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and psychologists throughout the study. Their goals were to reduce fats and caloric intake, increase consumption of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, and participate in regular moderate exercise. The health education group was offered seminars by health professionals on general women’s health, but not specifically weight loss.
The researchers found the eating behaviors associated with weight loss at six months were eating fewer desserts and fried foods, drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, eating more fish, and not eating at restaurants as much.
After four years, they found eating fewer deserts and drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages continued to be associated with post-menopausal weight loss or maintenance. These practices were also related to long-term weight loss.
Eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat and cheese, however, were additional important predictors for long-term weight loss.
The results suggest that if the goal is to reduce the burden of obesity, you must focus on long-term strategies because changes in eating behaviors only associated with short-term weight loss are likely to be ineffective and unsustainable.
Bethany Barone Gibbs, PhD et al., Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Volume 112, Issue 9, September 2012; 1347-1355. Accessed on August 28, 2012, from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2012.06.012
Audio podcast accompanying the study with Dr. Barone Gibbs discusses the results in depth, including its implications for men and women of all ages and the challenges of self-reporting in research on diets and eating behaviors.