For many women, gaining weight after menopause seems inevitable, and losing it nearly impossible. However, a new study from the University of Pittsburgh suggests that a few simple changes can make a big difference. Researchers followed 465 overweight and obese postmenopausal women for four years to evaluate weight-loss strategies that worked best. The women were divided into two groups. Those in one group underwent intensive nutrition and exercise counseling, while those in the other group received a more general weight loss program. All of the women kept a daily record of what they ate, and where they ate, for the duration of the study. When the investigators reviewed all the factors that made the difference for the women who successfully lost weight, they found that the winning strategy was replacing meats and cheeses in the diet with fruits and vegetables. Eating fewer desserts and drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages also proved important. The effect of substituting fruit and vegetables wasn’t noticeable at the study’s six-month mark but had the greatest impact on sustained weight loss and prevention of weight gain over the long-term, the researchers reported. The study was published in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
My take? Emphasizing fruits and vegetables and minimizing meats and cheese in your diet is a strategy I have championed, whether or not you are overweight. My anti-inflammatory diet (which is not focused on weight loss but can help you shed unwanted pounds) calls for an abundance of fruits and vegetables and for decreasing consumption of animal protein other than fish and high quality, natural cheese and yogurt. This "eating plan" provides steady energy as well as vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, dietary fiber and protective phytonutrients. And, as the Pittsburgh study showed, you can help yourself lose weight when your plate is full of fresh produce.