If you're a postmenopausal woman, you're probably fighting the battle of the bulging tummy. Your pants and skirts don't fit anymore, and forget about wearing your favorite jeans. But don't worry -- you're not doomed to a life of oversized T-shirts and elastic waist pants. Here's what current research shows will work for taking off those postmenopausal pounds:
1. Don't blame estrogen.Decreased estrogen levels aren't piling on those extra pounds. Food choices and activity levels have more to do with postmenopausal weight gain than estrogen.
2. Easy on the vino.Watch out for high-calorie alcoholic beverages. A study in the journal Menopause found a strong link between alcohol use and weight gain after menopause. If you drink wine, beer or other alcoholic beverages, cut your intake by at least 50 percent. For example, instead of two glasses of wine with dinner, drink only one, or, instead of one bottle of beer on a night out, ask for a glass and share the bottle with a friend.
3. Muscle up.Loss of muscle mass often results in increased body fat. According to Miriam Nelson, Ph.D., an associate professor of nutrition from Tufts University and author of Strong Women Stay Slim, women lose 1/3 of a pound of muscle every year after their mid-30s. That could add up to a six-pound muscle loss over a 20-year period! Lost muscle typically is replaced with an equal amount of fat, causing both weight and percentage of body fat to go up. The solution? Bulk up those muscles! Regular exercise can rebuild lost muscle tissue as it burns calories to help you lose weight at the same time.
4. Don't starve yourself.Forget about very low-calorie diets. Anything less than 1,200 to 1,400 calories may slow your metabolism, making it more difficult to lose weight. If you exercise regularly, you may need 1,600 to 1,800 calories to keep your metabolism humming.
5. Every bite counts.A taste of the soup you're making for lunch, two extra crackers while preparing dinner, a large scoop of ice cream while watching TV -- all add up to unwanted calories and pounds. Eliminate unnecessary eating and you'll shave 100 to 200 calories off your daily intake.
6. Don't overeat out.Watch out for restaurant portions -- they're huge! Split the entree with a friend, order an appetizer or lunch-size portion, or take at least half the meal home in a doggie bag.
7. Eat healthy.Focus on nutrient-dense foods that fill you up while they provide essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. A baked potato is more filling and provides more nutritional value than french fries and the same goes for a piece of fresh fruit vs. a glass of juice or a sandwich vs. a candy bar.
8. Mellow out.Take a bubble bath, listen to relaxing music, or use your favorite method to reduce stress. High levels of a stress hormone called cortisol pack on extra abdominal fat, and that effect may worsen after menopause.