The following article provides information about weight-loss dieting and the importance of maintaining a healthy weight for post-menopausal women.
Post-menopause is an important stage of change in a woman’s life that marks the end of host flushes, night sweats and irregular menstrual cycles for over 12 months. However, whilst there is a wonderful liberty in regular levels of energy and the disappearance of monthly mood swings, the decrease in female hormones post-menopause may increase a woman’s risk of heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis. These hormone changes are also responsible for body fat redistribution and weight gain around the middle waist, increasing a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease.  It is especially important to maintain a healthy weight and regular physically activity during this time to ensure optimal wellbeing and vitality during post-menopause.
How Does Weight-Gain and Weight-Loss Happen?
The human body turns food into energy by a process called metabolism. As we get older and become less active our metabolism slows down, meaning we no longer require as much food to fuel our body. Exercising can help weight loss by increasing metabolism and the amount of energy our body needs. 
Weight gain occurs when:
- We eat more food than our body needs and the excess energy is stored as fat around the body.
Weight loss occurs when:
- We eat less energy than our body needs causing the stored fat to be turned back into energy for the body to use.
What is Weight-Loss Dieting?
Weight-loss dieting is the restriction of energy from the diet to help achieve desirable body fat loss. There are many different approaches to weight-loss; some focus on eating strictly from particular food groups while others focus on eating specific nutrients or combinations of nutrients. Currently there isn’t any particular diet that has been shown to have the best weight-loss results.
Evidence Based Diets for Weight-Loss
The Australian dietary guidelines suggest that a 5-10% loss of weight is achievable in most healthy adults and will have significant beneficial health effects. 
Below are four evidence-based diets for weight-loss:
- Reduced energy diet (portion control/calorie counting)
- Very low energy diet (Optifast meal replacement shakes)
- Weight-loss programs (Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Lite and Easy)
- Mediterranean diet (emphasises wholegrains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, red wine, lean protein and heart healthy fats found in seafood, nuts and olive oil.)
Please see your physician and an accredited practicing dietitian if you are considering any of the above weight-loss diets.
Non-Dieting Approach to Weight-Loss
Mindful eating is a technique that assists weight loss without food restriction. It is simply being aware of your own eating habits, eating sensations, hunger signals and thoughts and emotions toward food. Studies show that being more mindful while eating can reduce serving sizes and therefore the amount of energy consumed throughout the day. 
Mindful eating stops us from:
- Feeling guilty about food
- Emotional or bored eating
- Food grazing without being hungry
- Habitual eating (i.e. in front of the television)
- Non-hungry eating
- Skipping meals
- Ignoring appropriate hunger signals
Health at Every Size Approach (HAES)
The HAES approach focuses on size-acceptance and non-dieting behaviour changes. It is an appropriate lifestyle approach amongst those who do not have any weight related diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Whilst weight-loss is not considered the primary outcome of the HAES approach, studies show that weight-loss may result from the mental, dietary and physical activity behaviour changes associated with the HAES principles: :
- Accepting the natural diversity of all body shapes and sizes
- Recognising the pleasure of eating
- Flexible eating patterns around hunger cues, satiety and appetite
- Finding the joy in physical activity rather than forced structured exercise
For more information about the HAES approach, please see HAES Community.
Benefits of Weight-Loss and Maintaining a Healthy Weight
- Improved self-esteem and body image 
- Reduced depression 
- Higher health related quality of life (HRQoL) 
- Reduced blood pressure 
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes 
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Reduced risk of stroke 
- Reduced risk of osteoarthritis 
- Decreased risk of some cancers 
- Improved sleep 
For more information regarding menopause, weight-loss and heart health please see the following links:
- [Ramezani Tehrani, F., Behboudi-Gandevani, S., Ghanbarian, A., & Azizi, F. (2014). Effect of menopause on cardiovascular disease and its risk factors: a 9-year follow-up study. Climacteric, 17(2), 164-172. doi: doi:10.3109/13697137.2013.828197
- [Thomas, B., & Bishop, J. (2007). Manual of Dietetic practice (4th ed.). Oxford (UK): Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
- [Wing, R. R., Lang, W., Wadden, T. A., Safford, M., Knowler, W. C., Bertoni, A. G., . . . Wagenknecht, L. (2011). Benefits of Modest Weight Loss in Improving Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 34(7), 1481-1486.
- [Beshara, M., Hutchinson, A. D., & Wilson, C. (2013). Does mindfulness matter? Everyday mindfulness, mindful eating and self-reported serving size of energy dense foods among a sample of South Australian adults. Appetite, 67(0), 25-29. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2013.03.012
- [Provencher, V., Begin, C., Tremblay, A., Mongeau, L., Corneau, L., Dodin, S., . . . Lemieux, S. (2009). Health-At-Every-Size and Eating Behaviors: 1-Year Follow-Up Results of a Size Acceptance Intervention. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(11), 1854-1861.
- [Lasikiewicz, N., Myrissa, K., Hoyland, A., & Lawton, C. L. (2014). Psychological benefits of weight loss following behavioural and/or dietary weight loss interventions. A systematic research review. Appetite, 72(0), 123-137. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2013.09.017
- [D’Onise, K., McDermott, R. A., & Campbell, S. K. (2013). Benefits of modest weight or waist circumference loss in a remote North Queensland Indigenous population. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 37(4), 345-349. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12082
- [Vuolteenaho, K., Koskinen, A., & Moilanen, E. (2014). Leptin – A Link between Obesity and Osteoarthritis. Applications for Prevention and Treatment. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 114(1), 103-108. doi: 10.1111/bcpt.12160
- [Olivo-Marston, S. E., Hursting, S. D., Perkins, S. N., Schetter, A., Khan, M., Croce, C., . . . Lavigne, J. (2014). Effects of calorie restriction and diet-induced obesity on murine colon carcinogenesis, growth and inflammatory factors, and microRNA expression. PLoS ONE, 9(4), 11.
- [Qian, X., Arem, H., Moore, S. C., Hollenbeck, A. R., & Matthews, C. E. (2013). A large prospective investigation of sleep duration, weight change, and obesity in the NIH-AARP diet and health study cohort. American Journal of Epidemiology, 178(11), 1600-1610.