Harvard Women's Health Watch

Don't give up on losing weight and staying fit

Postmenopausal weight gain and loss of muscle tone aren't inevitable—you just need to work a little harder.

Remember when you could eat whatever you wanted (within reason) and you still looked great in a bathing suit? As long as you ate a generally healthy diet and stayed active, you were able to keep your weight in check. Now those pounds stick much more stubbornly, and it seems like no matter how much you exercise and how healthy your diet, you just can't take them off.

It's harder to control weight after menopause because our metabolism is slower and we have less muscle mass. "If the muscle is smaller and it doesn't work as much and use as much power, it doesn't burn the calories," explains Dr. George Blackburn, associate director of the Division of Nutrition at Harvard Medical School. "If you don't learn how to eat a postmenopausal diet—primarily portion-controlled—the same calories you ate before are going to lead to weight gain."

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