Cindy Groover, 54, of Palm City, Fla., who cut calories and walked 3 miles a day to lose 15 pounds since late September, says: "When I was young, I could drop 10 pounds in two weeks by going on a low-carb diet. These days, it just doesn't happen fast."
Losing this much is the "sweet spot" for many people, but if they "want to go beyond that 10% loss, there is going to be some pain and suffering," says Tim Church, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. "You are going to have to limit your calorie intake without starving yourself."
The postmenopausal women in one study burned an average of 100 to 150 fewer calories a day just resting and doing their everyday activities, and they were less physically active for a total drop of about 200 calories a day after menopause, says lead researcher Jennifer Lovejoy, who now works for a health coaching company, Free & Clear in Seattle.
The lower metabolism appears to have to do with changing levels of estrogen and not changes in muscle mass, she says. And there is evidence that a lack of estrogen increases appetite and can cause specific cravings for certain foods, especially carbohydrates and fats. That means women need to be careful about consuming too many cookies, cakes, candy bars and chips, she says.
One of her recent studies showed that middle-aged women lost an average of 21 pounds over several months if they did 45 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week and limited their calories to 1,200 to 1,800 a day. Those who were the most successful wrote down what they ate, prepared food at home instead of eating out and made weight loss a priority