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A three-year study by Brigham Young University researchers shows that women who don't try to eat less more than double their risk of substantial weight gain in middle age.

No matter if you're thin or overweight 40-something woman, the odds are you'll gain weight over time if you don't cut back on your calories.
The researchers included 192 women with an average age of 40 who were not obese, had not yet reached menopause, and did not smoke. Before the study started, the women underwent detailed physical exams, including measures of weight and body fat. They also underwent a seven-day analysis of the food they ate, in which they weighed and recorded every bit of food they put into their mouths.

Three years later, the women underwent another round of physical exams and food-intake analysis. The bottom line was no surprise: Women tend to gain weight and body fat as they age and become less physically active.

However, not all women gained weight. Those who made an effort to eat less, but did not exercise, were 69% less likely to gain over 2.2 pounds and were 2.4 times less likely to gain 6.6 pounds.

The researchers report that it's never too soon, or too late, to start watching what you eat. It matters little at what point women engage in restricted eating. They should increase their dietary restraint over time or they will inevitably gain weight.

Those women who ate on "emotional basis", as a way of coping with feeling depressed, lonely, bored, anxious, worried, or other emotional states were also more likely to gain weight. It is essential these women learned to control their food consumption during emotionally challenging situations.

Some earlier studies suggested that women who try to eat less actually end up gaining weight because their feelings of deprivation lead them to cycles of binging. The latest study found no evidence of this but they did acknowledge that binge eating does occur in people trying to eat less.

Although tight regulation of food intake may lead to binging from time to time, however, in the long run, if fewer calories are consumed, the risk of weight gain is much less in women who practice restricted eating.

More importantly, it is essential women increased restraint over time to keep from gaining weight and body fat.


Eating less can be a hard thing to do, especially in countries where food is plentiful. Replacing high glycemic carbohydrates such as potatoes and rice with low glycemic carbohydrates such as beans and peas, reducing fat consumption and increasing protein and fiber consumption may be easier alternatives to reduce caloric intake without having to go hungry. Increasing the duration and intensity of daily exercise may also be a more practical way to counteract the declining metabolism as a person ages.