Wednesday Bubble: Restraint is the new black

Posted by on Jan 7, 2009 in exercise, weight | 5 comments


Taking a restrained approach to eating may help to keep extra pounds and body fat away in middle age.

Sounds pretty dicey right? Especially since conscious restriction of calories has long been thought to lead to loss of control and binge eating.

Yet, results of a novel study published in the January 3 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion suggest that women in midlife who do not restrict their eating have more than twice the risk of gaining substantial amount of weight than their peers who do.

In this study, researchers from Brigham Young University followed 192 women (mean age 40+3 years) over a three-year period, tracking their body weight, body fat, energy intake and physical activity at regular intervals.

Over the entire study period, and compared to their peers, women who did not restrain their eating had:

  • a 69% greater risk of gaining more than 2.2 pounds
  • a 138% greater risk of gaining more than 6.6 pounds
  • a 49% greater risk of gaining more than 1% point in overall body fat

What’s more, the risk remained despite adjustments for age, weight, restrained eating, caloric intake and physical activity at the start of the study, and changes in caloric intake and physical activity during the study.

The researchers concluded that women who do not become more restrained in their eating habits or become more prone to emotional eating, are likely to gain both weight and body fat over a relatively short period of time.

While these data seem counterintuitive to a healthy relationship with food, the message is clear:  because our metabolism slows in midlife, we either have to cut calories or increase physical activity (or both).

Keep in mind, however, that any major change in your diet or exercise requires a conversation with a healthcare practitioner and certified trainer to insure that you are on the right track, and not heading into the injury jungle.

Makes sense, right?

Last year, I wrote a post about the need to move your body AND restrict caloric intake.  In fact, if you click on the word “exercise” in the tag cloud, you can access quite a bit of information about exercise during the menopause.


  1. 1-8-2009

    Excellent post! My mom who is 64 years old has long told me once I hit 40, my body will change. I will need to exercise more and eat less calories. She still eats plenty (just more veggies/fruit), walks 5 miles a day and has recently added small hand weights. My mom’s sister eats the same as she always has and hasn’t changed her exercise routine and has gain some weight. So as we age, yes, we must change what we do.

  2. 1-8-2009

    Fine! I was hoping you’d say the key is to eat more chips and chocolate. But alas…

  3. 1-8-2009

    Great post Liz.
    But, I don’t think being more restrained in our eating habits necessarily leads to binge eating. It’s the wise women among us who realize that we can’t act like we are 20 years old anymore (well, at least not in the kitchen!) To paraphrase an old joke: act like a 20 year old in the bedroom, a 30 year old in the living room, and 40 year old in the kitchen!

  4. 1-8-2009

    Rosy V – that applies to a lot of areas – changing our routines as we age. But those changes don’t have to be restrictive. Many, such as changing our attitudes and accepting ourselves, can be very positive.

    Wendy – ah, So sorry!

    Emily – there are data that show that restriction leads to overeating – the all or nothing attitude if you will. With regards to the other – isn’t 40 the new 20 and so on?!

  5. 1-31-2009

    I guess it depends on your interpretation. Restrictive eating often leads to overeating or bingeing. As you say, the all or nothing “diet” mentality.
    I guess I was thinking more along the lines of moderation, and being aware of changes and adapting to them. After all, I don’t think many of us can eat the same way we used to in our “old” 20s – at least not with some consequences!
    After all, a girl’s got to know her limitations!


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