Losing weight can be especially tricky for post-menopausal women as they face a natural decline in energy levels.
Simply reducing the number of calories consumed has poor long-term results as dieters cannot sustain their motivation and pile the pounds back on.
But now scientists say there are three simple rules over-50s should follow to help them slim down: Skip dessert, lay off meat and cheese and eat more fruit and vegetables.
Weight-loss tricks: For post-menopausal women, cutting out dessert is more effective long-term than giving up fried foods
Study leader Dr Bethany Barone Gibbs, from the University of Pittsburgh, told ABC News that a number of factors work against a dieter.
She said: 'Not only does motivation decrease after you start losing weight, there are physiological changes, including a decreased resting metabolic rate. Appetite-related hormones increase.
'Researchers studying the brain are now finding that you have enhanced rewards and increased motivation to eat when you've lost weight.'
So the investigators studied nearly 500 post-menopausal women to see if changes in eating particular foods could make a difference to maintaining weight loss at six months and four years.
They found that the eating behaviors associated with weight loss at six months were eating fewer desserts and fried foods, drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, and eating at restaurants less.
Study leader: Dr Bethany Barone Gibbs
However, at four years, just eating fewer desserts and drinking fewer sweet beverages continued to be associated with weight loss or maintenance.
Meanwhile eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat and cheese emerged as long-term ways of controlling weight.
Eating at restaurants declined at four years whether or not subjects lost weight, perhaps due to economic factors not relevant to the study.
Dr Barone Gibbs said eating fewer fried foods may not be sustainable for the long term.
She said: 'People are so motivated when they start a weight loss program. You can say, "I'm never going to eat another piece of pie," and you see the pounds coming off.
'Eating fruits and vegetables may not make as big a difference in your caloric intake. But that small change can build up and give you a better long-term result, because it's not as hard to do as giving up French fries forever.'
The research is published in the September issue of Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2194735/No-cake-menopause-Why-cutting-dessert-effective-cutting-calories-older-women.html#ixzz24rdT5Dp7