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Weight Loss

This Meno-Belly Diet Heals the Hidden Nerve Glitch That Makes It Hard to Lose Weight After Age 50

Dee Pauletig, 64: “I’m proof you can feel better as you get older.”

Setting ourselves up for successful weight loss after menopause can be a challenge. Not only are we fatigued and battling hot flashes, it also sometimes seems like our bellies grew bigger overnight. Plus, new research reveals that chronic irritation in our guts makes shedding pounds even more difficult. But here’s good news: On a meno-belly diet, simple tweaks and easy exercises can make all the difference in how you look and feel at midlife. Just ask Dee Pauletig, who soothed gut inflammation to lose meno-belly fat and heal her health. Keep reading for her inspirational story, plus how you too can get the perks of a meno-belly diet.

What causes a meno-belly

Hormonal changes we experience during menopause cause the body to accumulate more fat around our midsections. Equally important, everything from stress and poor sleep to arthritis meds and junk food cause chronic irritation to develop in our gut — and the condition sets off a dangerous domino effect of low-grade inflammation throughout our body, says Healthy Gut, Healthy You author Michael Ruscio, DC. A sign you have the problem? Stubborn belly fat that you just can’t seem to lose.

Indeed, breakthrough Yale research shows that when nerves in our belly fat become inflamed, they malfunction and make it very hard for that fat to burn. Plus, it’s a problem that hits those over age 50 hardest, according to Yale’s Vishwa Deep Dixit, PhD. So even if we lose weight, we may not lose our belly unless we soothe affected nerves first. (Sarcopenia can also impact our ability to slim. Read how protein can help.)

How to shrink a meno-belly

Luckily, there is a fix for a meno-belly: One study found that when people avoid foods that drive gut irritation — especially gluten, dairy, corn and added sugar — they zap inflammation and shrink their waist 650% faster. “Inflamed and damaged cells regenerate in about three days. So in 72 hours, someone can see an amazing difference!” says Dr. Ruscio.

And if you limit foods high in gluten and sugar, your gut and whole body benefit so much, you slash the risk of all deadly diseases by 62%, per a recent study.

Related: Top Menopause Expert: These Shortcuts End Inflammaging and Make Weight Loss Easier After Age 50

Meno-belly diet success story: Dee Pauletig, 64

Before and after photos of Dee Pauletig whose waist shrank 13 inches on a Meno-belly diet
Brett Gilmour

“What would I do without you?” asked Dee Pauletig’s friend Ann, as Dee tucked a blanket around her. Ann was battling end-stage kidney cancer, and Dee had become her caregiver. It was a privilege to help — yet watching her friend fade away often sent Dee’s mind to dark places. In that moment, Dee began fixating on her own poor health: her ever-climbing blood pressure, cholesterol, weight. Joints that ached, swelled and sometimes gave out. She decided she needed to make changes while she still could.

Dee had long juggled a busy family life, friends, a fast-paced insurance job, volunteer work, hobbies. She’d once had plenty of energy. But not anymore. In fact, with each passing year, she was more exhausted, more stressed, more prone to reaching for comfort food. Chips, wings and sandwiches — they packed on pounds and made matters worse.

“You’re getting older. It’s normal,” her husband, Fred, would say as she struggled to walk up stairs. And maybe he was right. But she told herself she could do better. Of course, the many diets she’d tried hadn’t helped, but she vowed to find something new.

Related: How to Fight Stress Belly — The Tricks That Tame Tension and Speed Weight Loss

How Dee started her weight loss journey

The day Ann was transferred to hospice care, Dee was sad and aimless. Scrolling through Facebook, a post from a former colleague caught her eye. “I’m looking for five people who want to lose weight and get healthy with me,” Sarah wrote. Was it fate? Before she could think of an excuse, Dee typed, “I’ll do it.”

Sarah signed her up for an online program that was pretty straightforward: healthier food, smart portions, exercise. But it came with lots of support and encouragement that was new for Dee. Right away, she was prompted to choose a word as her motto. “I choose the word ‘peace,’” she told Sarah. “I want to be at peace with my body and health, and I want to get there in a peaceful way.”

How small steps made a big difference

Feeling inspired, Dee decided to focus on adding just one positive change at a time. First: Heading to her basement each day to work up a sweat. She used BODi (formerly Beachbody), which let her stream workouts. She started with one called “Muscle Burns Fat.” Although she stopped plenty to rest when she needed, Dee made it through. In the days ahead, she kept at it. She was a bit tired but very proud. (Consider weighted hula hooping, which can also shrink your belly.)

In a groove with her exercise, Dee worked on forming another new habit: drinking 50 ounces of water a day. When that was automatic, she focused on having a protein-rich smoothie for one meal a day.

Dee’s meno-belly diet got her off a weight loss plateau

As Dee’s journey continued, she began measuring portions and eating mostly healthy foods, like grilled chicken instead of fried and rice cakes with nut butter instead of candy.

Pounds continued to disappear. Her progress did eventually plateau — and that’s when Sarah suggested Beachbody’s special four-week gut protocol. “It helps you replace foods that can cause inflammation in your gut,” she explained. And as the gut was soothed, overall health and weight loss often got a big boost.

Like so many of us over age 50, Dee had frequent bloat and gas. It seemed like a good idea to try to figure out if any particular foods were an issue so she began skipping gluten, dairy and artificial sweeteners. She was also taught to aim for 30 different plant foods a week since they’re all full of anti-inflammatory compounds.

And when she made these swaps — like quinoa for wheat pasta, almond milk for cow’s milk — “it was such a quick, immediate response.” Her belly fat melted away. “I can tie my shoes without my gut pressing on my lungs. It’s such a relief!” (Artificial sweeteners were a no-go, but natural sweeteners like allulose may help burn belly fat.)

Related: MD Reveals the Protein Pasta Tip That’s Helping Women Over 50 Lose a Meno-Belly

Dee today, 65 pounds slimmer, happier and stronger

By the time she grabbed a tape measure, she was stunned: She’d lost 4.5 inches from her waist in four weeks. “I was already smaller than I’ve been in decades, so I can’t believe it happened so quickly.” The scale revealed she’d blown past her goal weight.

To date, Dee has lost 65 pounds and 13 inches from her middle. Her joint pain is gone, and her doctor says her blood work is perfect. She loves belting out songs with her grandkids. “I wanted to be a happier, stronger, more confident me. And I am,” says Dee, 64. “I’m proof you can feel better as you get older. Take it one step at a time, and amazing changes happen!”

Meno-belly diet meal ideas

To follow Dee’s lead, track the food you eat daily, allowing yourself unlimited non-starchy veggies plus two servings each of plant protein, animal protein, starch and fat. Aim for 30 different plant foods weekly. Stick to unprocessed fare, keep added sugar under 10 grams and skip inflammatory culprits like gluten, dairy, corn and artificial sweeteners. We’ve got ideas to inspire you, below. For more, check out Whole30’s recipes.

Breakfast: Whip up a smoothie with plant protein powder, banana, berries, plant milk and ice.

Lunch: Fill a bowl with lots of veggies, beans, chicken and avocado; dress with vinegar.

Dinner: Enjoy turkey meatballs, marinara, potatoes mashed with plant milk and a side salad.

Bonus recipe: Flat-belly brownies

Brownies made with mashed bananas as part of a Meno-belly diet

Ingredients in these delicious treats heal + slim. Makes 9 servings.


  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup nut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder


  1. Gently mix banana, nut butter, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Add cocoa.
  2. Spread in a small, greased baking pan.
  3. Bake at 350ºF until pick inserted in center comes out clean, 22–26 minutes. Let cool, then slice.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

For more on losing belly fat after menopause, check out these stories:

New Hula Hoop Craze Is Helping Women Over 50 Lose 100+ lbs — And Belly Goes First!

Over 50 and Can’t Lose Weight? What to Know About Sarcopenia + How to Fix It With Protein

Top Menopause Expert: These Shortcuts End Inflammaging and Make Weight Loss Easier After Age 50

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