How To Prevent Weight Gain During Menopause
Forget the hot flashes, mood swings and brain fog—if you are approaching or experiencing menopause and noticing extra weight around your middle, it’s irritating. Menopausal weight gain is a common problem for many women. When your once curvy or trim figure has “thickened up” and become somewhat unrecognizable, it can be extremely frustrating. Here’s the good news: you can do something about it! You do not need to fall prey to the “middle-age spread” that creeps in and takes over your body. Let’s take a look at why menopausal weight gain happens and how to prevent weight gain during menopause so you can look and feel your best.
What Causes Menopausal Weight Gain?
Menopausal weight gain is a very real thing. You probably notice that you are eating the same way you always have and yet the pounds keep coming on. It’s not your imagination; several factors can cause weight gain during menopause:
Yes, your hormones are playing a role. During perimenopause and menopause estrogen and progesterone fluctuate, decrease and often become imbalanced. It’s very individual but can cause a whole host of issues.
2. Muscle Loss
Muscle is the active tissue in your body that burns up more calories than body fat. As we age, we slowly lose a little bit of muscle every year if we are not actively replacing it. By the time menopause rolls around, less muscle and less activity can slow down your metabolism and your body’s ability to burn calories even at rest.
Let’s face it, there can be many new and difficult challenges that come during this period in life. Children leaving or marrying, caring for aging parents, a spousal death or illness, job changes or nearing retirement—all these things add stress. Stress can increase your body’s levels of cortisol, a hormone produced in the adrenal glands which can cause you to pack on the pounds. It can be particularly problematic for belly fat. Learn more about the correlation between stress and belly fat here.
4. Less Activity
As we age, aches and pains in our body start to add up. This can make us feel less motivated to work out and get the exercise we need. As I said above, when you move less, you have less muscle and gain more weight. That’s simple science. Get moving not only for weight management but to keep your joints and bones healthy.
Are a Few Extra Pounds Really That Problematic?
Not at first. The problem is when you keep adding pounds every month and year till you have 20-30 pounds to lose—most of it around the middle. Then, the problem can start to feel insurmountable and you may get discouraged from even trying. Not only does generalized weight gain affect your health in negative ways, but weight gain around your middle is the worst kind. This puts you at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, and many forms of cancer.
How Do You Lose Weight During Menopause?
1. Eat Quality Food
It’s no secret: you need good quality food to maintain a healthy weight. Eat foods that are rich in fiber, minerals, and vitamins like dark, leafy greens; brightly-colored vegetables and fruits; lean meat and fish. Go organic to avoid preservatives, pesticides and chemicals that disrupte your horomones. Choose foods that reduce inflammation in the body and avoid white, starchy or sugary carbs that spike blood sugar and end up getting stored as fat. As they said in the movie Fed Up: “ You can have a bowl of corn flakes without sugar or a bowl of sugar without corn flakes and the reaction in your body is the same.” Bottom line, at this menopausal time of life, you want to eat more real food, less processed foods and be aware of the quality of your food.
You also may find out you don’t need as much food if you are less active. According to the Mayo Clinic you need about 200 less calories per day at this time of life to help you prevent unwanted weight gain.
2. Limit Sugar Intake
Not only can excess sugar cause you to pack on the pounds, but excess sugar makes menopausal symptoms worse. Hot flashes and night sweats are often more severe in people who eat more sugar; reduce your daily sugar intake for your waistline as well as your hot flashes. Natural sugar found in fruit is better for you because it’s accompanied by fiber; this helps your body break down the sugar more easily as opposed to artificial sugars.
3. Stay Consistent With Exercise
Lift weights! Remember, the muscle loss you are experiencing is slowing your metabolism down. So do something about it. You need muscle to burn calories so get out those dumbbells and start strength training. Consistent cardiovascular activity is equally as important. This will strengthen your heart, increase your energy and help you shed some of the extra pounds you might have already put on. Don’t forget, the CDC recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise a week! In addition, exercise is a natural stress reliever. No one ever regrets the feeling they have after they finish a good workout!
4. Check In With Your Gynecologist
It doesn’t hurt to have your hormone levels checked and discuss what is happening with your doctor. Some things are just part of the process of aging, while others might benefit from medical attention or different treatments. Just because you are done with babies doesn’t mean you are done with the doctor.
5. Stay Hydrated
Don’t underestimate the power of water. You should drink at least 8-12 glasses a day. At least! It will help with weight loss, energy and act as an all-around health booster which will make everything else listed above much, much easier!
Getting older holds many positive and exciting new changes. However, it also holds its own challenges. Don’t make weight gain one of them. Keep a positive attitude and do what you can to stay healthy and strong. Remember—the glass isn’t half empty or half full—it’s refillable!
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