Informational

How to Lose Weight During and After Menopause

 

exercise during menopause
 
If you’re a woman in your late 40’s or 50’s then you’ve likely struggled or are struggling with menopause-related weight gain, or the inability to lose weight doing the same things you did when you were younger. This is troubling because menopause-related weight gain can be harmful to your health by increasing your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and various types of cancer including breast, colon and endometrial. In addition to a slowing metabolism, hormonal changes such as reduced estrogen and progesterone levels, and increased testosterone at the onset of menopause all work to combat weight loss and contribute to weight gain in the years surrounding menopause. You’ve probably also noticed that the majority of your weight gain is around your middle instead of in your thighs, hips and elsewhere on your body, and that’s because these same hormonal changes help focus weight gain and fat retention around the abdominal area. Further, a 2013 study published in Diabetes found that two enzymes responsible for making and storing fat were more active in post-menopausal women, likely due to their lower estrogen levels, which also leads to increased abdominal weight gain.

Other factors affecting weight gain in the menopause years include declining muscle mass, increased stress and alcohol intake, lack of exercise and sleep, and genetic factors such as how your own mother’s body responded to menopause. If you’re bummed about the seemingly inevitable conclusion that you’ll gain weight before, during or after menopause that’s understandable, but don’t get down just yet. Researchers have looked at common themes among women in their 50’s who’ve managed to lose weight and keep it off, and they found that these women drastically cut back on sugar-laden drinks and desserts, limited meats, cheeses and fried foods, and ate more fruits, vegetables and fish. The women also tended to eat out less often. While eating out less often and eating less fried food and cheese may not be sustainable long-term, changing your eating pattern to be more healthful overall is a helpful, long-term strategy.

Check out these five tips for combating weight gain before, during and after menopause.

1. Re-distribute your calories. Eat smaller portions of desserts and less high-calorie drinks such as soda, sweetened beverages and alcohol, and instead eat more fruits, vegetables, fish, dairy and whole grains. Legumes (peas and beans), nuts, and chicken are also healthy, protein-packed options.

2. Lift weights or do muscle-building activities at least two times each week. Strength training and muscle building activities support weight control efforts because as your body gains muscle, you burn calories more efficiently and speed your metabolism. If you like to workout at home, find a video that works for you on Netflix or Amazon Prime and follow along using dumbbells or your own body weight. If you’re a gym-goer try Zumba or body pump classes, or the tried-and-true weight machines.

3. Get more physical activity doing every day things. Sure, you still exercise 45 minutes most mornings before going to your desk job, but how’s your physical activity level the rest of the day? For generally healthy adults, experts recommend moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, for at least 150 minutes a week. This breaks down to about 30 minutes, 5 days per week. If your activity is considered vigorous aerobic activity, like jogging, the recommendation is at least 75 minutes a week. Research shows that exercise in as little as 10-minute bouts helps with weight control and heart health, so getting in the habit of taking the stairs wherever you are, parking in the back of the lot, and pacing back and forth when you’re on the phone with someone can go along way toward helping with weight loss efforts.

4. Sleep more. Sleep patterns during menopause are wonky, and according to the National Sleep Foundation, over 60% of post-menopausal women report issues with sleep. Eating a healthy diet throughout the day, avoiding large meals, spicy foods, nicotine, caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, wearing lightweight, cotton-based pajamas to bed, and keeping your bedroom cool can all help improve sleep. In addition, relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing might help you fall asleep and go back to sleep when you awake in the middle of the night. Lastly, research also suggests eating one or two servings of soy-based foods daily including tofu, tempeh, soymilk, or soy nuts to help reduce hot flashes leading to better sleep. Some women try everything and still have sleep issues, so if this is you, make sure you talk with your doctor about what’s going on.

5. Be honest with yourself. Look at the tips above and ask yourself if you really are eating a balanced, healthful diet, if you’re already getting at least 5 days of aerobic and 2 days of strength training exercise, or whether you might be knocking back a little too much alcohol or eating out too much. Once you identify where you’re lacking, you’ll know what you can improve on.

Try out the tips above and let me know how they work for you! Have any tips of your own to add? Leave a comment, below, or post them on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/balancedpantry1.