Maybe you noticed that your favorite jeans are getting pretty snug, or you can no longer fit into your night-on-the-town dress. Weight gain during menopause will affect almost every woman whether avid exerciser or laid back mama. Why, on top of everything else menopause dishes out, do we have a thickening middle and what can we do about it?
Weight gain and menopause
Weight gain itself is not usually a direct connection between the hormonal imbalances that takes place during menopause. Menopause hits us at a time when our bodies are also going through additional changes as we enter our forties and fifties.
1. Your metabolism slows down with age, resulting in fewer calories been burned during workouts. Even if you maintain a regular exercise routine, you might find that your efforts appear to be for nothing.
2.Eating larger portions and confusing what a serving size looks like. From childhood admonitions to clean your plate, to eating out of stress or boredom, and larger sized offerings at most restaurants we are usually eating far more than we should.
3.Exercising less than in the past; or stopping somewhere along the way. Even top high school athletes often find exercise gets placed very low on the list of priorities as daily obligations make demands on our time.
Combine all of these factors, and it is not uncommon for women to gain as much as 20 pounds after age 25. Eating more calories than we burn, regardless of where those calories come from, will result in increased weight. Calories that are not burned are stored by the body as fat. Women are already predispositioned to have extra weight on hips and thighs; but carrying extra weight around the middle increases the risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Additional health problems can include Type-2 diabetes, breast cancer, and high blood pressure.
Not everyone can have, nor do they need a tiny waist to be healthy. But having a waist measurement of 35 inches or more will put extra stress on the body and put your health in jeopardy. Once the weight has been gained it becomes harder to lose, making prevention one of your best options.
If you find that you have gained weight, talk to your doctor to come up with a realistic exercise and eating plan. We are not talking diet here but rather an eating plan that will work for you and that you will follow for the long-term. Crash diets and supposed miracle quick fixes do not produce results that last and will also wreak havoc on your already slowing metabolism.
Tips to combat weight gain:
1.Exercise more to help keep your metabolism from slowing down. This does not mean that you have to join a gym or begin some sort of gruelling regimen. Pick an activity or two that you enjoy such as walking, running, swimming, dancing, aerobics, gardening or yoga. The key is to be active for at least 30 minutes, three times a week. Daily exercise is even more beneficial, but three times a week is a good start if you have been inactive for a while.
Add strength training to your routine. You do not need heavy equipment, and do not worry about looking like Ms. Universe. Just 10-15 minutes two or three times a week, using one pound weights (or even large soup cans) will help build muscle without bulking up. A pound of muscle burns roughly 5 to 10 more calories than a pound of fat does, even when you are resting!
2. Eat less. Most women, unless they are very active, need around 1200 calories a day. The problem is eating just one large muffin at 400 calories takes up a large part of the daily recommendation. But this does not mean living on rice cakes and twigs.
Eat smaller portions. A serving size is smaller than we were raised to believe. Think of a deck of cards, a hockey puck, or an MP3 player – these are generally good rules of thumb when it comes to meat portions. Increase the amount of veggies on your dinner plate to get more healthy benefits from fewer calories.
Keep eating some of your must haves, but in smaller portions or as treats. Savoring a couple of squares of really good chocolate is much more satisfying than scarfing down a bag of cookies.
3.Adopt a positive body image, which is easier said than done when we are faced with pictures of the ideal female body. We are unable to stay 20 forever, but we can have a body during menopause that is healthy and realistic. We need to focus on keeping our bodies in the best shape possible for health and personally feeling good about ourselves, but we only set ourselves up for disappointment with comparisons to celebrities or even our previous bodies.
Weight gain during menopause is a chance to review our diet and exercise habits and look for ways to make changes. Just a few gradual changes to get us started will go a long way. Finding ways to work with our bodies and keep them healthy will help us cope with menopause and prepare us for the years beyond.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You