Getting old and fighting the battle of the bulge is no picnic, especially for women. In a culture that sees aging men as more “distinguished,” and aging women as “old hags,” it’s no wonder that maintaining youth becomes a never-ending struggle and uphill battle for women.
Since most women gain weight as they age because of a slower metabolism and a less active lifestyle, it becomes apparent that this 15 – 20 pound weight gain did not happen overnight. Usually, by the time menopause “hits,” you have already gained about a pound a year. So how can you minimize all the weight gain after menopause?
First, you need to understand the many factors that have played a role in your changing body and attributed to your weight gain:
– You lose muscle tissue as you age, and fat burns fewer calories than muscle.
– You may have a condition known as, “hypothyroidism,” a deficiency of the thyroid hormone, which causes weight gain and effects women ages 40 – 50.
– Lack of exercise. Medical research has shown that just prior to menopause, women stop moving around as much, and tend to cut their activity in half, compared to their perimenopausal years. It is suggested that the lack of activity directly relates to the decrease of estrogen, which effects the signals the brain sends to the body.
– It may be genetics. If anyone in your family carries excessive weight around the abdomen, you will likely be predisposed to carry the weight as well.
– Hormonal changes due to menopause. Fluctuating hormones and a loss of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, can wreak havoc on a woman’s body, causing water weight and bloating, and redistributing fat into the abdominal region, changing the woman’s shape into something unrecognizable. This weight gain is one of the most challenging and frustrating of menopausal symptoms to women, because in addition to tackling the stress, fatigue and mood swings, women must now overcome self-image problems, brought on by the weight gain.
Thankfully, there are solutions to menopausal weight gain, but the most important thing to know, is that you are not alone and there are things that you can do to minimize the weight gain:
– Exercise and Stay Active. Women who maintain or increase their level of physical activity during menopause, tend to not gain any weight. By staying active and exercising, whether it’s walking, jogging, running, biking, or taking an exercise class, you’ll be able to strengthen your body and muscles. The options are endless as far as choices, so just find something that you enjoy and you’ll be likely to stick with it. To increase your lean body mass, add strength training to your fitness routine, even if it’s a couple of times a week. Strength training helps in weight loss by increasing your muscle mass so that your body burns more calories, even when at rest.
– Eat smart. Be more conscious of the food choices you make, as they can have a detrimental effect on you. Indulging in fried foods may have been fine when you were younger, but can no longer be an option unless the notion of diabetes, heart disease and stroke is something you welcome. Because of your metabolic rate slowdown and loss of estrogen, your appetite increases, so be careful not to overeat at night. Reduce your calorie intake each day, cut down on carbohydrates and avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar, salt and calories. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, and make sure to include protein with each meal. Moving to healthy eating when you are used to the “bad foods” may not be easy, but it can and will have a lasting impact on your life, health, aging and the severity of your menopause symptoms.
– Take Supplements. Taking vitamins are a crucial part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, particularly for women facing “the change.” Many of the multivitamins, with their minimum requirements were adequate when we were younger, but as we age, we need more than the recommended dosage of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids. Women need to focus on replenishing those deficiencies due to hormone loss.
Calcium, Vitamin D, Magnesium: (to help absorb the Calcium) Necessary for strength and maintenance of bone mass, minimizes risk of osteoporosis.
Vitamin B Complex: Helps battle depression, emotional stress and fatigue during menopause.
B12: Restores lost energy.
Vitamin B6: Helps the liver regulate estrogen levels. Necessary for patients taking HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
Folic Acid: Essential for heart health and helps prevent cervical cancer.
Vitamin A: Necessary for health and growth of skin and aged-related skin conditions; also helps in prevention of cervical cancer.
Vitamin C: Helps mend wounds & burns; helps with collagen regeneration, which increases with age; helps adrenal glands and the body’s immune system.
Vitamin E: Is an essential vitamin for women experiencing menopause. It has even been dubbed “the menopausal vitamin” because it can act as an estrogen substitute somewhat successfully, relieving hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. Maybe it should be called “the miracle vitamin!
Omega-3: Reduces inflammation, improves mood, decreases hot flashes during menopause, optimizes brain and heart health; Found in flaxseed, walnuts, and oily fish: e.g. salmon, halibut (1-2x a week)
– Drink more water. To prevent dehydration, which can cause water retention and bloating, make sure you increase your water intake.
– Get enough sleep. It’s been medically proven that people tend to weigh more when they are sleep deprived, so make it a priority and get the proper 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night.
There is no secret formula for avoiding weight gain, particularly as you age, but there IS plenty that you can do to minimize the weight gain perimenopause, during menopause and post menopause. The mantra for maintaining a healthy weight remains the same in any language. Watch what you eat, how much you eat and stay active.