Menopausal weight gain can have consequences more serious than outgrowing your favorite pair of jeans. Find out how middle age spread affects your body and what you can do about it.
Facts about Menopausal Weight Gain
- Understand estrogen. As estrogen levels drop during menopause, your metabolism slows down. Your body burns fewer calories and stores more fat.
- Watch your waistline. Extra pounds you gain after menopause are likely to turn into abdominal fat, which increases your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions. Talk with your doctor if your waistline is 35 inches or more.
- Check your thyroid. Menopause and thyroid conditions can cause similar symptoms including increased weight, as well as depression and fatigue. Your doctor can advise you about whether you would benefit from testing.
- Expect changes. If you’ve been thin your whole life, you may be surprised to see the scale edging up. It’s natural if you to need to eat less and move more to maintain your dress size.
Using Your Diet to Fight Menopausal Weight Gain
Putting on extra pounds later in life is common, but not inevitable. A University of Pittsburgh study found that women who made two simple changes in the way they eat lost dramatically more weight.
Take a look at their secret:
- Skip desserts and fizzy drinks. Women who consumed fewer desserts and sugary drinks lost almost eight times more weight than their peers in that Pittsburgh study. Switch to fruit and water instead.
- Reduce calories. You can also eat less by controlling your portion sizes and choosing nutrient-dense foods. That way you can keep up your energy while you stay trim.
- Dine at home. Cooking your own meals gives you more control. Restaurants tend to use more fat and sodium than you would.
- Eat soy. Some experts believe that plants have isoflavones that function like human estrogen. You may want to try tofu or soy milk to relieve night sweats and help you sleep.
- Consider supplements. Most women can get all the nutrients they need from a balanced diet. However, your doctor may recommend supplements, including iron and calcium, based on your individual needs.
Using Exercise to Fight Menopausal Weight Gain
Almost 80% of adults don’t exercise enough, and older adults are even more likely to be inactive. Once you start working out, you’ll burn more calories and experience other benefits like strengthening your bones and relieving stress.
- Train in intervals. Structure your workouts so that you alternate between brief bursts of high intensity movements and gentler exercises. You’ll burn more calories and fat, condition your heart, and increase your metabolism while spending less time at the gym.
- Build muscles. You lose muscle mass as you age, but you can slow down the process. Lift dumbbells or do body weight exercises like dips and pushups.
- Work on balance. Enhancing your balance can protect you from falls, correct your posture, and sharpen your thinking. Sign up for yoga classes or train at home. Try doing squats while standing on your toes or sit on a stability ball when you’re watching TV.
- Move more. In addition to formal exercise, you can incorporate more activity into your daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car a few blocks away from the office so you can walk the remaining distance.
Women gain an average of 10 pounds around menopause, but diet and exercise can minimize the effects.