As you get older, you might notice that maintaining your normal weight becomes more difficult. In fact, many women gain weight around the menopause transition. Menopause weight gain is not unpreventable and you can take control of your weight by paying attention to healthy-eating habits and leading an active lifestyle.
The hormonal changes of menopause might make you more likely to gain weight around your abdomen than around your hips, arms, and thighs. But, hormonal changes alone don’t necessarily cause menopause weight gain. The weight gain that you are experiencing when you are over 50 is usually related to aging, as well as lifestyle and genetic factors. For example, muscle mass typically decreases with age, while fat increases. Losing muscle mass slows the rate at which your body uses calories, thus slowing down your metabolism. This can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight. If you continue to eat as you always have when you were younger and don’t increase your physical activity, you’re more likely to gain weight.
Genetic factors might also play a role in menopause weight gain. If your parents or other close relatives carry extra weight around the belly area, you’re more likely to do the same. Other important factors, such as a lack of exercise, unhealthy eating, and not getting enough sleep, might contribute to menopause weight gain. When people don’t get enough sleep, they tend to snack more, especially they tend to choose unhealthy types of snacks. These are usually not nutritious and high in calories.
Menopause weight gain can have serious implications for your overall health. Excess weight, especially around your abdomen, increases your risk of many issues such as breathing problems, heart, and blood vessel disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Excess weight if left untreated also increases your risk of various types of cancer, including breast, colon, and endometrial cancers.
Though it may seem hard to do there are ways to escape the scary health implications of having excess weight.
We listed down expert-approved ways to lose weight for women over 50 and around menopause that will help you live a healthier life free from preventable chronic diseases.
1. Exercise More
If you used to be sedentary, starting an exercise program will help you shed extra pounds as well as relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, according to a study published in the Menopause Medical Journal. But if you’re already physically active, you’ll need to step things up a notch. The best way to do this is through a short duration of high-intensity interval training or HIIT, where you alternate brief periods of intense physical activity with more relaxed recovery periods. Obese postmenopausal women who did 10 minutes of HIIT 5 times a week lost twice as much weight as those who did more common endurance exercises, like brisk walking, according to a University of Scranton study published in the Menopause Medical Journal. This doesn’t have to be a lot, it can just be tweaking your morning walk into a faster brisk walking or jogging. Start slow and continue to increase your efforts when you are used to it.
2. Try Resistance Training
“In order to remove weight as you get older, you have to lift weights,” explains Pamela Peeke, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, who notes it is the key to reversing that metabolism-wrecking muscle loss that occurs naturally with age. A 2016 study of postmenopausal women in their late 50s and 60s found that those who did an hour of strength training two times a week for eight weeks not only significantly decreased their body fat compared to a control group, they also reported less physical pain and felt better overall. If you’re hesitant to lifting heavy weights at the gym, you can consider yoga. Since yoga has the same kind of weight-bearing benefits, and a 2016 German review that looked at 13 studies concluded that yoga also helps relieve menopausal symptoms including hot flashes.
3. Choose To Eat Healthily
In a study of 17,000 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79, researchers found out that those who followed a low-fat diet that included five servings of fruits and vegetables and six servings of whole grains were three times more likely to lose weight than those in a control group. “In general, we recommend that women going through menopause try to keep their fat intake under 20 percent, with most of it coming from good fats such as olive oil, fish, or avocados,” says Jo-Ann Pinkerton, M.D., executive director of the North American Menopause Society and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Virginia Health System. One suggestion is to start your meal with vegetables and protein and eat your starch last. This significantly decreases your body’s blood sugar and insulin levels, which will help keep you feeling fuller for a longer time period, according to a 2015 study published in the Diabetes Care Medical Journal.
4. Try Intermittent Fasting
Research shows that intermittent or alternate-day fasting, where you eat normally for a day and restrict calories dramatically the next, can help you lose weight. People who slashed their calories to between 750 and 1,100 for five days a month for three months lost significantly more abdominal fat. It also improved their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels than those who didn’t, according to a scientific study from the University of Southern California. But since that’s hard to stick to, “I generally recommend that my patients only eat during a 12-hour window each day, for example from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and then put the kitchen on lockdown after that,” says Pamela Peeke. M.D. “They’ll get some of the health benefits of intermittent fasting without the hassle or excessive hunger.”
5. Get Enough Sleep
Not catching enough sleep doesn’t just feel awful but it can lead to weight gain over time too. One study showed that women who slept less than five hours a night had a 30% higher risk of gaining 30 pounds over a 16-year period, compared to those who got a full seven hours of sleep. “Lack of sleep causes your hunger hormones to go haywire: It lowers the levels of leptin, which suppresses appetite, and increases ghrelin, which stimulates your appetite,” says Pamela Peeke, M.D. If getting the sleep you need is made more challenging by menopausal hot flashes, one option to consider trying is a short course of cognitive behavior therapy, a type of counseling where you’re taught new behavioral techniques to help promote better sleep. Both menopausal and postmenopausal women who used this technique showed a significant reduction of insomnia 2 to 3 months later, according to a study published in the Sleep Medical Journal. Hormone replacement therapy, some antidepressants, or the migraine drug gabapentin are all also options to discuss with your doctor, says Jo-Ann Pinkerton, M.D.
6. Seek Support
Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who support your efforts to eat a healthy diet and increase your physical activity. Better yet, find women who are undergoing menopause weight gain and team up to make the lifestyle changes together. You can have cooking sessions in the kitchen and share healthy recipe ideas. Or you can go to the gym with them so you can work out. Zoomba classes are gaining popularity among women over 50 and undergoing menopause, you can invite your friends and enjoy dancing as you lose excess weight. You can also motivate each other and provide emotional supports as you are all going through a difficult time in your life. Midlife can be fun when you share it with the people who understand you.
7. Find A Way to Relieve Stress
Stress relief is also important during the menopausal transition. In addition to increasing the risk of heart disease, stress also leads to elevated cortisol levels, which are associated with increased abdominal fat.
The good thing is, several studies have found out that meditation and mindfulness can reduce stress and relieve symptoms in women going through menopause. Another option is supplementing with 100 mg of pycnogenol, the brand name for French maritime pine bark extract. It has also been shown to reduce stress and relieve other menopausal symptoms.
8. Try Psychotherapy And Acupuncture
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy shown to help with insomnia, and may benefit women experiencing symptoms of low estrogen. Acupuncture may also be helpful too. In one study, acupuncture reduced hot flashes by an average of 33%. A review of several studies found that acupuncture may increase estrogen levels, which can reduce menopausal symptoms, promote better sleep and boost metabolism.
Although losing weight is your primary goal, it’s important that you make changes you can maintain over the long term. It’s also better to focus on overall health, rather than the number on the scale. Always remember that successful weight loss at any stage of life requires permanent changes in diet and exercise habits.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising, getting enough sleep, focusing on a balanced diet, and eating mindfully can help you look and feel your absolute best during menopause and beyond.
We hope that this article has helped you, please feel free to share this with other women who are also wanting to lose weight and feel better while undergoing menopause. Thank you and may you enjoy a healthier and happier life!