If you are a woman in perimenopause or menopause, you may notice unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight especially in the mid-section. A thickening around the abdomen often occurs at this stage in life because of hormone changes in your body. However, other factors such as aging, genetics and lifestyle also play a role. Whatever the cause, the effect is frustrating, but the good news is, it can be minimized.
The reality is that muscle mass tends to diminish with age and fat increases. The less muscle mass you have, the harder it is for your body to burn calories, making it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight. The way your body metabolizes food and converts it to energy and sugar can also be affected, sometimes due to increases in insulin production. And, if your parents had a tendency to carry some extra weight around the middle, they may have passed that gene onto you.
Now more than ever, the time has come for a healthy diet, exercise and possibly some lifestyle changes. Here are five recommendations for adjusting to the challenges of weight gain during menopause:
- Portion Control – Your metabolism slows down during menopause, so eating less may be necessary to maintain a healthy weight. Portion control at meal time is a good place to start, in addition to cutting carbs, fats and adding more fruits and vegetables.
- Cut down on sugar – The added sugars in soda, sweetened tea and fruit juices account for a large portion of daily, unnecessary calories. So, cut down or cut them out, along with donuts, cakes and pies, but don’t beat yourself up if you sneak an occasional treat once in a while.
- Get more exercise – As we age, our tendency is to back off on exercise, but it’s actually a good time to ramp it up. Walking for 30 minutes four times a week will help burn calories. And, weight training will help re-build muscle mass that diminishes during menopause.
- Limit alcohol intake – Alcohol is filled with excess calories, so cut back to help control weight gain.
- Get more sleep – Lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain, yet over half of menopausal women experience sleep problems due to hormonal changes. Cutting down on caffeine, keeping a sleep schedule, keeping your bedroom cool and daily exercise will help you sleep better and longer.
Menopause can be a challenging time overall and the weight gain that often comes with it can be shocking and frustrating, but you can help take control back. If you make an effort to take good care of yourself, you will look and feel better.