So many women experience menopausal weight gain that it’s often considered par for the course. But weight gain carries risks including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, sleep apnea, and even breast cancer. Fortunately, there are ways to fight the bulge after menopause, ways that take the extra weight off, and keep it off.
Hormonal Changes And Menopausal Weight Gain
About thirty percent of women between 50 and 59 are considered overweight or obese. Weight gain is more likely after menopause due to reductions in estrogen levels. As the ovaries produce less, a woman’s body attempts to draw estrogen from other available sources. One of those sources is fat cells. This leads to the body demanding more calories to convert into fat.
Menopause also brings other hormones into play. One is testosterone. In women, this hormone increases at menopause’s onset. It causes extra fat to accumulate in the midriff rather than on the hips.
A third hormone is progesterone. Progesterone doesn’t contribute additional fat. However, it does cause water retention, which can make clothes feel more snug, and give a woman the sense of being heavier without actually carrying added fat.
The Science Behind Weight Gain
Weight gain occurs thanks to a simple equation: more energy goes into the human body than the body can use. The excess energy gets stored as fat. In menopause, women face a double whammy: their appetite for food goes up, while their appetite for exercise goes down. So in order to combat menopausal weight gain, you need to tackle both.
Combating An Increase In Appetite
It may be important to make changes to your diet. You may wish to consult a nutritionist to develop a diet that works for you. But fundamentally, you need to reduce your calorie intake. One way to do this is to reduce the amount of food you consume, but this can feel very restrictive to some people. A better choice is to reduce the calories in the food you do consume. Plenty of vegetables supply minimal calories. Celery, for example, supplies very few calories – some call it a negative-calorie food because the energy required for digestion can exceed the energy it provides.
The biggest issue for most women after menopause is sugar. Many don’t really understand the hidden sugars that are in most processed foods today. Reducing your sugar intake dramatically can help take the pounds off. Sugar is a common problem in the western diet. Reducing your sugar cravings can reduce your consumption of high-calorie foods simply because calories and sugars go hand in hand. So, add more salad and less starch and sugar.
Exercise And Menopausal Weight Gain
Human beings are creatures of habit and routine. This means that setting a schedule for exercise can work very well. Perhaps budgeting a certain time of day, such as early morning, for a walk or a bicycle ride, can work for you. Even just a half-hour a day can make a huge difference. Be sure to take into account inclement weather. If you face a rainy day, you will clearly find yourself unwilling to go for a walk. So develop a backup plan. Perhaps visit a gym, and use a stationary bike or treadmill – or buy one of your own. Or mix it up by taking a drop-in yoga class or swim session on rainy days.
Combining changes to your diet with moderate exercise are usually the best ways to combat weight gain during this new phase in your life. Sometimes, you’ll need your doctor’s help with hormone replacement therapy. See my recent comments in the South China Morning Post about Menopause, Hormones and HRT. Remember, menopausal weight gain isn’t something you simply have to accept.