The menopause and weight loss…for many women losing weight at this time seems impossible and for most the reverse is true, they gain weight!
We’ve had a lot of female clients that have put on weight during the menopause, have come through the other side and are desperate to lose it.
Some have never been overweight by more than a pound or two. Despite having done little different in terms of their diet and lifestyle, the pounds have piled on.
So, before looking at the menopause and weight loss, why does the weight pile on during the menopause?
The Menopause and Weight Gain
Well, it’s down to your hormones! Well, not really, although that’s what most women would like to believe!
During the menopause, a woman’s hormonal balance changes – less oestrogen and more progesterone.
Now, men and women tend to store fat differently. Men tend to store it around their abdomen and women on their hips, breasts, thighs and bum.
This is pregnancy related fat and is intended to provide energy to sustain a pregnancy and for breast feeding.
Oestrogen causes fat to be deposited in these areas. However, as a woman progresses through the menopause, progressively less oestrogen is produced and fat tends to be increasingly deposited around the abdomen.
You’re not only putting on more weight, you’re putting it on in different places, places where you notice it more.
Not only is this a problem as far as weight gain is concerned, but abdominal fat increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.
In fact, women prior to the menopause benefit from the protective effects of their hormonal balance as far as cardiovascular disease is concerned.
Now this is all well and good, but the real reason that weight gain occurs during the menopause has little to do with hormones.
The menopause occurs later in life.
As you get older, you gradually lose lean muscle tissue and your metabolic rate drops. Thus you need fewer calories and any excess calories are converted to fat.
A woman of 50 needs between 15% and 30% fewer calories than a woman of 20.
You also tend to slow down as you get older and again burn fewer calories. The menopause doesn’t help as you may feel pretty rotten and less inclined to exercise.
Now this is a gradual process for most people, maybe a few pounds a year, but they soon add up and the weight gain can accelerate with age.
Stress is also a factor and the stress caused by the menopause and all it entails can often result in comfort eating as a coping strategy.
Genetics can play a role too, as you may be naturally predisposed to store more fat around your mid-section as you age.
You’re also more likely to retain water at this time, which can bloat you and will account for a few pounds of weight gain. So drink plenty of water to flush your system out.
The Menopause and Weight Loss…
So what can you do about it? Can you do anything about it?
Of course you can! You do not have to accept your middle-age spread as an inevitable consequence of aeging.
Granted, the changes you and your body are going through make it a little bit more difficult.
However, weight loss at 45, 50 or 55 is no different to weight loss at 20, 25 or 35. The same principles apply during the menopause and weight loss can be achieved.
The keys are a healthy, calorie controlled weight loss program and physical activity.
In other words, consume fewer calories and burn some calories off through exercise.
Choose a healthy weight loss plan with some protein, plenty of fruit and veg and cut back on the carbs, particularly sugary foods and refined starchy products.
Combine this with some physical activity to increase your metabolism.
Aerobic activity, like walking and jogging will help to burn body fat during the menopause and weight loss will follow.
Strength training, like a workout with weights will help to maintain and build muscle, which will raise the calories that your body burns at rest.
Drink plenty of water, around 2 litres a day and cut down on your alcohol consumption.
Plenty of leafy green vegetables and some low fat dairy products will ensure you get enough calcium to maintain your skeleton. A supplement may be helpful if your diet is deficient in these foods.
Essentially, as at any stage in your life, if you want to lose weight during the menopause you can. It may be a little harder, but that’s no reason not to try.
The menopause and weight loss are not mutually exclusive, it just depends on how much you want it.