You might be following the same diet and lifestyle but comes menopause and you are struggling to remain in shape. This is in addition to other major challenges brought on by the menopause like hormonal imbalance, sleep problems, mood swings and hot flashes.
You do not suspect that this menopause weight gain is a reality but it actually is and losing weight after menopause is a big health challenge. More so because this weight gain is linked to cardiovascular health and other chronic diseases.
What is menopause?
Menopause is defined as a time in a woman’s life when she has not had ovulation and a menstrual cycle for a whole year gradually. This time generally start after 40 years and within a few years, a woman transitions from perimenopause to not having a menstrual cycle.
Is menopause weight gain a reality?
Thought it is also midlife when human body has a tendency to gain weight because of muscle loss and aging but menopause has a definite link. A study published in 1991 found that women on average gain between 2.25 to 4.19 kg during a three-year transition to menopause. About 20 percent of women gain more than 4.5 kg during this period.
According to Dr. Stephanie S. Faubion, women gain about 1.5 pounds (0.68 kg) per year during midlife. She also stated that about two thirds of women between age 42 to 50 are overweight and this ratio is even higher at three fourth for women aged 60 and above.
Why menopause weight gain?
There are few possible explanations for this weight gain. First is the aging process. We know that as we age, our bodies lose muscles and this results in increasing fat deposits in our body. This age related muscle loss is called sacropenia. According to Harvard Health, after age 30 we lose between 3 and 5 percent of muscle mass every decade. Most people would have lost as much as 30 percent of their muscles during their lifetime. This muscle loss also decreases metabolism which means we burn fewer calories as we age. (1) (2)
However, another explanation in case of women is the decrease in estrogen hormone with menopause. With dwindling estrogen hormone, there is a visible trend in fat deposits in women. Before menopause, fat is deposited in hips area (gynoid fat distribution) but with menopause comes belly fat (android fat distribution) which is more dangerous type of fat with links to many chronic diseases.
Other contributing factors might include disturbed sleep, mood problems and night sweats. All these menopause related problems may act as catalysts for weight gain. It might also be a challenge to keep physically active in this situation. In these stressful times, you are also more likely to reach for comfort foods like chocolates and ice cream.
So, we can conclude that menopause weight gain is a combination of aging and menopause.
How to lose weight after menopause
Now that we know that menopause weight gain is linked with aging and menopause related situation. Since we know that one of the hormones called estrogen is a likely culprit, it may be tempting to switch to hormone replacement therapy. But, that might address only a part of the problem and it comes with its own complications. A better approach will be to take a holistic approach, and we would stand a better chance of success at losing weight during menopause.
The first thing to undesrstand is that there is no quick fix to weight gain after menopause. Since this will be a permanent change in your life, therefore, we need to keep long term picture in mind and approach it from a long term weight loss view. Any fad diet or strict exercise regime is not likely to produce any lasting results.
If you are already an active person, then keep that going. However, if you have been lazy and ignoring your workouts, it is high time you got serious about physical activity. At the minimum follow the guidelines of a minimum of 150 minutes of cardio activity per week. The more will be better but do not ignore the minimum at all. This will keep you from gaining abnormal weight and if you could increase your daily cardio activity to about 45 minutes, you might actually see weight loss during menopause.
Since you know that weight gain during menopause is also because your body is losing muscle. One sure way to reduce the decline of muscle mass is resistance training. Hit the gym for resistance training at least two days a week. Your muscles will thank you and your metabolism will also be in the best possible range.
You could also do resistance training at home with minimal equipment or even no equipment at all. Search on YouTube for resistance training without any equipment and you will see how you could use your body weight for the same benefit.
Watch your diet
It can be hardly overemphasized that you need to include fruits, vegetables and healthy protein in your diet. These will reduce your calorie intake wtihout you feeling hungry. Your calories from fats should not be more than 20 percent of your daily consumption. Try to get your fats from healthy sources like olive oil, avocado or fatty fish.
A good strategy to place a moratorium on eating anything after 7 p.m. This will give you a natural window of fasting for almost 12 hours which can significantly cut your daily calories without the excess fatigue that comes with deliberate fasting.
While menopause is a stressful time but you must get enough sleep because lack of sleep is strongly linked with weight gain. It has been shown that not getting enough sleep could add up to 30 pounds (ca. 14 kg) weight over a period of 16 years. You should be getting a minimum of 7 hours night sleep. This will also help you not indulge in mindless snacking at night.
Take care of stress in life
Midlife comes with a lot of stress related to career, children, aging parents and myriad of other problems. However, stress is very positively linked with weight gain. Try to reduce stressors in your life or at least try to manage stress by using techniques like meditation and working out.
Check your medication
Some medicines like pregabalin or gabapentin that are used to treat menopause symptoms are also linked with weight gain. As a general rule, if you have started a new medicine and noted a weight gain during menopause, it is worth to discuss with your doctor. However, you should not stop taking any medicine without your doctor’s consent.
Manage your expectations
Let’s understand that menopause is an inevitable life change and it comes with its results. While you can manage the changes it brings, it is totally acceptable to be accepting some changes. For example, it is a given that fat is now deposited in the midsection in place of your hips. So, you can try to reduce that belly fat but you cannot undo the physiological changes associated with menopause.
Menopause is a reality of life and it is associated with weight gain. But losing weight after menopause is possible if you remain vigilant and make necessary adjustments in life. While it might not be possible to look like you were in your 20s because aging is a fact of life but you can definitely slow down effects of menopause and manage your menopause weight gain.