Did you know the average woman gains 1.5 lbs per year during the transition into menopause? Weight gain during midlife may be common, but it’s not inevitable. Menopause spurs various physical and hormonal changes within our bodies. Our goal is to help you understand what is happening within your body and learn some habits and changes that you can implement to help you maintain your ideal weight.
When your body’s estrogen levels drop during the menopause transition, you may experience hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, and changes in mood. Your body may also have a harder time maintaining muscle mass. Further, your body’s fat storage tends to shift from other areas of the body and concentrates around the abdomen. These significant changes in how you look and feel can lead to frustration.
Menopause isn’t a sentence to becoming overweight. You can lose and maintain weight during menopause. Here are our medical team’s top 5 strategies for weight loss during menopause.
1. Be mindful of what you eat.
Of all the things that can impact your weight, the food you eat has the greatest impact, and it’s completely within your control. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to make healthy choices. Food can be a coping mechanism and sometimes an outright addiction. But you have the ability to choose which foods you eat how much. That puts you in the driver’s seat and gives you the ultimate power you need to lose weight. You are in control, and you can make this happen.
Your body is changing, and chances are your caloric needs are too. Portion control and selecting healthy, nutritious foods will be key. Many women find it helpful to consult a dietician or nutritionist to choose a diet plan and help determine how many calories a day are appropriate, or you can use an online calculator to give you guidance. Choose nutritious foods low on the glycemic index to fill you up and provide you energy. Also, consider Intermittent Fasting, which has been shown to help reduce appetite, lower blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity. Most of all, be patient. Avoid strict dieting and instead focus on finding healthy foods and meals that you enjoy. You are making sustainable life-long changes to help you reach and maintain your ideal weight, and it will take a little time.
2. Incorporate exercise.
If you don’t already exercise, it can be daunting to get started. But you’re not alone, and you can do this. The key is to start off with just a little at a time, until you feel more comfortable. The last thing you want to do is dive headlong into an intense exercise program and burnout or, worse, injure yourself. That’s one reason you may want to have a chat with your physician before starting a new workout regimen, especially if you have any existing medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
The key to exercise is going to be finding what you like to do. This chapter of your life is a great chance to try something new. Always dreamed of being a dancer? Try a Zumba class! Curious about cycling? Find a spin class. Try and listen to your favorite playlist, podcast, or a new audiobook when you’re walking around the block. Find ways to make it fun, and celebrate the process. Keeping track of your new activity and sharing your goals with your family and friends often makes it easier to get started and stay consistent.
3. Have a support network.
This is important. You are not alone! Whatever obstacles you are facing right now, other women are going through the very same thing. It’s great to have friends and family to lean on for support, but sharing your experiences with other women going through the same thing can be a powerful way to find motivation and, importantly, accountability.
If you don’t already have a group of women to lean on, now is a great time to find one. Online communities can be a great resource for daily check-ins, sharing successes, solidarity, and learning. If you prefer face-to-face interactions and workout buddies, consider reaching out to other women you meet at the gym or in your neighborhood. Regardless of how you choose to connect, it’s important to have a reliable community for moral support, and to find people who are eager to celebrate your wins and help you push through obstacles.
4. Consider hormone replacement therapy.
While menopause itself isn’t directly related to weight gain, menopause can result in symptoms (e.g., insomnia) that can contribute to it. The physical and psychological effects that women experience when estrogen levels drop can cause stress and lead to unhealthy habits, like eating too much of the wrong types of food, neglecting exercise, and not getting enough sleep. Low estrogen levels can also lead to a decrease in muscle mass and bone density and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
You may want to consider supplementing your body’s waning estrogen levels with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). While increased estrogen isn’t going to make the pounds melt off, it can help prevent redistribution of the fat to the abdomen, decrease osteoporosis, and minimize some of the changes you may be experiencing. If you feel like you would benefit from HRT, you can learn more about how it works and begin the process from the comfort and privacy of your own home.
5. In It for the Long Run
Your body may be changing, but you are still in control. It’s so important to find ways to embrace and understand this chapter of your life. Menopause doesn’t make you gain weight, and it doesn’t make it impossible to lose. With the right tools and support, you can reach and maintain a healthy weight through menopause and beyond.
Keep in mind that achieving a healthy body weight is about more than image. Reduced estrogen levels can increase your risk for certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Carrying around extra belly fat can put you at an even higher risk for these disorders, so don’t wait to find the foods, exercise, community, and treatment options that are right for you. Maintaining an ideal weight for your frame can help you look better, feel better, and live longer. It’s going to take effort, but aren’t you worth it?