Everyone has their own self-image hang-ups, and menopausal weight gain can make insecurities even worse. Hormonal changes occuring in the years prior to menopause can thin the muscle tissues, slow down metabolism, and influence the distribution of body fat. Most women gain weight during perimenopause, with the average gain being 12 - 15 pounds. However, weight gain is by no means inevitable during your forties; follow these healthy habits to keep those extra pounds away.
It's obvious, but effective: 80% of weight management is what you eat. The recommended daily intake for women is 2,000 calories, and one pound equates to roughly 3,500 calories. To lose one pound a week, you'll need to reduce your calorie consumption by approximately 500 calories per day. Your diet should be low-fat and incorporate fiber, fresh fruit and vegetables, and protein, but it can be difficult to get this balance right; you may want to consult with your doctor or a dietician about coming up with a meal plan aimed at helping you lose weight.
Sweat it Out
The remaining 20% of weight management is derived from energy expenditure (i.e., physical activity). Try to spend at least 30 minutes doing moderate intensity exercise, five days a week. You may think you don't have time to work out, but exercising doesn't have to mean going to the gym; choose something that fits with your lifestyle, whether that's walking the dog at a brisker pace, playing tennis with a friend, or dancing to music in your apartment. Read about an exercise routine to lose weight.
The 15-Minute Pause
It can be difficult to stop eating after you finish a meal because it takes 15 minutes for the brain to process the feeling of fullness once you've stopped eating. Take a pause after eating before reaching for seconds; the chances are if you wait, you will realize you're not hungry anymore.
Little and Often
Keep your metabolism working by eating little and often rather than saving your calorie intake for one big meal. Kick-start your metabolism in the morning with a 200-mL glass of ice water, and keep it fueled with regular meals and energizing snacks. Fibrous snacks, such as dried fruit and whole grain bars, are key to prolonging satiation and staving off hunger pangs.
Slow and Steady
Skipping meals or following extreme diet plans that cut out vital nutrients, like carbohydrates, are not sustainable or healthy. These also cause a decrease in the hormone leptin - which controls appetite and metabolic rate - and force your body to burn muscle tissue instead of fat. This ultimately slows your metabolism, making weight gain more likely once you start eating normally again.
Weight gain can be troubling, but it's important to avoid crash diets or unrealistic goals, as these are unhealthy and unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. Fortunately, studies have shown that lifestyle changes can prevent weight gain during menopause. So, be patient and try not to get hung up on what the scale says; focus instead on improving your health, energy levels, and well-being.
- Annals of Behavioral Medicine. (2003). Lifestyle intervention can prevent weight gain during menopause: Results from a 5-year randomized clinical trial. Retrieved January 18, 2021 from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1207/S15324796ABM2603_06
- Better Health Channel. (2014). Menopause and Weight Gain. Retrieved June 23, 2014, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Menopause_and_weight_gain
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Losing Weight. Retrieved June 23, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/HEALTHYWEIGHT/LOSING_WEIGHT/INDEX.HTML
- Davis, S.R. et al. (2012). Understanding weight gain at menopause. Climacteric, 15(5), 419-429. doi:10.3109/13697137.2012.707385
- Malik, V.S. , Schulze, M.B., and Hu, F.B. (2006). Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 84(2), 274-288. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16895873
- Yang, Q. (2010). Gain weight by 'going diet'? Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 83(2), 101-108. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892765/