Menopause weight gain really is a thing; ask any woman in her 40s and 50s and she’ll tell you that shifting the pounds now is far harder than it ever was when she was in her 20s and 30s.
It’s thought that on average, we put on up to eight per cent of our baseline body weight as we enter the menopause, so if you already weigh 200lb you can expect to see that rise by another 10lb. The reason for this is down to hormonal changes, with low oestrogen levels linked to an increase in our body fat, particularly around our tummies.
Added to this more sedentary lifestyles, genetic factors, poor-quality sleep, a lower metabolism and reduced muscle mass and it’s no surprise so many of us feel like we’re fighting an uphill battle with the bulge.
Trouble is, gaining weight as we age can have serious health implications, increasing our risk of heart disease, breathing problems, type 2 diabetes and various cancers. So while you may feel like giving up hope, an active lifestyle combined with a better eating habits will mean a healthier future – both physically and mentally.
MOVE MORE … it’s an inevitable fact that as we age our muscle mass diminishes and our body fat increases, slowing down our metabolism. Strengthening muscles by doing aerobic exercise and weight training will boost the rate you burn calories, making it easier for your to control your weight and tone up those wobbly bits at the same time.
It’s recommended that each week healthy adults in their 50s should be aiming for 150 minutes of moderate cardio activity (brisk walking, for example) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging. In addition, you should also aim to fit in at least two strength training sessions.
Pilates has been shown to be particularly beneficial for menopausal women because it helps improve not only fitness and balance but also mental fitness too. One recent study investigated the effects of an eight-week Pilates programme, revealing it improved strength and flexibility, and boosted lower limb strength, posture and balance as well as quality of life. So grab a friend and your yoga mat and sign up to a local class.
EAT BETTER … Upping your activity levels is all well and good, but if you continue to eat as you always have you’ll notice those scales won’t shift any time soon (there’s a lot of truth in the adage you can’t out-run your fork). So to even maintain your current weight, you might need to drop you daily calorie intake but do make sure you’re not missing out on vital nutrients. Rather, ditch the added sugars and trans or saturated fats, replacing them with a variety of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, and whole grains that are less processed and contain more fibre. Keep track of your daily meals to see if there are any specific trigger foods.
More and more menopausal women are opting for a plant-based diet, with a new study discovering food rich in soy can reduce vasomotor symptoms. Published by the North American Menopause Society, it divided women who experienced two or more hot flushes a day into two groups. The group that consumed a low-fat, vegan diet that included a half-cup of soybeans noted am 84% reduction in moderate-to-severe sweats and more than a half said they had completely disappeared at the end of a 12-week period. Having said that, you so need to be eating or drinking two to four calcium-rich servings a day, so it’s worth investigate the pros and cons of alternatives before ditching diary.
SLEEP WELL … What with the hot flushes, night sweats and brain fog associated with menopause, drifting off into the land of nod may be more of a nightmare than a dream these days. Thing is, a good sleep gives us the opportunity to rest and recuperate; allowing our body to restore itself, boost concentration and energy levels, regulate mood, and sharpen judgment and decision-making. Not only that, but those who have disturbed nights tend to burn off less fat than those who experience good sleep. Hardly surprising, not getting enough shut-eye leads to stress, anxiety and feeling lethargic – all of which can contribute to emotional eating.
Keeping to a regular bedtime schedule is a good place to start, as is avoiding alcohol beforehand. You may find mindfulness and meditation help, and there are plenty of great apps to download to help if you’re not sure where to start.