Why do menopausal women struggle with weight gain around the middle section of their bodies?
The answer lies in the mechanics of ageing and hormones: as we age, muscle mass decreases and fat tends to increase. During menopause we have the 'double whammy' of hormonal changes and fluctuations leading to fat storage around the tummy and decreased metabolism (the rate at which we burn fat). While genetic and hormonal factors do also play a role, a lot CAN be done to stop the 'middle age spread' seen after 40 years of age. While it's certainly difficult to maintain a healthy weight while we age, it's not impossible! Here are our best tips to keep your younger figure and to reverse weight gain after 40….
10 Tips and Tricks to stop menopause weight gain after age 40!
1. Get corrected. Hormonal balance. Those two words can make all the difference! Decreased levels of progesterone and oestrogen can cause the symptoms associated with menopause (insomnia, hot flashes, weight gain etc). It makes sense then, that a balance of these hormones would lead to lesser symptoms and a smoother transition. Because HRT therapy has been tied to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, natural remedies for hormonal balance are gaining popularity with thousands of women singing the praises of natural ingredients to balance hormones (Don Quai for hormonal balance is one such remedy). In her book, 'Happy Hormones', Kirsty Vermeulen looks at natural treatment programs for menopause that can help greatly, so it's also worth a read!
2. Adjust. Due to your metabolism slowing slightly during menopause, one (or both) of these two factors needs to be taken into account: calories consumed and exercise. If you are not terribly keen on upping your exercise daily, it's recommended that you cut your daily intake of calories by 50 - 100 units. Hormonal changes during menopause slow the average women's metabolism by 55 calories per day - so if you adjust accordingly it can really help to avoid weight gain! If you would like to carry on eating normally, try adding 30min of exercise to your daily routine.
3. Watch out. Although we've heard it all before, refined sugars and flours CAN lead to weight gain - so better to avoid the processed meats, sugary cereals and high GI breads. During menopause, other issues can be greatly assisted through high fibre diets, fresh fruit and vegetables and water - no more constipation, bloating or tiredness from menopause - so much better all round to switch to healthy (preferably organic) foods that will also help with weight loss.
4. Listen. During menopause, you may experience certain food cravings - and the best bet is to listen to your body. Menopause can trigger cravings as much as during pregnancy, and while it's not recommended to indulge in unhealthy foods, if you really crave something it may be your body's way of letting you know that you are deficient in particular nutrients (so if you crave ice cream, try yoghurt instead for dairy and calcium!).
5. B good. B-complex vitamins may help with water retention and bloating, so make sure that you eat some of these foods every day: bananas, cereals, lentils, tuna, potatoes and turkey. Cramping, anxiety, depression, irritability and menopausal mood swings are also alleviated by B-complex rich foods, so stock up the pantry with leafy green vegetables and B-complex foods….
6. Supplement. Because menopause stresses the body during hormonal changes, it's essential to replace depleted minerals and vitamins. Speak to our doctor about supplementing your diet with a well-balanced multivitamin formulated for menopause and post-menopause. There are also handy natural remedies that can get rid of nasty menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and insomnia. MellowPause can dramatically help with mood swings and hot flashes, while the Chinese ingredient Don Quai can re-balance hormonal levels.
7. Move. During menopause, women who are aiming to maintain their ideal weight, should take part in 30-40min of exercise 5-7 days per week. This may sound like a lot, but remember that a walk to the shops and back could take 30min, or walking the dogs. Park away from your office and take the stairs - it can all add up to less of a bulge on your hips!
8. Tone. Because menopause and ageing tends to decrease muscle mass in the body, it's a good idea to start yoga or pilates - or any resistance training activity. This tones up flab and helps to fight weight gain because muscle needs more calories than fat does to sustain itself, meaning that even while you're not working out, any muscle that you have on your body will be burning calories! For this reason, during menopause it is recommend to work weight training into your routine at the gym or start yoga or pilates classes (remember to let the instructor know that you are a beginner and they can help you choose appropriate weights to start off with).
9. Tailor-make. During menopause you may notice that certain areas of your body need extra attention. Extra weight tends to gather around the waist and stomach, (before menopause you may have been prone to weight gain in the hips and thighs). You may even notice that your body shape changes slightly from a 'pear shape' (smaller waist larger hips) to an 'apple shape' (larger middle and tummy, skinnier legs, flatter buttocks). This is fairly normal due to hormonal changes and ageing, BUT you can minimise this change by targeting specific areas and adjusting your exercise to combat this: try stomach crunches and sit-ups to target the belly area, squats to lift the butt and tone hips. Also, look into natural remedies to help you combat stubborn fat.
10. Love. Menopause is a transition that every women goes through - so look at it like a right of passage to a better phase of life - with certain freedoms and advantages too! No more sanitary pads or tampons, no more checking the dates for ovulation times, what a pleasure! It's very important to own this change of life and love who you are becoming - a woman who has passed the threshold with treasured memories and a new awakening of zest and possibilities. With the right management, menopause can be 'mellow' and a short detour in the road ahead to new things!
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