Most women gain weight as they get older, but being overweight isn’t inevitable. To minimize weight gain during menopause, increase your activity level and enjoy a healthy diet.
As you age, you may notice that maintaining your usual weight becomes more difficult. In fact, many women gain weight during the transition to menopause. However, weight gain during menopause is not inevitable. You can reverse the trend by paying attention to your eating habits and leading an active lifestyle.
What are the causes of weight gain during menopause?
The hormonal changes of menopause can cause you to gain more weight around your abdomen than around your hips and thighs. But hormonal changes alone aren’t necessarily responsible for menopausal weight gain. Indeed, weight gain is generally linked to aging, as well as lifestyle and genetic factors.
For example, muscle mass generally decreases with age, while fat increases. The loss of muscle mass slows the rate at which the body uses calories (metabolism). It may therefore be more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. If you keep eating like you always have and don’t increase your physical activity, you risk gaining weight.
Genetic factors may also play a role in weight gain during menopause. If your parents or other close relatives are overweight in your abdomen, you are likely to do the same.
Other factors, such as lack of exercise, poor diet, and lack of sleep, can contribute to menopausal weight gain. When people don’t get enough sleep, they tend to snack more and consume more calories.
What is the risk of weight gain after menopause?
Weight gain during menopause can have serious consequences for your health. Excess weight, especially around the waist, increases the risk of many problems, including:
Diseases of the heart and blood vessels
Type 2 diabetes
Excess weight also increases the risk of various types of cancer, including breast, colon and endometrial cancer.
What is the best way to avoid weight gain after menopause?
There is no magic formula to prevent, or reverse, weight gain during menopause. Just stick to the basics of weight control:
Physical activity, including aerobic exercise and strength training, can help you shed unwanted pounds and maintain a healthy weight. As you gain muscle, your body burns calories more efficiently, allowing you to better control your weight.
For most healthy adults, experts recommend moderate aerobic activity. Like brisk walking, for at least 150 minutes a week or vigorous aerobic activity, like jogging, for at least 75 minutes a week. Additionally, strength exercises are recommended at least twice a week. If you want to lose weight or achieve specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more.
To maintain your current weight, let alone shed unwanted pounds, you may need about 200 fewer calories per day in your 50s than in your 30s and 40s.
To cut calories without skimping on nutrition, watch what you eat and drink. Choose more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, especially those that are less processed and contain more fiber.
In general, a diet based on vegetables and fruits is healthier than the other options. Legumes, nuts, soy, fish, and low-fat dairy products are good choices. Meat, such as red meat or chicken, should be eaten in limited amounts. Replace butter, stick margarine, and margarine with oils, such as olive oil or vegetable oil.
Check your sweet habits
Added sugars make up nearly 300 calories per day in an average diet. About half of those calories come from sugary drinks, such as soft drinks, juices, sports drinks, flavored waters, and sweetened coffee and tea. Other foods that contribute to excess dietary sugar are: cookies, pies, cakes, donuts, ice cream and candies.
Limit your alcohol intake
Alcoholic beverages add excess calories to your diet and increase the risk of weight gain.
Ask for help
Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who support you in your efforts to eat healthy and increase your physical activity. Better yet, team up and make the necessary lifestyle changes together.
Remember that successful weight loss at any stage of life requires permanent changes in eating and exercise habits. Make a commitment to change your lifestyle and enjoy better health.