Stop the Middle Age Spread!
Is menopause and weight gain inevitable or can it be prevented?
Menopause occurs when a woman stops ovulating and her monthly period (menstruation) ceases. Menopause actually means the last menstrual period. The average age of the natural menopause is 51 years, but can occur much earlier or later. Menopause that occurs before the age of 45 is called early menopause and before the age of 40 is premature menopause.
After menopause and over a span of years (usually 10 or more), you may also see changes in your skin, such as increased dryness and wrinkling, and a change in hair texture. The vagina’s lining may become thinner, less pliable and drier. Your breasts lose some of their fullness, and your nipples become less pronounced. Bone loss also rapidly speeds up in women at menopause (even though bone loss is a natural part of aging). At this stage, women may become more susceptible to osteoporosis.
Remember, menopause is a highly individual experience; therefore, every women must approach it differently. You may recognize many of the changes described when menopause takes hold, or you may not experience any at all. It’s always a good idea, when experiencing these symptoms, to consult your health care provider.
At this time, most women (around 2/3 of women) experience weight gain or difficulty maintaining their usual weight. Most women will gain about 10 to 15 pounds during their menopausal years. You also discover that the weight gain tends to accumulate around the abdomen, rather than the hips and thighs as before menopause. People commonly refer to this as an “apple” shape, because the stomach area becomes rounder. An extra pound before menopause will settle evenly over hips, bottom, thighs, and arms. After menopause, it all goes round the middle! Most of this weight will come on gradually – generally about a pound a year.
As you enter the early stages of menopause, maintaining weight becomes more and more difficult, and losing weight becomes almost impossible. This is because of the fluctuation in your hormones. Your body’s hormones have a direct impact on your appetite, metabolism, and fat storage. At this stage, women develop “insulin resistance” making their bodies store fat, rather than burn calories. This “insulin resistance” changes how our bodies handle the foods we eat. For example, if you ate 1,000 calories before menopause, you would burn 700 of them and store around 300. After menopause, your body will store 700 and burn only 300! This is a big difference, and the result is weight gain! Even a modest weight gain can result in a change of dress size.
Excessive weight gain could also be a sign that something is wrong with your hormone levels, blood sugars, or eating habits. Visit your doctor if your weight gain is out of control. Excessive fat stored around the abdomen can lead to an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, breast cancer, and high cholesterol.
The daily changes you make now can yield important benefits for decades to come.
Here are a few tips to help you:
Reduce calories. Menopausal women need fewer calories to maintain former body weight. It may be necessary to cut calorie intake by 10 to 15 percent while at the same time increasing level of activity or exercise. If women do notreduce their calorie intake, they are over eating. Calories needs are the highest during the mid-20s. The daily calorie needs, as women age, then reduce at about 2% to 4% for every 10 years added. Eat a balanced diet. Avoid refined sugars and indulge in fruits and vegetables. Choose foods low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Fat intake should be less than 30 percent of daily calorie intake. Women of all ages should consume 20 to 30 grams of fiber daily. Check out my Food Nutritional Value Chart and Diet Recipe Index.
Portion Control. Eat slowly and practice portion control – this does not mean you have to eliminate your favorite foods. Just eat smaller quantities. Check out Making Sense of Portion Sizes – Portion Control Secrets.
Avoid crash or fad diets. Starvation will only cause your metabolism to slow down, causing you to gain more weight later on. Fad diets simply don’t work — over 95% of dieters gain back the weight they lose and more.
Maintain adequate intake of water: So many of the bodily functions rely on the body being adequately hydrated. Drinking 8 to 10 glasses daily is ideal. Check out Water – The Fountain of Youth! New studies say that you can drink tea and coffee as part of your daily water requirements. A couple of cups a day are fine as part of your water intake. We are talking about black coffee, not coffee house drinks. Learn about Coffee Drink Calories.
Do not lose large amounts of weight. There is a balance between being too thin and just right. Being very thin can lead to an increased chance of developing osteoporosis. Determine Your Body Mass Index (BMI).
Increase your physical activity. Exercise becomes particularly important as a woman ages. Regular exercise benefits the heart and bones, helps regulate weight, and can be a mood enhancer, creating a better sense of well-being. Women who are physically inactive are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Weight loss still requires that you burn more calories each day than you take in. Do aerobics to increase your metabolism and burn fat. Do weight bearing activities such as walking and cycling to increase muscle mass and ward off osteoporosis. When women diet to lose weight after menopause, they will not be able to continue to lose weight unless exercise is added to the daily routine. Exercise prevents the decrease in metabolism that occurs when women diet without exercising. But, you must exercise consistently, preferably daily. Start with 5 minutes of walking each day and work to gradually increase the duration of whatever exercise you are doing. Work to increase your exercise time to 30 minutes daily. Check out What About Exercise? Calories Burned Per Minute of Exercise By Weight.