I am an active woman in my 50s, and I know there's no denying that the number on the scale can creep up during menopause, but why, and how can we prevent it?
Insomnia from night sweats can easily lead us to become less active. Who wants to go to the gym after only 3 or 4 hours of sleep? Not I, that's for sure!.
Evidence shows us that this is one of the leading causes of sneaky weight gain during midlife. When we're exhausted, we generally become less active, reducing our overall energy output. Lack of sleep has also been shown to increase the hunger hormone Ghrelin and reduce the satiety hormone Leptin, which generally increases our energy intake. So basically, we end up eating more calories than we need. These things can all cause stress, which increases cortisol and inhibits our weight loss efforts. It's a vicious cycle.
But it's not inevitable that you will gain weight during menopause. It just requires a step back to look at your lifestyle and see where adjustments can be made to make this transitional period less awful.
Menopause and perimenopause are accompanied by an increased risk of obesity, which affects about one-third of women who enter menopause. Menopausal weight gain can have significant effects on your health. Excess weight, especially around your midsection, increases your risk of many issues, including:
· Type 2 diabetes
· Breathing problems
· Heart and blood vessel disease
Excess weight also increases your risk of various types of cancer, including breast, colon and endometrial cancers. Limiting weight gain during this time is not just about fitting in your favorite skinny jeans but about maintaining a healthy weight so you can live a full, energetic life.
Where to Start.
In one of my blogs, 'Why we should stop blaming hormones alone for weight gain during Menopause', I said that "while hormones can and do create some challenges to weight loss/maintenance, they are not solely to blame for every pound gained or each pound not lost. There are many reasons, and despite public opinion, many ways around what most people like to call the menopausal mid-life spread." Remember, there is no one fix for all women; every woman is different and will have her own journey and her own 'best practices' for managing menopause.
Tips for staying on track
Even though every journey is unique, here are some well-researched tips that can help limit or avoid weight gain.
Don't skip meals. It may seem like skipping meals will help you lose weight, but it can have the opposite effect. When you miss too many meals, your body's level of ghrelin is increased, which can quickly turn hunger into demolishing a sleeve of Oreos.
Calories in / calories out is always the fundamental weight loss equation. Even so, those calories in / out can look different for different nutrition plans. Choosing more nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lower-fat dairy products and lean protein that are less processed and contain more fiber goes a long way to creating a solid nutrition plan. Fad diets may seem attractive for quick weight loss but are not sustainable long-term, so I rarely recommend them to my clients.
Some women find that spicy foods increase hot flashes, which can reduce the ability to sleep and the desire to exercise, so if that's you, maybe limit the extra hot curry. Since we're talking about hot flashes; alcohol, particularly red wine, is at the top of the list of causes, along with caffeine which is very sad because red wine and coffee are some of the small joys in life!!
Don't forget about the calories in your beverages too. For example: a Grande Vanilla Frappuccino has 400 calories!! Those Starbucks runs aren't always the best option if you are trying to control your calorie intake.
Limiting alcohol is not just a good idea because of its effect on hot flashes; it may inhibit the effects of leptin – a hormone that suppresses appetite, encouraging you to eat more than you may have without that beverage.
Drink plenty of water. Water helps to flush out toxins and keeps your body hydrated, which is essential for maintaining a healthy weight. Drinking ice-cold water can reduce the intensity of hot flashes. Aim to drink eight glasses of water each day
Exercise regularly. I know; Exercise may seem like the last thing you want to do, but it's essential for maintaining a healthy body in mid-life and beyond. As we age, our bodies become less efficient at burning calories. This is due to a decrease in muscle mass—after 30, we lose about 3-5% of our muscle mass every decade. Since muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue, our metabolism slows down as we age. I recommend weight training as the preferred exercise method, with some cardiovascular exercise sprinkled in for good measure. For most healthy adults, evidence has shown that moderate strength training 2-3 days per week and some form of aerobic activity, such as walking, can help control weight gain and maintain lean muscle mass.
Even though we've all heard this a million times, simple steps such as parking farther away from the store or taking the stairs to add more movement to help stave off extra pounds. And remember, it's not always about planned exercise; movement is essential, less sitting, more standing, more walking.
Supplements for Menopausal Weight Gain
May women will go to their doctor for help with their menopausal symptoms. Many doctors will prescribe Estogen, Progesterone and/or Testosterone. I am not a doctor, so will not be addressing those.
There are literally millions of supplements that can help with menopausal weight gain. Emphasis on help! No magic pill will work alone if you want to maintain a healthy weight. But some of these may work to make it just a little easier (links to Amazon best sellers):
Vitamin D - Vitamin D is important for bone health which can diminish during menopause and can also help to reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. You can buy it here: https://amzn.to/3Fgamaf
Phytoestrogens: These are compounds found in plants that can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. They can be taken in the form of pills, powders, or teas. You can buy it here: https://amzn.to/3DpA0rR
Black cohosh: This herb is thought to relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. It is available in capsule, tablet, or liquid form. You can a top seller here: https://amzn.to/3SvGolM
Ginseng: This supplement is believed to boost energy levels and promote weight loss. It is available in capsule, powder, or tea form. You can buy this honey ginseng tea here: https://amzn.to/3N5AGpp
Vitamin D: This vitamin is essential for bone health and can also help with weight loss. It is available in pill form. You can buy one with almost 50,000 reviews here: https://amzn.to/3gAHC1F
Soy: Soy contains phytoestrogens and has been shown to reduce menopausal symptoms and promote weight loss. It is available in various forms, including soy milk, tofu, and tempeh. This is the most popular brand and what I personally use: https://amzn.to/3zawJdA
Probiotics: Lactobacillus acidophilus is easily one of the most important inclusions. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine in July 2020, shows strains from this probiotic bacteria species can reduce the symptoms of menopause significantly. The most popular product on the market today is Provitalize. With almost 20,000 ratings and reviews, you can buy it here :https://amzn.to/3f4rJQL
Move well, eat well, and sleep well. Although it sounds so simple, we all know it's a challenge. Small steps like getting to bed 30 minutes earlier, drinking one less glass of vino or one less cup of coffee to limit sleeplessness, and choosing grilled chicken instead of that burger can impact your health and your weight in the long term.