Perhaps you've never had a weight problem. Okay, maybe you experienced some weight gain as a teenager (baby fat, they called it). Nonetheless, you managed to shake it off and sailed blissfully through your 30s, 40s.
However, now around your 50s, you notice the pounds are sticking, particularly around the midriff. What's up? During menopause, women gain weight for the following reasons:
A decrease in estrogen
Hormonal change is among the major physiological changes associated with menopause. At menopause, levels of the female hormone estrogen drop substantially, leading to an increase in stubborn abdominal fat. Estrogen is linked to higher levels of "good cholesterol" and lower levels of "bad cholesterol." The drop in estrogen levels increases women's risk of getting heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Both men and women tend to slow down as they age, leading to less physical activity and therefore weight gain. In addition, age leads to muscle loss. When a muscle becomes smaller than before, it does not work as much. It uses less power than before and burns fewer calories. This slows down your metabolism, making you more likely to gain weight.
As people age, they tend to suffer from poorer sleep. Animal research has associated sleep deprivation with weight gain.
However, should you worry about weight gain after menopause? The answer is yes. Being overweight raises your risk of developing high blood pressure, various types of cancer, and heart disease. It also increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes and suffering a stroke.
Take heart though
You can avoid this weight gain. You just need to watch what and how much you eat, and to adopt an active lifestyle. You may find it more difficult to lose weight after menopause, but it's not impossible. So, what do you need to do to cut down on your weight and the attendant risks?
1) Move, move, and keep moving
Adopting an active lifestyle is one way of losing weight and keeping it off. You need to do both aerobic and weight-bearing or strength-training exercises.
For adults, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as a brisk walk, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, like a jog, spread throughout the week. Then again, you could do an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity activity spread throughout the week.
In addition, WHO recommends doing strength-training exercises at least twice a week. As you gain muscle through strength training, your body burns calories more effectively, and controlling your weight becomes easier.
Don't think of exercise solely as going to the gym or doing your daily aerobics on the screen. While this is useful, you get better results when you incorporate exercise and activity into your lifestyle. Walk to the store instead of driving there; take the stairs rather than the escalator. Look for every opportunity to move your body.
2) Use a small plate
You need to reduce the amount of food you eat. The same amount of food that gave you no problem before will now lead to weight gain. Serve your food on a salad plate. That way, you literally have no space for more food. Don't go for seconds.
To reduce your food intake without compromising on nutrition, eat more fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed or less processed whole grains.
3) Watch what you eat and how you prepare it
Instead of frying, bake your food. Use skim milk and low-fat cheese; cut back on red meat and heavy desserts and load up on high-energy fruits and vegetables. Whenever possible, choose plant-based foods over animal products. Limit your alcohol intake. Stay away from sweetened beverages and energy drinks.
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Remember, successful weight loss at any stage of life requires permanent changes in diet and exercise habits. Commit to lifestyle changes and enjoy a healthier, lighter you, even into and after menopause.
Research Update: A recent study published in the journal Menopause suggests that the chance of women to develop metabolic syndrome after menopause is 38 percent higher.
Want to Learn More About Menopause and Metabolic Disorders?
Read this article on National Library of Medicine (NCBI): Menopause-Associated Lipid Metabolic Disorders and Foods Beneficial for Postmenopausal Women