Lifestyle changes may assist in controlling biologically driven body changes.
You spend hours in the gym every day. You eat nothing but grilled chicken, fish, and salads. Yet the numbers on the scale don’t budge — or worse, they slowly creep up, along with your waist measurement.
Hormonal fluctuations and other shifts that come with menopause actually do bring about changes for many women, including weight gain that can resist even the most diligent efforts to reverse it.
Understanding why weight gain can occur at menopause can help women come to terms with this biological process and learn how to better manage their weight to protect their future health.
Weight gain after menopause
Many women start to see body changes when they reach their mid-to-late 40s and enter the stage known as perimenopause, the years during which your body begins the menopause transition. These changes continue even after a woman passes menopause, the point when ovulation and menstruation stop completely.
When women are younger, they tend to collect extra pounds on the hips and thighs, a pattern known as gynoid fat distribution. But during perimenopause and after menopause, hormone changes cause many women’s bodies to start collecting extra weight around the middle, a pattern called android fat distribution that is typical for men.
Weight gain at the waist doesn’t just affect your appearance. It’s a potential health risk, because it’s associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack, stroke, or high blood pressure. This shifting weight distribution likely contributes to women’s rising risk of heart disease after menopause. And in addition to seeing changes in where fat accumulates, menopausal women also are more likely to put on extra pounds over all.
Winning the weight loss battle
So, what can you do? While the following strategies might not enable you to regain the figure you had at age 20, they can help you keep the changes in check.
Plan for the long term. To successfully manage your weight, you need to make lifestyle changes that you can stick with indefinitely. Losing and regaining weight is not ideal and can actually make it more difficult to keep weight off over the long term.
While some women are already doing everything they can to lose weight, for others there is room to improve health habits. This might include being extra diligent about following a healthy diet and increasing physical activity.
Rapid weight loss diets can be an excellent way to kick start your weight loss journey but should be replaced with a diet that can be sustained over the long term. Recent findings have shown that a low carbohydrate Mediterranean diet is particularly effective in reducing visceral and liver fat and can be easily adapted for weight loss or long term weight maintenance.
As for physical activity, any movement is better than none, but more vigorous workouts can help with weight control. Aim for workouts that make you break a sweat. High intensity interval training in particular has been shown to significantly increase lean mass and decrease total fat mass in overweight post menopausal women. This can be achieved by surprisingly brief workouts in the order of one hour of actual exercise a week.
Add strength to your workouts. An important and often overlooked component of an effective exercise program is strength training. Women naturally start to lose muscle mass after menopause, unless they take steps to reverse it. Building muscle can increase what’s known as your basal metabolic rate, the amount of energy your body needs to keep working when you are at rest. An easy way to incorporate both strength-building exercises and cardiovascular exercises is to perform a circuit-style workout that includes both, making sure that strength training is incorporated at least twice a week.
Address sleep problems. Poor sleep quality becomes more common during menopause, and this can compound problems with weight gain. A lack of sleep affects your weight in much the same way as hormonal shifts, making you want to eat more and causing your body to collect fat around your middle. If you are experiencing disturbed sleep, practice good sleep habits: remove all electronic screens from the bedroom for at least an hour before bedtime, go to bed and get up on the same schedule each day, and ensure a restful sleep environment. If sleep quality doesn’t improve, seek help from your doctor or a sleep specialist.
Check your medications. Some medications such as anti-depressants and non-hormonal medications for the relief of menopausal symptoms can cause weight gain. If you are taking new medication and have noticed weight gain, raise the issue with your treating doctor who may recommend discontinuing the drug or trying an alternative that doesn’t have the same side effect.
Reduce your stress levels. Stress, like poor sleep, can lead to weight gain. Women at midlife often have numerous stressors in their lives, including caring for both their kids and ageing parents. Adopt strategies to fight stress, such as meditation and exercise, or get support from a trained counsellor.
Seek Help from a weight loss expert at Como Diagnostic
If you’ve maximised your diet and physical activity, reduced stress, and improved sleep quality and duration, and you’re still not able to control your weight, it may be time to seek further help. At Como Diagnostic we understand the physiological nature of weight gain in this phase of your life and have put together a number of specific weight loss and exercise programs for women in the post menopausal phase of their lives.
Dr. Sandi and her team of medical nutritionists believe in a collaborative approach to weight loss where patients are educated, inspired and encouraged to adopt the necessary life habit changes that can return them to a healthy weight and with it good health. Yes, your body does change after menopause but we can help you keep it youthful, lean and vigorous!
Call us on 03 926 4300 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog is general in nature only and should not be relied upon as medical advice. For further information please contact our clinic or your own medical practitioner before commencing any diet or exercise regime