Menopause (and perimenopause) can bring with it some uncomfortable symptoms, like sweating in a tank top in your freezing cold house, crying at everything and nothing, and just dealing with this underlying feeling of ugh. Additionally, you may notice that you’re gaining weight more easily than you have before, especially around your tummy.
Why? Needless to say, your body is going through some major changes. Hormonal shifts, like the rise and fall of estrogen within your body, can cause more fat storage. Additionally, as you age, you lose muscle mass, which slows your metabolism, and you may grow more insulin resistant, which can contribute to weight gain. During menopause, lack of sleep can also make keeping those pounds off difficult. And, while your body used to store fat in your hips and thighs, during menopause, it shifts to storing fat in your abdomen. Excess weight around your midsection can be dangerous, increasing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and more.
So what can you do to maintain a healthy weight?
Figure out a diet plan that works for you, but don’t restrict calories too much. As you age, you’ll need to eat less, in order to maintain your current weight, let alone lose any. Eat more whole, fibrous foods, such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains. A mainly plant-based diet coupled with fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy products could be a good option for you. Some other options that have shown to be effective for postmenopausal weight loss include the low carb or Mediterranean diets. However, don’t follow a very low calorie diet, as you could lose more muscle mass and reduce your metabolism, which could actually lead to opposite results. Also, try to reduce your alcohol and sugar consumption.
Do aerobic and strength training exercises. It’s important to stay active to keep extra weight at bay. Increasing your muscle mass through strength training can increase your metabolism, which in turn will help you shed more pounds. Try to do strength training at least twice a week. And get moderate aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes a week or vigorous aerobic activity for at least 75 minutes per week. Looking for some postmenopausal workout inspo? Check out Joan MacDonald, a woman who discovered the power of working out in her 70s.
Get restful sleep. When you sleep too little, you’ll have lower levels of leptin, the “fullness” hormone, and higher levels of the “hunger” hormone ghrelin, which can contribute to weight gain. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you may want to try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which has been shown to improve sleep duration for postmenopausal women, or acupuncture, which can help reduce hot flash frequency and increase estrogen levels to improve sleep.
Relieve stress. Stress can elevate cortisol levels and increase abdominal fat (and the risk of heart disease). Yoga has been shown to help relieve stress and reduce symptoms in menopausal women. Mindful eating, a practice of paying attention to your experiences surrounding food, could also help reduce your stress and change your relationship with eating.
Weight gain during menopause is normal, so be kind to yourself. If you’re doing your best to take care of yourself, the numbers on the scale don’t matter. All that matters is that you feel healthy.
P.S. Need menopause support? Shop our Menopause store.
Sources: Healthline, Healthline, MayoClinic.org