Weight a Minute: Menopause, Weight Gain, and You

Weight gain happens. But if you’re going through “the change of life,” chances are you’re also facing a few unexpected pounds that are proving more stubborn than ever to lose. See if you can relate to the scenario below.

  • Jayne is 32 and has gained some weight because of a few extra chocolate chip cookies and burgers. To peel away the pounds, she watches her calories and joins a gym. With consistent diet and exercise, Jayne drops the weight within a few months.
  • Seventeen years later, at age 49, Jayne sees that a few extra pounds have crept onto the scale, even though she hasn’t changed her diet! She turns to exercise and watching calories, only to see the scale stay the same. Plus, her waist seems to have disappeared. Jayne is concerned about what is happening to her body and wants answers.

Time and Hormones Marching on

Many women can relate to Jayne. With the vast hormonal changes that occur during menopause, our usual metabolism flies out the window, only to be replaced by a body that holds on to every pound. Diet and exercise strategies from the past are no longer effective. And just like Jayne, we find ourselves asking why we are going through this (and what to do about it). 

Who Fiddled with Your Middle?

With age comes wisdom—and sometimes weight gain around the midsection. Hormonal fluctuations during menopause can encourage fat cells to store more fat and not let go of it. Plus, fat stores shift from the hips and thighs to the torso, giving rise to the dreaded “spare tire” and “disappearing waist.” Add to this the loss of muscle mass that can occur with aging, and weight gain becomes a harsh reality even if you haven’t changed your diet and exercise habits.1,2

Maintaining muscle mass through menopause and beyond is important to help reduce or prevent weight gain.2 Oftentimes, women in their 40s and 50s find that busy lifestyles can prevent them from getting the exercise needed to accomplish this. The good news is that you don’t have to join a high-velocity gym or run 20 miles a day. Incorporating gentle exercise such as walking, swimming, yoga, or Pilates can give your muscle mass a boost without taking up too much time.

Additionally, other factors such as stress levels, medications, and health concerns like insulin resistance and hypothyroidism can also contribute to the “why” of your menopausal weight gain. You should also consider how your family members carry weight. If extra pounds congregated around the middle of mom’s waist, you are very likely to experience the same.3

And when you sit down to your next meal, take a good look at your plate. If it’s filled with less-than-healthful foods, you’re probably going to have a menopausal weight challenge on your hands (or middle). Instead, eat lean sources of protein, like chicken and fish, and green, leafy vegetables. While we all love a plate of spaghetti or basket of bread now and again, make sure to consume nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates in moderation, while limiting the simple ones such as white flour, sugar, pasta, etc.4 Also, watch the wine and other alcoholic drinks, because empty calories add up quickly.

An Ounce of Prevention to Prevent the Pounds of Menopause

Making small adjustments to what you eat, and increasing the amount that you move, may be what your menopausal body needs to regulate its weight throughout the change. It is important to remember to not be harsh on yourself if you’ve gained weight. With self-care, time, and patience, you can lose the weight no matter your age or life stage.

 

References:

  1. The North American Menopause Society. Changes in Weight and Fat Distribution. Available at: http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/changes-at-midlife/changes-in-weight-and-fat-distribution. Accessed March 12, 2018.
  2. Paddon-Jones D, et al. Role of dietary protein in the sarcopenia of aging. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(5):1562S-1566S.
  3. Mayo Clinic. Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age spread. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menopause-weight-gain/art-20046058. Accessed March 12, 2018.
  4. Gass M. The North American Menopause Society. A meno-menu: 6 simple instructions for a healthy diet. Available at: http://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopause-take-time-to-think-about-it/consumers/2012/09/26/a-meno-menu-6-simple-instructions-for-a-healthy-diet. Accessed March 13, 2018.

Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team

 

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