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How to maintain a healthy weight during menopause

By on March 27, 2018

by Tami Mungenast CPT CNWC

o-women-weight-facebookAs women approach perimenopause and menopause many find that excess pounds seem to go on easy and are much harder to lose. Weight gain during this time of life is extremely common. Nearly 80% of women report weight gain.

The reason weight management becomes more challenging as a women is going through menopause can be for several reasons including:

•Hormone fluctuations. Estrogen levels can become like a roller coaster by going high and dropping low causing an increase of fat storage.

•Loss of muscle mass. Muscle atrophy can be caused by age, hormonal changes and decreased physical activity.

•Sleep interferences. Often women have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep during menopause. Poor sleep is linked to increase in body fat.

•Increased insulin resistance. Women often become insulin resistant as they age which makes losing weight more difficult. A diet heavy with processed foods and sugar can cause insulin resistance which means your body will quickly convert calories into fat.

Here are some helpful tips to help you improve your lifestyle and limit weight gain during the peri/menopausal stage of life:

•Evaluate your diet. Even if you were eating healthy up to now, you still may need to adjust your diet to help prevent unwanted weight gain. Very low calorie diets are not helpful long term. Research shows that restricting calories to very low levels actually causes a loss in muscle mass and damage to your metabolism.  Even if you lose weight up front it will be very difficult to keep it off with the lower metabolic rate. A low calorie intake can also increase your risk of osteoporosis. Eating in a way with controlled portions, increased proteins and reducing processed carbs can help you manage your weight while preserving your metabolic rate. Reigning in your carbs is super critical at this phase as your insulin response system can become less effective (insulin resistance).

•Exercise. A mix of strength training (weights) and cardiovascular training are more important than ever during menopause. Exercise can improve mood, increase energy, protect your muscles and bones and promote a healthy weight. Weight training will increase your lean muscle mass which typically declines during aging hormonal changes. Cardio training can help reduce abdominal fat and improve your cardiovascular system.

•Rest and Stress Relief. It is critical to get adequate sleep to help maintain a healthy weight. People who are sleep deprived have higher levels of the hunger hormone (ghrelin) and lower levels of the fullness hormone (leptin). Having these hormones out of balance increases the risk for over eating and weight gain. Women can have issues with sleeping if they are experiencing hot flashes. Reducing caffeine, using melatonin or natural oils like lavender can help improve sleep. Stress relief is also important. Increased stress and decreased sleep can increase cortisol levels which are linked to increased abdominal fat. Yoga and meditation can help with relaxation.

Losing weight might be hard during this time but maintaining a healthy lifestyle is most important. Try focusing on health not the number on the scale. Incorporate a healthy diet, regular exercise and time for rest and relaxation to look and feel your best during menopause and beyond.