Simply put, menopause is a very natural aspect of a woman’s aging process. It is not a disease, but we can think of it as a “disease” because of the problems that occur at this stage of life. The average age for menopause is 51 years. At this point, the ovaries are no longer producing estrogen. This lack of estrogen comes with a laundry list for most women. Many women do not survive this phase of unsafe life in terms of symptoms. The symptoms experienced are in large part due to this decline of estrogen in the body. This drop in estrogen can affect women both physically and mentally. Common problems include menopausal weight gain, brain fog, depression, and sleep problems.
Menopause weight gain and estrogen
Estrogen is a power-packed hormone. With aging our production declines, having physical effects on both our body and mind. You are certainly not imagining that you feel differently! As estrogen levels approach menopause, there are many factors that affect our weight and our external appearance.
- Our fat distribution changes. More fat is now settling in where your waistline used to be!
- There is loss of muscle mass. This is known as sarcopenia. This occurs with aging in both women and men.
- And, if that wasn’t enough, decreased estrogen levels actually drive us to eat more. And, as our energy requirements decline with aging, this helps contribute to weight gain. We actually need less fuel or calories, but want more!
- Lower estrogen levels can also contribute to depression, so if you are emotional eater that eats in response to being sad, that further complicates weight management.
- Tackle menopause weight gain with these tips
Tackle menopause weight gain with these simple tips
It is important to note that you can change how you feel in menopause in many ways. Since weight-related issues often prevail as an area of concern in menopause, there are some easy and practical steps to help manage those weight-related issues. It is easier than you think!
1. Move your body as much as you can
If you need to talk to yourself about this, then so be it. Be grateful you can move your body and then embrace that movement. Even if you walk outside just a few blocks or make deliberate movements inside your house, it will help balance your energy. If you take a walk outside, you will also be making vitamin D, which can also affect your mood. Is the dog done? What do you do that amazing animal double let!
If you can go on a walk, mix your exercise. Stretch, yoga, a hula hoop (we know you’re cool), and even YouTube videos on exercise. And, resistance exercise is important as we age. Find some weight, or start with soup cans if needed. Then find an activity that moves your body that you really enjoy. I enjoy gardening and am always amazed at what this “work” is and how strong it makes me. All this is called exercise. Doing the activities you do reduces activity such as a chime. This will help with energy balance to surround your waist and help preserve your lean muscles.
2. Consider disavowing the willpower concept
I don’t think I’ve ever weighed a customer on the concept of willpower. To me, willpower seems foreign and tyrannical. I think it is so much better to control your eating environment. If you set up your home and kitchen to nourish you with healthy choices, you will be making healthy food choices. Conversely, if you have a sweet tooth and constantly have chocolate candy in your cabinet, it is easy to eat it consistently. Consider making those high temptation foods difficult to use. Do not bring them into your home eating environment. Instead, enjoy as an occasional treat that you need to get out with some difficulty (such as a separate trip to the grocery store difficulty)!
3. Boost the quality of your diet to fight menopause weight gain
This is very important on so many levels. As women enter menopause, they are susceptible to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. It is never too late to improve your diet to reduce or reduce the chances of developing these diseases which will affect your quality of life. And, the good news is that you do not need a degree in nutrition to improve the quality of your diet! Try adding more plant-based foods to your diet. Colorful foods that are plant based will give you both fiber and antioxidants. Oxidation in our body is thought to be due to aging and diseases. And, colored foods like fruits and vegetables can combat that oxidation. These colorful foods also protect your eyes according to your age.
And don’t forget the calcium (rather than just supplements) derived from some good food! Our calcium requirements are at the highest point in our adulthood since the age of 51. At this age, we need 1200 mg of calcium (calcium resource).
4. Don’t be a meal skipper
When you are improving the quality of your diet, consider how often you are eating. Many older people have a tendency to eat only two large meals and perhaps a snack or two for a full 24-hour cycle. In some women, insulin resistance increases and is helpful in controlling the amount of food in a given meal. By spreading your fuel across multiple feedings for the day, you can help combat this condition by helping to stabilize blood sugar levels.
5. Sleep as a tool to fight menopause weight gain
Let’s face it, the world seems less challenging after a good night’s rest. I was once told by a doctor that sleep difficulty was the most common complaint of middle-aged women. Lack of fresh sleep can often be a hindrance to our ability to manage our weight in menopause. We may feel worse, and may react with more mindless eating. In my case, a bad night’s sleep also makes me sit up more! So, while it’s not always easy to get that great night’s sleep, here are some tips:
- Sleep hygiene. You know, turn off the screens with blue light before trying to sleep. Consider a good book instead!
- Some research suggests that all that blue light actually causes our bodies to make less melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that helps our body to shift to sleep mode. As we age we also make less melatonin so blue lights and aging are a double whammy.
- Consider taking 5 mg of supplemental melatonin and then avoid the blue light screens (phones, computers, iPad) a few hours before you want to mentally wind down. And, try that distraction with a good fiction book.
6. Be kind to yourself
As you transition through menopause, being kind to yourself in relation to your weight is important. If you can apply self-care techniques, it can help with your weight and mental health. But, it seems that you do not need to do this. Your gynecologist may consider medical intervention and a physician or dietician may also be able to help. You are not alone in this phase of life, and plenty of support is available! I know that when my menopause came, I was lucky that it was really just a hot flash. When I was lucky in this way, I had extreme brain fog and had to reach my doctor. And symptoms will pass as your body adjusts to low estrogen.
Menopause is a phase of our life and should be viewed as such. The most important recommendation I can make to manage your weight at this point in your life and to be physically active to manage your health. By choosing a colorful diet that is nutrient dense and full of fiber, you are taking steps to manage both your weight and health. Do not prepare yourself to eat a bad diet because there are unhealthy foods in your house. Always find out how to get healthy foods in your kitchen so that your food choices are easily available to you on a daily basis. Try not to miss food. And, if you find that you are restless every night, then clean up your sleep.
How do you cope with menopause?
Soo Rose is an IL licensed dietitian and nutritionist. He provides both corporate and personal telehealth nutritional counseling. For more healthy eating and lifestyle strategies, visit my blog at: