As you age, maintaining your usual weight becomes more difficult. Many women gain weight around the time of menopause. But, weight gain isn't inevitable. You can change this trend by paying attention to healthy eating habits and leading an active lifestyle.
What causes menopausal weight gain?
Hormonal changes during menopause might make you more likely to gain weight around your middle than around your hips and thighs. However, hormonal changes alone don't necessarily produce menopausal weight gain. Instead, the weight gain is usually related to aging in general, as well as lifestyle and genetic factors.
For example, muscle mass typically diminishes with age, while fat increases. Loss of muscle mass decreases the rate at which your body uses calories, which can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight. Therefore, if you continue to eat as you always have and don't increase your physical activity, you're likely to gain weight.
Genetic factors might also play a role in menopausal weight gain. If your parents or other close relatives carry extra weight around the abdomen, you might as well.
Sometimes factors such as the stress of children leaving or returning to the home, divorce, the death of a spouse, job loss or change, or other life changes might change your diet or exercise habits and contribute to menopausal weight gain.
How risky is weight gain after menopause?
Menopausal weight gain can have serious consequences for your health. Excess weight increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer, including colorectal cancer and breast cancer. Increased weight can affect your joints and your ability to move, your quality of sleep, and so much more.
What's the best way to prevent weight gain after menopause?
There's no magic recipe for preventing or even reversing menopausal weight gain. Simply stick to tried and true weight-control basics:
• Move more. Aerobic activity can help you shed excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight. Strength training is important, too. As you gain muscle, your body burns calories more efficiently, which makes it easier to control your weight. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, for at least 150 minutes a week or vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging, for at least 75 minutes a week. In addition, strength training exercises are recommended at least twice a week. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you might need to exercise more. If you need assistance with a good exercise program, talk to a certified personal trainer.
• Eat less. To maintain your current weight, you probably need about 200 fewer calories a day during your 50s than you did during your 30s and 40s. To reduce calories without skimping on nutrition, pay attention to what you're eating and drinking. Choose fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Opt for lean sources of protein. Visit www.myplate.gov or talk to a registered dietician. Keep a food diary for several weeks. This is a great tool to help you eat healthier.
• Surround yourself with friends and family who will support your efforts to eat a healthy diet and increase your physical activity. Better yet, team up and make the lifestyle changes together.
Remember, successful weight loss at any stage of life requires permanent changes in diet and exercise habits.
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.
By: Janet Hunt