Even though you may be eating a healthy diet and staying active, you may feel it's more difficult than it used to be to lose weight during menopause. You might even find yourself gaining weight and wonder what's happened!
Going through the change can bring weight gain with it, and losing weight during menopause can feel slow, but it can help understand why this is happening to protect your future health.
Why Does Weight Gain Happen During Menopause?
Most women hit perimenopause around their mid to late 40s. This is the time of your life where your body begins to transition into menopause. However, the physical changes continue even after you've passed through menopause and ovulation and menstruation have stopped.
Before approaching menopause, most women gain extra weight on their hips and thighs. This is known as gynoid fat distribution. But starting from perimenopause, this changes to android fat distribution. That means the weight is gained around the middle. This can be troubling as not only are you experiencing hormonal changes, feeling more emotional and suffering from the occasional hot flush - but your body shape is changing. It's like going through puberty all over again!
If you feel stuck and desperate and unsure how to overcome this period of your life, you're not alone. Many of my clients were the same when they started working with me. While there is no secret to stopping that process, there are 7 ways to manage the symptoms, prevent weight gain and even keep losing weight if that's your goal.
#1. Manage Expectations
First and foremost, manage your expectations about weight loss. Know that what you're going through is entirely normal and something that all women experience. Just like going through puberty, your body is going through another transition. Your priority is the same as always; protect your health. That means following a healthy diet and limiting the number of calories you consume. It also means regularly exercising and finding some movement that you enjoy and look forward to.
#2. Resistance Training
You may consider including resistance training in your workouts at least twice a week, as women lose muscle mass after going through menopause unless they're actively trying not to. When you have more muscle tissue, you have a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR), meaning your body burns more calories even when at rest. Don't worry about lifting weights, making you "bulky". This doesn't even happen for bodybuilders unless they're actively trying to get that look (and even then, they may need chemical enhancements!).
#3. Prioritise Sleep
Sleep quality can be an issue after menopause, and this can make weight loss harder. When you're tired, you might reach for low-quality, high-calorie foods, making it tough to stick to your calorie targets. You want to eat more because your body needs energy, leading to weight gain around your middle. If sleep is a problem, try removing all electronic devices from your bedroom to limit your exposure to light. Maintain the same bedtime and wake up time every day, even when you're not at work, and consider investing in some blackout blinds - particularly if you live in a city.
#4. Reduce and Manage Stress
Relatedly, do what you can to reduce stress levels as this can lead to unwanted weight gain. Women going through menopause likely have many stressors in their lives; caring for ageing parents and their children - to say nothing of the work and relationship stressors. Exercise can help manage these stressors when done wisely, but you might also consider trying journaling or meditation. If the stress you're currently experiencing is particularly severe, you may consider seeking support from an experienced and trusted counsellor.
#5. Monitor Medications
If you're taking medication for anything, this could be responsible for recent weight gain. The drugs used to treat menopausal symptoms are known for contributing to weight gain. Your doctor can advise you on either discontinuing the medication or trying an alternative that doesn't have weight gain as a side effect.
#6. Professional Help
You may benefit from seeking help from a weight loss expert. Professional support can be a wise investment, particularly if you have additional health conditions like high blood pressure or a family history of Diabetes. A professional will be well placed to support your nutrition and equip you with alternative avenues to losing weight.
#7. Sustainable Approaches
Finally, think long term and stay away from unsustainable fad diets. Weight loss after menopause requires patience, and you may not get the same results you once did from merely watching what you eat. It will require both diligence around health behaviours, consistency and patience.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help reverse weight gain, but it's not without risks. It's worth having a conversation with your doctor if you're concerned about the impact of weight gain on your general health.
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Busy Pro Fitness offers personal training in Brent Cross for clients based in Brent Cross, Hampstead, Belsize Park, St John's Wood, West & South Hampstead, Childs Hill, Finchley, Golders Green and surrounding areas but we also provide a Virtual Training and Online Coaching service for those clients who live elsewhere and Worldwide.