By Shawna Page, Founder and CEO of femMED
As many women enter perimenopause we experience unexplained weight gain, especially around the waist and hips, despite our best attempts to diet. What worked for us in the past is suddenly ineffective. In fact, weight gain in the abdomen is one of the most common complaints of perimenopausal women.
Most of us will gain about 10 to 15 pounds during our menopausal years, primarily because of the fluctuation in our hormones, which have a direct impact on our appetite, metabolism, and fat storage. At this stage, we develop “insulin resistance” making our bodies store fat, rather than burn calories. For example, if you ate 1,000 calories before menopause, you would burn 700 and store 300. After menopause, your body will store 700 and burn only 300!
You’ll also discover that the weight gain tends to accumulate around the middle – lending credence to the term “middle-age spread”. An extra pound before menopause will settle evenly over hips, bottom, thighs, and arms. After menopause, it all goes round the middle! Most of this weight will come on gradually, generally about a pound a year.
Statistics show that we are right to be concerned about this weight gain. Excessive fat stored around the abdomen can lead to an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, breast cancer, and high cholesterol, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Research shows that weight gain at menopause can be prevented or minimized. Apart from fluctuating hormone levels, weight gain at this time is also related to a drop in exercise level and the fact that as we age our body doesn’t need as many calories. To maintain the same weight, we need to balance our hormones, adjust what we eat and exercise more.
- Cut calories. Since menopausal women need fewer calories to maintain their former body weight it may be necessary to cut caloric intake by 10 to 15 percent. Therefore to reduce calories and still eat a balanced diet we need to strictly limit refined sugars, saturated fat and simple carbs and indulge in lean protein with lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Increase fiber. Women of all ages should consume 20 to 30 grams of fiber daily. Dietary fiber helps with elimination and creates a feeling of fullness so we are less likely to reach for that mid afternoon snack.
- Drink water. Many of our bodily functions rely on good hydration and drinking water helps make you feel full so you are less likely to overeat. Drinking 8 to 10 glasses daily is ideal.
- Increase physical activity. Do aerobics to increase your metabolism and burn fat. Do weight-bearing activities such as walking and cycling to increase muscle mass and ward off osteoporosis. When we diet to lose weight after menopause, we can’t continue to lose weight unless we add exercise to our daily routine.
And remember, when you lose the weight, make sure it doesn’t find you!