Hormonal changes as we age can lead to extra weight around the middle. Stay healthy and fit with these tips.
Weight gain may feel like it’s inevitable once you’ve entered your middle years, but the truth is it doesn’t have to be. Natural hormonal changes mean you may start to notice symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings, but you don’t need to idly accept that the number on the bathroom scale will steadily creep up, too. Here’s what’s going on with your body if elastic-waist pants are now your go-to fashion staple: Weight distribution changes as you hit menopause, with the added pounds accumulating right around your belly. “I named the extra fat that collects around your middle the ‘menopot,’” says Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, author of Body for Life for Women. Before, during, and after menopause, your estrogen levels begin to wane and your metabolism slows, making it more difficult for you to lose weight, particularly around your middle. And belly fat isn’t just annoying — it’s also unhealthy. Studies show it increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and perhaps even early death. Here, 10 ways to successfully fight the battle of the bulge:
1: Exercise More Often, More Intensely to Counter Midlife Weight Gain
Start with a mix of moderate and vigorous exercise to burn off menopausal, Your routine should include aerobic exercises, like swimming, walking, bicycling, and running, as well as resistance or strength training. adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, and two or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that work all of the major muscle groups, like the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.
2: It’s Better to Stand Than Sit, if and When You Can
The formula is simple: The more time that your body’s in motion, the more calories your body will burn. One low-effort way to do that? “Stay as vertical as possible throughout the day,” Peeke says. Not only will that increase calorie burn, it can also help prevent other health problems.To stay upright more often, stand and pace when you’re on the phone, or park farther from the places you’re going so you’ll have to walk a little more. If you’re a binge-watcher, place a pedal exerciser on the floor in front of your couch, so you can fit in some needed movement while still catching up on your favorite shows.
3: Keep Portions in Check and Time Your Meals Right
Your metabolism has slowed down by the time you hit menopause — with some research suggesting it burns a couple hundred calories fewer a day. “You can very quickly avoid 200 calories, but that can also very quickly add up if you don’t reduce the number of calories you consume
Cutting back on restaurant meals and takeout is an easy way to control portions, but the timing and frequency of your meals can make a big difference, too.
4: Choose Wisely and Eat Meals With Healthy Fats
Fat has flavor and makes our food taste better. So the good news is that it isn’t necessary to completely eliminate it from your diet altogether. You just need to learn how to be more choosy, says Palumbo. Think more walnuts, and fewer Whoppers.The healthiest fats are the ones that derive from vegetable sources like olives and nuts, but keep in mind that healthy fats — like those found in avocados — have the same number of calories as the fat found in an ice cream sundae. “An ounce of nuts has 170 calories, so you have to be very careful,” says Palumbo. “The same goes with extra-virgin olive oil. The American way is to go overboard, so you have to be extremely cautious when you use it, and measure the amounts of fats and oils that you consume.
5: Time Meals and Snack Right to Counter Mindless Eating
It’s not just what you eat when you are following a midlife diet that matters, but also when you eat. Midnight ice cream binges and potato chip raids, for example, are generally bad ideas — and would be a poor choice even during the light of day. But the general message on food timing is clear: “Don’t eat too much too late. To help rein in your snacking, Peeke says to start paying attention to your circadian rhythm. “Eat during a window of 8 to 12 hours a day, and then don’t eat for the rest of the time. Experts find this imperative to take care of weight at any age, but especially during menopause,” she says.
Be strict with your time limit. “End your eating at a reasonable time, like 7 p.m., and pick it up again 12 hours later, the next morning at 7 a.m.
6: Vary Your Workouts and Try New Activities
It’s easy to get into an exercise rut, and even easier to fall out of the habit of exercising at all. But at this stage of your life, not getting your move on is not an option. “Ideally, to keep your weight in check, you’ll be working out three or four times a week. So, take a Zumba class. See what all your buddies are talking about and join them one weekend at a CrossFit center. Give PiYo a go. (Never heard of it? It’s a cross between Pilates and yoga.) There are so many different exercises to try, you’ll be able to find ones you like and stick with them.
7: Update Your Healthy Sleep Strategies to Rest Better and Fight Weight Gain
Insomnia is an extremely common symptom of perimenopause, which is the period of time when women’s bodies transition toward their final menstrual cycle. And according to the North American Menopause Society, that transition phase can last for four to eight years. All that time spent waking up unrefreshed means you’re probably feeling too exhausted to head out for a workout, too. “It’s imperative to get sleep as you get older,” says Peeke. “One of the things that truly helps combat the menopot is high-quality sleep.” Inadequate sleep impacts our hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. “Ghrelin and leptin become dysfunctional when you don’t get enough sleep, so good luck trying to lose weight if you don’t fix that problem,” says Peeke. Palumbo says that you should close your kitchen and brush your teeth by 7 p.m. This will keep you from eating late, which can keep you from getting restful slumber and cause you to pack on the pounds. “You shouldn’t be eating before you sleep, because it will interrupt your sleep,” she says.
8: Find a Friend or a Group to Exercise With
To attack belly fat and any other menopause weight gain, you’ll need to burn between 400 and 500 calories most days of the week from cardiovascular exercise, such as walking briskly, jogging, bicycling, dancing, or swimming, Peeke says. Need motivation? Find a friend who needs to exercise as much as you do, and set a date to work out together. A study published in November 2015 in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that actively looking for a new workout partner and exercising together is beneficial for both exercise and emotional support.
9: Adjust Your Coping Strategies and Address Your Stress Levels to Help Reduce Weight Gain
If your fat is making you feel stressed — or vice versa — don’t disregard that link. “There is a stress-fat connection,” Peeke says. “If you walk around completely stressed all the time, your cortisol levels will increase, and that will make it easy for you to deposit fat deep inside the belly.” Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, stimulates the liver to increase production of blood sugar and helps the body convert fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into usable energy. As part of the body’s fight-or-flight response, cortisol is released during stressful times to give your body a natural energy boost, but when cortisol levels are constantly high because of chronic stress.
10: Talk With Your Doctor About How to Minimize Menopausal Symptoms
If your lack of estrogen is contributing to typical menopausal symptoms, such as severe hot flashes and night sweats, you may want to consider hormone therapy (HT) or other medication. HT has had a controversial history since it was first approved by the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) for the treatment of menopausal hot flashes in 1942. As early as the 1950s, suspicions arose that taking hormones might harm a woman’s health, and since that time concerns have continued. Whether the risks outweigh the benefits, though, is something each woman should discuss with her healthcare provider, especially as new, lower-dose formulations have become available.Ask your ob-gyn about medication you might take to help you control your menopause symptoms. Your doctor will likely want to investigate whether your weight gain is indeed from menopause and not from some other health condition that needs treating as well.