Menopause is a period in a woman’s life when she loses the ability to reproduce.

When you think of menopause, you tend to think of hot flashes and mood swings. Did you know that a drop in estrogen and progesterone during menopause actually causes these symptoms? Another eminent change many women experience during menopause is weight gain.

According to research, women may gain an average of 5 pounds during menopause. Women who all already overweight are more likely to gain weight during this period in their life.

Learning how to fight potential weight gain now will make things easier to maintain a healthy body weight over the course of a lifetime.

How does menopause cause weight gain?

Menopause brings about significant changes. Apart from your period finally stopping, you are also no longer capable of having children. This is because your body no longer releases the levels of estrogen and progesterone required for fertility and reproduction.

It’s important to note that menopause-related weight gain doesn’t happen right away. The weight gain is more gradual due to poor lifestyle habits such as lesser physical activities and non-modification of diet while metabolism is slower than when we were younger.

There are other factors related to weight gain during menopause such as stress, not getting enough sleep, critical/ high-stress changes in family life (divorce, death, being empty-nesters), job or relationship issues, consuming alcohol frequently and taking medications such as anti-depressants.

Genetics can also play a role. If your mother dealt with weight issues during menopause, then chances are you also might have difficulties managing your weight as you go through it.

Age itself presents a lot of changes when it comes to weight. Once you hit your 30s, your metabolism slows down. Once you reach your 40s and 50s, it only becomes harder as muscle mass decreases and body fat increases due to lesser activities. Without muscle mass, your body doesn’t metabolize calories as efficiently. This can lead to unwanted weight gain. So menopause can lead to weight gain, but it isn’t the only cause during this stage of life.

Weight gain during menopause poses potential serious consequences to your health. In fact, gaining weight in your 40s increases your risk for:
•    breast cancer
•    depression
•    heart disease
•    type 2 diabetes

Also, if you already have a chronic illness like type 2 diabetes or hypothyroidism, weight gain can worsen your symptoms.

Tips for weight management during menopause

You can minimize menopause-related weight gain with a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating fewer calories, exercising regularly, and building muscle.

Dietary changes
According to the Mayo Clinic, most women need to take in 200 fewer calories per day once they reach their 50s compared to when they were younger. Try to avoid extra calorie sources that don’t provide nutrition, such as sweetened drinks and sodas.

Exercise 

If you dislike going to the gym, get an aerobics video and get some action going! Easiest is to just get out of the house, walk, run and just make sure to sweat and move that body. If you are the type of person who needs prodding to exercise, enlist a workout buddy to help keep you motivated and keep you on track. Whatever you are most comfortable with, the goal is to work up to a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes of some cardio every week.

Strength Training

Strength training can help prevent a loss of muscle mass as you age. In addition, it can help you rebuild muscles you might have lost as a result of a lack of exercise. Resistance exercises are especially important after menopause because they may also help prevent osteoporosis.

You can address multiple muscle groups with a full routine, including arms, legs, glutes, and abs. Just don’t overdo it to avoid injuries. The Mayo Clinic recommends strength training twice a week for adequate results.

If you haven’t yet hit menopause, you may want to start making-over your lifestyle now to curb the effects that this change will bring about. If you’re already in the middle of menopause, it’s still not too late — make small changes at a time until they become habit.

Sources:
Australian Family Physician – Obesity and weight management at menopause
Mayo Clinic – Healthy Lifestyle: Women’s Health
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