This weeks vlog – Menopasue and weight gain:
A surprising fact…
Two thirds of us are unfortunately overweight or obese, combine that with being menopausal and it can prove to be a challenging time for some women.
Many women will say they are still eating exactly the same foods as they always have done and doing the same amount of exercise, yet still manage to put weight on…
Why is that?
Alongside simply getting older, fluctuating hormones contribute to the slowing down of your metabolic rate and the way your body distributes and stores fat. So, it becomes extremely common for women to start putting weight on around their middle instead of their hips. The classic comparison being…going from a pear to an apple shape. Add to that all the extra pressures of life, whether they be teenagers, elderly parents, finances, work…whatever they are, any form of stress can contribute to weight gain during the menopause. It’s a well known fact that cortisol, the stress hormone, encourages fat deposition.
A couple of key points…
- Even if you aren’t too bothered by a few extra pounds it is important for everyone to make sure it doesn’t get ‘out of hand’! Additional weight gain especially, around the midriff, is associated with increased heart disease and the possibility of developing diabetes.
- As we grow older our bodies need less energy than in our teenage or reproductive years, which means, we don’t need to consume as many calories as we used to…make sense! Plus from around the age of 40 years we start to lose muscle…fear not very slowly…but this also has a contributory effect on weight gain. Muscle burns more energy so obviously less muscle = less calories required.
- A little light at the end of the tunnel – as your body adjusts to the changing levels of hormones it can become easier to keep on top of weight gain.
A healthy meal doesn’t have to taste bad or be boring…
HRT and weight gain…
Does being on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) contribute to menopause weight gain?
This is one of the most frequent questions that comes up. The general view among leading menopause specialists is that it doesn’t seem to cause weight gain and can in some cases help to prevent the build up of abdominal fat. Every woman will however react differently to taking HRT with many different types of HRT that can be prescribed; transdermal HRT being known to have the least side effects.
Many women experience very positive outcomes of taking HRT with a myriad of symptoms being helped. Renewed energy levels and a more positive mindset can then follow which naturally gives anyone more motivation to tackle their diet and exercise.
It does get increasingly frustrating to try and lose those extra pounds though doesn’t it…
So how can you help yourself with weight gain during the menopause?
- Eat a nutritious, healthy balanced diet.
- Look at tweaking your diet and exercise levels to cope with those changes that your body is naturally going through. Go on nudge them gently in opposite directions…just a little every day!
- Focus on counting the nutrients rather than the calories.
- Avoid faddy diets.
- Don’t skip meals, it becomes harder to achieve those nutritional requirements and to keep that metabolic rate ticking over…think little and often.
- If you feel the need to fast then do a ‘natural’ fast – have your last meal by 5pm (after a day of regular nutritious meals) then don’t eat anything else until 7am the next morning…that way you’re not expecting your body to cope during the day without essential energy and nutrients when it needs it the most. Do make sure you keep hydrated though!
- Have a really good look at what you are eating – unfortunately sometimes you have to accept that certain foods you may have eaten all your life without any side effects might now be causing you to experience bloating or indigestion…incredibly frustrating I know, but worth cutting down or cutting out of your diet altogether. Much better than filling up with wind every day of life or getting that awful burning feeling…wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could stop that happening just by looking at what you are eating? For me it was bread…well anything with flour in really! I realised after a few months that after eating anything with wheat in I would blow up like a balloon, highly uncomfortable, on occasion embarrassing and was ultimately as I found out very easily rectified just by cutting out certain foods. The added benefits…I realised these foods were making me feel sluggish as well so I had extra energy, felt more alert which had the knock on effect of more incentive to exercise…win win!
- Have healthy snacks to hand like almonds, dried fruit such as apricots, apples, carrot sticks & peppers are always good to munch on…do stop groaning…there will be some sort of healthy snack out there that you like!
- Eat fresh rather than processed.
- Reduce caffeine intake and if possible go for decaffeinated, caffeine inhibits the absorption of certain nutrients.
- Reduce alcohol intake — really look at how much you drink every week and seriously don’t binge drink! I’m not telling anyone to stop having the odd G&T just be more aware of what your intake is. At the end of the day we all know that alcohol is empty calories plus, excessive alcohol and obesity are connected to a lot of long term illnesses and cancers, why not try to prevent those by simply moderating your intake…its a no brainer really.
- Hydrate — most folk don’t drink enough water, aim for 2 litres a day
- Keep an eye on your sugar intake and refined carbohydrate intake, but don’t be completely grim, give yourself a tiny treat every day — have something like a bite sized piece of dark chocolate ( 70-75% cocoa) instead of a morning pastry or fruit scone in the afternoon. Oh yes been there done that and know the pitfalls !
- Healthy fats are essential as are complex carbs like whole grain foods, oatmeal, beans, peas. You need all these for energy.
- Fats — you want to eat the unsaturated fats (oils, nuts, oily fish), not saturated (butter, cream, lard, fatty cuts of meat) and avoid trans fats at all costs – they have no nutritional value and are harmful to health, still found in some processed foods, do check labels.
- Have a look at your cooking methods..steaming is better than frying, (helps retain vitamins and minerals.) try poaching instead of frying eggs, grill rather than fry, do stir fry rather than using sauces all the time.
How do you achieve all the above with busy lives…
Be organised…make sure foods are bought and to hand so you don’t get tempted by the odd unhealthy snack! Plan meals in advance and I guarantee if you eat a healthy diet, your body will love you for it. You will start to feel more alert, less sluggish and will definitely have more energy.
With more energy comes more incentive to exercise. If you are experiencing weight gain during the menopause engaging in some form of regular exercise is essential and that goes for all aspects of health. Everyone knows that diet and exercise go hand in hand. It doesn’t have to be grim, I’m not suggesting anyone goes and signs up for the next local triathlon…but if that floats your boat, don’t let me stop you! Finding some sort of exercise you enjoy is key and doing a variety of exercise.
There are those of us who enjoy the more conventional exercise as in running, cycling or swimming but some of you out there find the whole lycra brigade completely off putting! If that’s the case think out of the box…take up salsa dancing, try skipping (tests the pelvic floor too!)…any form of aerobic exercise is beneficial. You have to want to do it though and it has to be enjoyable, that way it becomes part of your life, not a chore and becomes the norm.
Yoga is a great way to get into exercise. It’s a gentle form of movement that helps to promote mobility and heart health. We provide more information on yoga both in our free VIP membership (signup below) and our dedicated menopause retreats.
Quick tips to leave you with…
- Setting realistic goals and changes to diet and exercise which are sustainable, especially when tackling weight gain during the menopause, when there are so many other pressures in life to consider, is key.
- As with any health issue the healthier you are the more exercised you are and the less stressed you are the better your body will cope with any symptoms that occur.
'As with any information developed for Fountain Retreats the information in this post is accurate at time of posting and is for information purposes only. It is not intended to replace or substitute the judgement of any medical professional you may come in contact with. You should always seek advice from your health care professional regarding a medical condition’
About the author...
Author, Qualified Nurse
Ruth is a qualified nurse, gaining her registration and working at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
She is passionate about providing women and employers with evidence based information and support, helping women to make informed decisions about how to manage their menopause and so improve their quality of life.
She has been asked to contribute on several occasions on various media platforms including, Radio 4s Woman’s hour, BBC Radio Scotland, Radio Borders, the BBC Insiders Guide to the Menopause documentary with Kirsty Wark and BBC breakfast.
Ruth is married with three children, three dogs and a cat, loves cycling, playing netball and tennis, spending time with family and friends and has a great sense of humour.
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