Did you know that 30% of menopause women are overweight and the majority is obese? So does this mean that menopausal period has something to do with your weight gain?
In this article, I want to share with you relevant information as to why menopausal women are gaining weight and 5 tips that can help you maintain a healthier figure.
First, let’s discuss the link between menopause and weight gain.
What Increases the Risk of Weight Gain in Menopausal Women?
Some women noticed that their clothes suddenly fit more snugly as they approach the menopausal age, which occurs anytime between 40s and 50s.
So be mindful of your weight as you approach the menopausal age. Get your baseline weight today and then weigh yourself every month. Why? It’s because many contributing factors make menopausal women gain weight, which needs your attention.
Primarily, hormonal imbalance takes most of the blame. When you’re in menopause, your hormones get out of whack, and this results in many physiological changes including the way your body stores fats. Mostly, you will notice that more fats are stored in your abdomen, around your hips and thighs.
However, weight gain is not caused by hormonal imbalance alone. Aging, lifestyle and genetic factors must also be considered. Aging naturally decreases your muscle mass, which consequently reduces the rate at which your body uses calories. As you grow older, you’re likely to be less physically active too. All of these contribute to weight gain.
How about your genetic factors? Kindly check on your parents and close relatives if they often have extra weight around their abdomen. It means it is in your genes and you are likely to gain weight the same way.
Also, lack of sleep, sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise) and unhealthy diet are other factors that increase women’s risk of gaining weight even more so when they reach the menopausal age.
The question is “Is there anything you can do to curb weight gain during the menopausal period?” Definitely yes! Here are 5 tips to curb weight gain in menopausal women:
The first thing that you can immediately do is cut down 200 calories from your overall daily intake.
1. Cut down 200 calories from your daily intake
The recommended calorie intake varies from one person to another, as we have to consider some factors including your height, weight and physical activity. For adult women, the recommended calorie intake per day is between 2000- 2400. You may also check online for some apps that can compute your daily calorie requirement or a calorie calculator. It’s best if you find something that would require you to enter relevant data such as your age, gender, weight, height and exercise level. You may check our article on 10 Highly Popular Weight Loss Apps for Free for phone apps that you may use. But the best thing to do is consult a healthcare practitioner for a personlised and thorough health assessment.
The main idea is you need to cut down some calories from your regular intake when you reach the menopausal age. If you’re trying to maintain your weight, the safest deduction to your calorie intake is 200 calories a day when you’re in your 40s or 50s. If you’ve been taking 2000 calories when you were in your 30s, then make it 1800 calories now that you are approaching menopause. But if you’re trying to lose weight, your health practitioner might recommend a different diet plan for you according to your individual need.
Why do you need to do this? As mentioned earlier, your hormones, lifestyle, genetic factor and the aging process can affect your body’s way of storing fats and ability to use calories as an energy source that eventually results in weight gain.
However, this doesn’t mean you’re going to starve yourself or resort to crash dieting. You can eat the same quantity of food but it’s the quality that matters.
Choose foods that are high in water, fiber and protein content but are low in calorie and refined foods. For further details, you may read our article on 3 Recommended Foods for Healthy Weight Loss Without Crash Dieting
It’s not only dietary factors that you need to be concerned of when we talk about menopausal weight gain but you also need to resolve your sleeping issues.
2. Don’t be sleep deprived
With all the unpleasant signs and symptoms of menopause, especially the hot flashes, you might experience sleeping problems. In fact, 61% of menopausal women complain about difficulty of sleeping.
But why is sleep deprivation significant in menopausal weight gain? Actually, lack of sleep cause an imbalance between your hunger(ghrelin) and satiety (leptin) hormones. Your ghrelin increases as your leptin decreases when you are sleep deprived. Therefore, your food cravings spike up. Since the brain is a sugar eater, it will keep bugging you to eat more sweets. Most people who haven’t slept well usually eat an additional 300 calories in a day.
So how can you help yourself prevent this ghrelin-leptin imbalance? The answer is pretty obvious and simple… sleep! When we talk about sleep, it means to complete the 8-hour sleep requirement. Some people feel satisfied with 5-7 hours though, so whatever makes you feel that you have slept well and adequately works fine. Besides, everybody has unique biological rhythms.
Setting a relaxing bedtime routine can help you fall asleep with ease and achieve deep sleep. Take a warm bath before sleeping to relieve muscle tension. Make your bed comfortable – no other things on the bed except blanket and pillows. Keep all gadgets out of your bed or bedroom as much as possible to prevent sleep distractions. And keep the lights off, as darkness promotes the release of the sleep hormones melatonin, which promotes a healthier fat burning metabolism.
The next thing that you can do to avoid menopausal weight gain is keep your stress hormone regulated.
3. Find stress relief
Since we are talking about relieving your stress, let me ask you a question: “What’s stressing you out?”
The signs and symptoms of menopause are already stressful enough. So it is too much beating already if more things adding to your stress. Managing your stress is not just a one-day job. You have to deal with it every day. Otherwise, your stress hormones will be at the sustained elevated level, which will make menopausal weight gain even worse.
When your stress hormone level is high, it will tell your body to convert the blood sugar (comes from the food that you eat) into fat and store it in your body as part of your survival mechanism. It’s like your body will hoard sugar in the form of fat as it is falsely assuming that your body is under threat. It means when your cortisol level is high, your body anticipates that anytime soon you will need the extra source of energy to fight back such as when you need to run fast, carry something heavy or any emergency physical activities to survive. However, there’s no threat at all but your stress hormone remains elevated for a long time because your stressors are not pacified. Consequently, you will accumulate more and more fats.
Now, how will you deal with this stress related menopausal weight gain? Let’s focus here on your daily sources of stress that’s making you gain weight. It can be your work, relationship, financial issues, chronic illness, emotional problems, traumatic events, or a major life change (i.e. divorce, death in the family). Some of these stressors can’t be changed like for instance the loss of a loved one. However, you can reduce the impact of these stressors through some relaxation techniques.
Music is an effective stress reliever. We do have different music preferences, though try to start listening to calm and relaxing music like classical music. It can help reduce your cortisol (stress hormone) level, decrease your blood pressure and relax your brain and body. You may also take a little break and call a loved one or maybe a friend. Sometimes, you just need that reassuring voice telling you “Everything will be fine.”
Deep breathing exercise offers stress relief too. It helps to oxygenate your blood, and it relaxes and clears your mind. Some people do yoga, meditation, tai chi, or qigong, which are good physical and mental exercises.
Moreover, you might consider drinking a cup of tea as well! Tea is rich in antioxidants and amino acid theanine that have a calming effect on your nervous system. Above all, laugh it off! Find ways to laugh more each day, as laughter triggers the release of endorphins, a natural body chemical that can improve your mood and decrease cortisol level. For more stress relief tips, click here.
Now let’s talk about boosting your metabolism, which is significant in maintaining a healthier weight.
4. Boost your metabolism
So what is the role of metabolism in your weight anyway? When we speak of metabolism, we are referring to your body’s ability to burn calories and use it as an energy source to perform its daily function. When you age and become menopaused, your metabolic rate declines.
Why does your metabolism slow down? Aside from hormonal imbalance, losing muscle mass while gaining more fats when you’re older also plays a significant role that we shouldn’t ignore. Muscles are the primary calorie burners, so when you have less of it, then you’re metabolic rate is affected.
So how can you boost your metabolism? Move more, be physically active! It is true that dieting can help you control your calorie intake, but your body’s power to burn calories and fats relies on how physically active you are. Hence, most health experts consider exercise as the key player to accelerate your metabolism.
Now let me ask you this, is it really difficult to commit yourself to exercise 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) every week? All right, let’s do the math and make things look easy for you. When you equally distribute the 2 hours and 30 minutes to 7 days, it gives you 21 minutes. This means you only need 21 minutes of exercise a day to keep your metabolism humming and maintain a healthy weight, but it could be more if you’re trying to lose weight so ask your health practitioner about it.
If you can sit hours in front of your computer, it’s not taking much time to brisk walk 10 minutes around your house, upstairs and down, or around your workplace during break time. You may also take your dog out for a 10-15 minutes walk. Maybe you love cycling, swimming, or aerobic dancing? Or… play with your kids and chase each other – isn’t that an instant run? Again, just 10-15 minutes each physical activity; do it twice a day.
And finally, let’s talk about your hormone estrogen, which is the primary hormone affected by menopausal period and is said to be contributing to your weight gain.
5. Seek for help to restore estrogen balance
You have so many upsetting signs and symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and night sweats… and what’s the main culprit? What’s causing the havoc inside your body? It’s your estrogen hormone that has gone out of balance. Worse of all is that it’s the same hormone that’s making it difficult for you to maintain a healthier figure.
When your estrogen is at a normal level, it helps in keeping you lean by boosting the production of your insulin, the hormone that regulates your blood sugar (glucose). Normally functioning insulin delivers a small amount of blood sugar to your liver, a large amount to your muscles for energy source and little to none to fat storage (converting sugar to fat).
However, when your estrogen is too high, it strains the cells that produce insulin causing insulin resistance. Your insulin’s delivery system gets out of order. Instead of delivering glucose to the liver and muscles, your glucose remains in the bloodstream and is stored as fat. Then, your fat tissues expand up to four times to accommodate the excessive glucose.What about when estrogen is lower than the normal level, which happens to menopausal women? Sadly, a low estrogen level doesn’t spare you from gaining weight. Lack of estrogen slows down your metabolic rate or your ability to use calorie from foods as working energy. It makes your body less efficient in using up the sugar in your blood stream resulting in storage of blood sugar to your fat cells. Therefore, whether your estrogen level is high or low, the endpoint is weight gain. What you need is to keep it balanced – at a normal level.
How will you restore a normal estrogen level in menopausal women? So we are dealing here with a low estrogen level. Of course, the main goal of any health intervention must be to increase your estrogen level until it’s within normal range. You may add some foods to your diet that can boost your estrogen level naturally such as sesame seeds, flax seeds, carrots, garlic, garbanzo beans, broccoli, winter squash, cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, dried dates, raspberries, peaches, strawberries and olive oil. Herbs like alfalfa sprouts, ginseng, and black cohosh are estrogen boosters too! You may also want to try using Shatavari Powder, an Ayurvedic herb that is popular in relieving menopausal signs and symptoms. All of these foods and herbs contain phytoestrogen, a natural substance that mimics the functions of estrogen.
Another option that you have is to see a health practitioner expert in hormonal balancing. Besides, it’s always necessary to undergo certain diagnostic tests first so we will be able to determine what specific hormonal imbalance is causing your signs and symptoms and whether your weight gain is really caused by low estrogen level. To help you decide how you want your hormonal imbalance to be managed, check our Natural Hormonal Balancing Program here.
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