Menopause and perimenopause the years leading up to menopausecause most women to gain weight. Most women will gain about 10 to 15 pounds during their menopausal years, most of it around their abdomen. Women who have experienced early menopause or surgical removal of ovaries may experience more rapid and extreme weight gain. The decline in estrogen produces ache in the joints, hot flushes, headaches and insomnia. Though the fluctuating estrogen and progesterone are the major reasons for this weight gain, other reasons need to be examined as well.
Menopause occurs during mid-life, typically when women are in their late forties. This is the time women are under chronic physical and emotional distress and the resultant damaging effects of cortisone and adrenaline. Managing growing children and demanding careers impact their appetite, metabolism, and fat storage. To meet tight work schedules, they may skip breakfast, but later eat snacks or binge on fast food that are low on nutrition. This may lead to their getting the highly avoidable heavily padded waist and abdomen, and a low self image. They may even use food to feed the depression, anxiety, and frustration that are common during menopause. Depression can make them lethargic, leaving them with no inclination to exercise. Frequent use of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol as stress busters can exacerbate the condition by promoting water retention.
Many women follow a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet for weight loss. This causes their blood sugar levels rise sharply. Insulin is released to bring the levels back within normal ranges. The pancreas is forced to secrete more insulin to keep your glucose level regulated. The excess insulin in the blood neutralizes high blood sugar levels too quickly. The swings in the blood sugar levels can contribute to menopausal symptoms such as mood changes, fatigue and hot flushes. The dip in sugar may exhaust you and you may reach for your next round of chips or snacks. The excess sugar is deposited as fat around your mid-riff. That’s the road-map leading to insulin resistance.
Perimenopause and menopause are the times when women may find their thyroids sluggish and slow, producing symptoms similar to menopause. It’s important at this time to test your blood to assess the thyroid functioning, as thyroid impacts metabolism.
To reverse weight gain after menopause effectively:
Exercise: Don’t forget to exercise. As you get older, your body composition shifts to more fat and less muscle and your metabolism slows down. Include strength training in your exercise routine, as this helps you in building more lean muscle mass and whittle body fat, besides strengthening your bones. Muscle burns more calories than fat does. Aerobic exercise boosts your metabolism and helps you burn fat. If you can’t start a formal exercise program, go for long walks, hiking, gardening and dancing.
Diet: Reduce calories. The number of calories you need for energy decreases as you age. Eating more means you’ll take in more calories, which are converted to fat if you don’t burn them for energy. Although you may think you haven’t changed your eating habits you might find it helpful take a closer look at your diet. You need about 200 fewer calories a day to maintain your weight as you get into your mid- to late 40s, but be careful not to cut back too drastically on calorie intake. Assume you have gained about 6 Kg in six months. For this to happen, you’d have consumed around 270 calories more than you need each day may be it was just one large packet of chips, half a bottle of wine, a small bar of chocolate or a couple of slices of toast and butter.
Nutrition: Eat whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. Try interesting variations of salads to include vegetables, fruits, nuts and cheese. Eating large amounts of high-fat foods adds excess calories, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. Choose fats from healthier sources, such as nuts and olive, canola and peanut oils. Nutrients important to good thyroid function are selenium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and iodine and tyrosine. Flax seeds and walnuts are excellent food sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Tyrosine is present in almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy products, beans, and seeds. Eggs provide high quality protein, vitamin B12, selenium, zinc, iron and omega-3. Whole-grains such as oats, bulgur wheat and brown rice are important sources of selenium.
Instead of treating menopause as a disorder to be cured, it is better to treat it as a natural process a part of being a woman and manage the transition through natural means rather than with hormone replacement therapies that have been linked to stroke and to cancer.