As menopause approaches and metabolism begins to slow, you may notice a few additional pounds showing up on the scale. However, this doesn’t always have to be the case. There are steps that you can take to stop and reverse weight gain.
Menopause causes a great number of hormone changes. As you near the “big change,” estrogen levels begin to wane. Then, all at once, they decline very dramatically. These swings in hormones can make you more susceptible to weight gain, but it’s not hormone changes alone that are responsible. Decreased physical activities as well as inherited genetic factors can make you more prone to weight gain during perimenopause and menopause.
Understanding The Risk
Typically, perimenopausal and menopausal women get less exercise than premenopausal women, and reduced physical activity at any age can cause weight gain. On top of that, women lose muscle mass as they age,which means that your body composition shifts to more fat and less muscle and you don’t burn calories as well or as much as you did in younger days. (Muscle burns more calories when your body is at rest than fat does. If your body composition is more fat than muscle, you’ll burn fewer calories.) If you continue eating the way you always have—even if it’s a healthy, balanced diet, you may be eating too much. As you get older, your body doesn’t need as many calories as it once did, and will store extra calories as fat.
If your parents or other immediate family members carry excess weight in their abdomens, the likelihood that you will, too is higher.
Emotional stress (especially from changes in life situations like divorce, loss of a loved one, or separation from children) can contribute to additional weight gain during perimenopausal and menopausal years.
If you gain weight during this time, you may be increasing your risk for additional health problems, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. If you’re at risk for and develop any of these conditions, you also increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Carrying extra weight may also increase your chance of developing certain cancers, including breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
Weight-loss strategies are not any different during menopausal years than nonmenopausal years. You can use weight-loss basics to help prevent, stop, or reverse menopausal weight gain, including the following strategies:
The more you move, the more calories you burn and the more muscle you build. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity and include a strength training routine at least two times a week.
You may notice that even when you keep up a physical fitness routine and eat well, you’re still gaining weight. As you get older, your metabolism slows, which means you need fewer calories per day. Women in their 50s need about 200 fewer calories than women in their 30s and 40s.
Talk with your doctor or a nutrition specialist about developing an eating program that will ensure you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need, but with fewer calories so that you can maintain or lose weight in a healthly manner.
In some situations, exercise and eating well aren’t enough. If your doctor thinks it’s the right fit for you, he or she may prescribe prescription weight-loss medicine or even weight-loss surgery. However, these treatment options aren’t meant for people seeking to lose just 10 or 15 pounds; they’re intended for obese people with chronic medical conditions who have had no success at weight loss with diet and exercise alone.