Weight gain is fairly common during menopause.
Recently, we did an Instagram poll and found that quite a few women were struggling with weight gain – especially in the abdominal area. I’m here to tell you that that’s completely normal!
Menopause often leads to hormonal changes, loss of muscle mass, poor sleep, and insulin resistance. These effects are likely to increase the risk of weight gain, sadly even during perimenopause.
Here are some common contributing factors which influence weight gain:
- Hormonal changes – this includes both elevated and very low levels of estrogen
- Sleep troubles – this is often linked to weight gain
- Increased insulin resistance – it’s common to become insulin resistant as you age
- Loss of muscle mass – again, linked to hormonal changes, aging processes and decreased physical activity.
The good news is that there is a lot you can do about it.
How to keep your weight in check
1. Have a balanced diet
Good eating habits help balance hormones and counterbalance the weight gain during menopause. There is no one-size-fits-all diet, so it’s up to you to experiment with the type of foods that work for your body. Consulting a Dietician or a Nutrition Therapist is always a good idea when you struggle on your own.
Certain foods can help relieve the symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flushes, poor sleep and low bone density:
- Dairy products – essential for bone health. Unless you’re intolerant or allergic to dairy, dairy is great for you. It contains calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and vitamins D and K. However, some people are sensitive to the casein protein found in milk that is not easily absorbed by the body and can remain undigested in the gut, where it produces toxins and mucus that stop the absorption of nutrients. If you fall into that category, dairy is something you’d want to avoid during menopause.
- Healthy fats (such as omega-3 fatty acid) – fatty fish, such as mackerel, salmon and anchovies, and seeds like flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds – these are known to benefit women going through
- Whole grains – linked to reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and premature death. These include fibre and B vitamins, such as thiamine, niacin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid. All good sources include whole-grain foods such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread, barley, quinoa, and rye.
- Fruits and veggies – these are packed with good vitamins and minerals, while being high in volume and low in calories. The best options are all green veggies, especially cruciferous vegetables, and dark berries. Red and yellow foods, such as peppers, tomatoes, dried fruits and carrots, are rich in vitamin A and can significantly reduce menopausal bleeding. Vitamin B, which is found in green leafy vegetables, helps with fatigue and gives your liver an extra push with detoxifying excess estrogen.
- Quality protein – eggs, meat, fish, legumes, dairy and protein powders. A diet high in proteins will make up for the decreased muscle mass and bone strength which happens due to the decline in estrogen. The recommended dose for women over 50 is 0.45–0.55 grams of protein per pound (1–1.2 grams per kg) of body weight daily.
Get the right supplements – getting all vitamins and nutrients through diet only isn’t always easy. Supplements such as Meno Blend can be the perfect solution when you’re low on vitamin C, B3, B5, B6, D or calcium. Meno Blend contains all of these and its vanilla flavour makes it a great addition to smoothies and shakes.
2. Know what foods to avoid
Certain foods and drinks contribute to symptoms such as hot flushes and poor sleep so these are best avoided.
- Processed carbs and sugars – consuming too many simple carbohydrates raises your blood sugar rapidly which over time may lead to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome – both of which are causing more hot flushes.
- Salty foods – High dietary sodium intake is associated with low bone mass. If you consume over 2 grams of salt per day that increases the risk of low bone mineral density by 28%. So, easy on the crisps and salted peanuts!
- Alcohol and caffeine – Alcohol is generally known for making hot flushes worse and. A study shows that the severity of the hot flushes increases with the increased consumption of caffeine and alcohol. Another study shows that caffeine might actually make hot flushes better. The best thing you can do is experiment and see how your unique body reacts to these. Both of these substances tend to impact sleep negatively so be careful with the amount you consume.
- Spicy foods – when we did our IG poll, many of you shared how much you’re struggling with anxiety. Research has found that spicy foods make both anxiety and hot flushes worse. Sticking to milder foods is a safer option.
3. Exercise often
Regular physical activity not only helps you feel better, but it also helps your body balance estrogen levels. Estrogens are a group of hormones that include estrone, estradiol and estriol. The female body synthesises these estrogenic hormones in the ovaries, adrenal glands and adipose tissue.
Changes in estrogen synthesis occur during the phases of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause, and these changes are partly influenced by physical activity. Many women try to deal with the symptoms of menopause by increasing the estrogen levels in their body through HRT (hormone replacement therapy), which includes synthetic estrogens administered alone or in combination with a progestin. However, before switching to such therapy, which may increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and clots, it is good to consider increasing physical activity.
According to a study, moderate physical activity has a positive psychological effect that can reduce or completely eliminate the need for HRT. The results of an eight-year study show that physically active women who have already reached menopause suffer less from stress, anxiety and depression compared to menopausal women who don’t exercise.
Evidence indicates that a lifestyle with regular exercise improves postmenopausal women’s health and wellbeing, fitness and overall quality of life. The results show that women experience fewer hot flushes and improved mood. Overall, women are feeling better while their health risks decrease.
So, go on and include more exercise in your daily routine. You’ll feel better and you’ll combat the weight gain during menopause! Low-impact activities such as cycling, swimming, dancing, walking or yoga, can be your best options if you experience aches and pains in your hips or knees. You can try weight lifting too or Pilates.
Not only will your muscles and bones thank you, but you’ll be overflowing with happy hormones!