One of the most common concerns of women going through menopause is weight gain. There are many factors that can contribute to weight gain during menopause, not just hormonal factors. Let’s take a look at these factors and how we can stay healthy through menopause.
Hormonal changes are a major factor in menopausal weight gain. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are all hormones that play a role in regulating metabolism and body fat distribution. As women go through menopause, their levels of these hormones change. This can lead to a shift in body fat distribution, with more fat accumulating around the abdomen. Abdominal fat is particularly dangerous because it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. At Body for Life, we use body composition analysis via our bioimpedance monitor, Evolt 360. This helps us understand where your body fat is sitting, and if it is increasing your risk of disease from changes in body fat location.
Metabolic changes also play a role in menopausal weight gain. As women age, their metabolism slows down. This means that their bodies burn fewer calories at rest, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight. To compound the issue, many women become less active as they age, which further slows down their metabolism.
Because this is such a big component to weight management, at Body for Life we actually test your metabolism using a method called indirect calorimetry. It’s a simple 5 minute breath test but it tells us a lot about your metabolism. Not only does our metabolism test tell us about your basal metabolic rate (how much you would burn if you were to lie in bed all day), but also tells us how efficient you are at using energy sources, and which energy source your body uses. This is all really important so that we can personalise your plan to get you back in good health again.
Menopause is a time of significant life changes for many women. Children may leave home, careers may change, and elderly parents may need more care. These changes can lead to changes in diet, activity levels, and stress levels, all of which can contribute to weight gain. Additionally, women may find themselves eating more to cope with stress, which can lead to weight gain over time. Emotional eating is a problem for a lot of people, but we may only see it “catching up” with us during menopause because of the other changes in hormones and metabolism. If you feel like emotional eating is a problem for you, our dietitian’s can help you find a healthier relationship with food again.
Many women going through menopause experience sleep disturbances, such as hot flashes and night sweats. These disturbances can interfere with quality sleep, leading to fatigue and irritability. Poor sleep is linked to weight gain, as it can disrupt hormones that regulate hunger and fullness. In fact, some studies suggest that weight gain during menopause is predominantly due to poor sleep. Additionally, women who are tired may be less likely to engage in physical activity, further contributing to weight gain. So, if you think your sleep is suffering, take steps to fix it before trying to change your diet or your exercise – it will make the rest easier later on!
Managing Menopausal Weight Gain
While menopausal weight gain is common, it is not inevitable. Women can take steps to manage their weight and improve their overall health during this transition. Here are some strategies to consider:
- Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet is essential for managing menopausal weight gain. Women should aim to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Protein in particlar may be the key to maintaining a healthy weight during menopause. However, everyone’s needs are different and getting personalised help through our metabolism testing is a great way to make sure that your individual needs are being addressed.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise is important for maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Women should aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. While any exercise is great, the best type of exercise you for really depends on what your metabolism is doing. From your metabolism test, we can determine the best type of exercise for you, and have a peronal trainer who can help you put it into practice.
- Manage stress: Stress can contribute to weight gain, so it’s important to find healthy ways to manage stress. Some effective strategies include meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and spending time in nature.
- Prioritize sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for managing weight and overall health. Women should aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night and may want to try strategies like keeping the bedroom cool and dark, using relaxation techniques before bed, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening. I even say you should avoid caffeine after lunch, but some people really struggle with that one!
- Consider hormone therapy: Hormone therapy can be effective for managing menopausal symptoms, including weight gain. However, it’s important to discuss the risks and benefits of hormone therapy with your GP or other physician.
Why not start by getting a personalised lifestyle plan with one of our qualified and experienced Dietitian’s? We can tell a lot from that 5 minute breath test, and we can help you put that knowledge into practice. Get in touch with the team at Body for Life today to get started on your health journey.