Changes In Oestrogen Hormone
While its true that a drop in the hormone oestrogen at menopause changes the way your body stores fat, experts say you can avoid gaining more fat during your middle years. Where you once may have gained weight around your hips and thighs, after menopause it tends to move to your waistline. We go from being a pear shape with our weight mainly on our hips to an apple, where we put on weight around the middle, explains Associate Professor Amanda Vincent, president of the Australasian Menopause Society.
An apple shape doesnât only make your waistband tighter, its also a more dangerous type of fat, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis and depression. That fat raises cholesterol and triglycerides and makes you less able to process glucose properly, says Professor Lauren Williams, Griffith University Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics, making it clear why weight maintenance in middle age is important to a long, healthy life.
The good news is that Williams research showed that only 40 per cent of menopausal women gain weight, and more often than not, this weight gain is preventable with lifestyle change. My studies also showed a trend towards emotional eating in women who gained weight in menopause, and an increased likelihood of working full-time, which led to buying more meals outside of the home, she says.
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How To Balance Ghrelin Levels
If you have a sneaking suspicion your ghrelin levels are in need of some TLC, here are a couple of ways to balance them:
- Eat adequate amounts of protein. Protein helps you feel full and should be consumed with every meal. Studies show how eating protein promotes healthy ghrelin levels.
- Avoid sugar as much as possible. As you can see by now, consuming too much sugar disrupts hormonal balance, making weight loss seem an impossible feat. Be sure to read labels. If an item contains high-fructose corn syrup, dont buy it. A 2013 study published in Nutritional Diabetes shows how high-fructose corn syrup is one of the primary culprits of imbalance when it comes to hormones and weight gain.
Eating To Achieve And Maintain A Healthy Weight
For women who are not overweight, the general advice on healthy eating is outlined in the NHMRC Australian Dietary Guidelines .
Evidence is strengthening that consuming a wide variety of nutritious foods and nutrients reduces the risk of chronic disease.
For women who are overweight or obese, the Australian Obesity Guidelines recommend an energy deficit of 2500 kilojoules per day with a dietary plan tailored to the individual .
The debate about which macronutrient dietary strategy is best to lose body fat is ongoing and requires more research. Some recent literature;supports the concept that individuals can lose body fat successfully, independent of macronutrient ratios, as long as they are able to sustain an energy deficit relative to their energy output .
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Healthy Ageing And Women
According to the World Health Organization, healthy ageing is influenced by a number of factors such as the presence of diseases, injuries and age-related changes .
For women at midlife, it can be difficult to separate the effects of ageing from the effects of menopause. Ageing is associated with weight gain in both women and men. Weight gain during and after menopause is associated both with lifestyle factors and the physiological changes of ageing, as well as with the hormonal changes of menopause.
As women age, they can promote healthy ageing by:
- monitoring menopausal symptoms and other body changes and getting advice early
- eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight
- engaging in physical activity
- regulating sleep patterns
Types Of Foods That Can Make Menopause Worse
Diet can impact a womans menopause symptoms in both a positive and negative way, says Best. Eliminating, or cutting back on, the following things can help improve how you feel.;
Eat More Whole Foods While Cutting Back On Ultra Processed Items
“It is important to focus on including an abundance of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and plant-based protein sources like tofu, beans and lentils and small amounts of heart-healthy unsaturated fats like nuts, seeds and olive oil,” says Dr. Mittal. And while some processed foods are okay, it’s best to limit ones that don’t add much value to your day. “Limit ultra-processed foods that provide convenience, but most of the time do not offer much nutritional value but pack a lot of calories. Frequently, sugar-sweetened beverages, yes even that favorite treat from your local drive through coffee shop, are sources of added sugar, often leading to exceeding the World Health Organization recommendation of limiting added sugar for women to 25 grams daily.”
Keep Portions In Check And Time Your Meals Right
Your metabolism has slowed down by the time you hit menopause with some research suggesting it burns a couple hundred calories fewer a day. You can very quickly avoid 200 calories, but that can also very quickly add up if you dont reduce the number of calories you consume, says;Christine Palumbo, RD, a nutrition expert in Chicago.
Its also this time in your life, Palumbo notes, when you may be easing up from the daily duties of preparing meals for your family, and you just want to take a break from the kitchen. She has cooked for 25 years, and is sick of it, and she just wants to go out to eat, says Palumbo. What happens then is that you will inevitably eat twice as many calories as you need at that meal, and its often accompanied by alcohol, which is also associated with abdominal weight gain. Order appetizers as entrees and ask for a to-go container for leftovers when you do indulge in a large main course.
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Part 2 Of 3: Slowing Weight Gain With Exercise
Menopause And Weight Gain
Many women report noticing weight gain during menopause. Menopause is a natural change that affects all women at some point in their lives.;
During menopause, the body undergoes many different changes and hormonal shifts. These shifts, combined with sleeplessness and increased stress levels, can lead to weight gain.;
However, there are strategies we can put in place to try and minimise the effect of these changes on our weight. This guide explores evidence-based information on what causes menopause-related weight gain and ways to manage it.
The body goes through significant changes during menopause, so its important to be kind to ourselves and focus on self-care. Although weight is one marker of health, our mental health, fitness, and happiness are equally important. Focusing on those factors will make managing any potential weight gain easier.;
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Lifestyle Problems That Contribute To Weight Gain In Menopauseand How To Solve Them
Step one in preventing menopausal weight gain is bringing your hormones into balance as best you can. Check out this article on balancing 4 hormones to lose weight;to learn the dietary and lifestyle changes you can do to balance your estrogen, insulin, cortisol, and leptin levels.
Step two is addressing the lifestyle changes that happen to coincide with the age many women enter or experience menopause. These lifestyle factors can exacerbate menopausal weight gain; if you want to prevent gaining weight in menopause, check to make sure youre combatting these five lifestyle problems below!
How Can I Stop Menopause Weight Gain
For those just who are just beginning to enter perimenopause or menopause and looking for ways to stop the weight gain before it takes over, there are thankfully some simple tips out there.;
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, co-author The Menopause Diet Plan, A Natural Guide to Managing Hormones, Health, and Happiness , explained to TODAY that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to avoiding menopause belly fat. However, after spending decades observing women and their experiences with the change, she shared some insights that can help.
Ward suggests switching to a plant-based diet. More specifically, A balanced eating plan rich in plant foods supplies the right mix of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. She says this will promote better health in women, particularly those ages 45 and older who may be going through the menopause transition.
If nixing meat entirely doesnt appeal to you, Ward also recommends the Mediterranean diet and says it may even help women experience fewer menopause symptoms. In this case, the idea is to eat meals rich in whole, non-processed foods, including nuts, seeds, whole grains, healthy fats like olive oil, and moderate portions of protein from things like beans, eggs, dairy products, fish, and chicken.;
Recent studies have shown that combining both ideas for a plant-based Mediterranean diet is especially beneficial for weight loss and boosting heart health, so you might want to give them both a try!;
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Add Exercise To Your Daily Routine
As women age, your metabolism naturally slows down and you dont burn as many calories at rest as you did in your twenties or thirties. Weight gain occurs when we intake more calories than we burn through our base resting metabolism and through exercise. Since your metabolism is naturally decreasing as you age, you must increase your aerobic or cardiovascular exercise to maintain your ideal weight. Aim for twenty to thirty minutes of aerobic exercise five days of the week; if you are just beginning to add exercise to your daily routine, aim for two or three days of the week and increase your weekly sessions by one per week until you reach five days a week.
Adding strength or resistance training is also another means of fighting weight gain during menopause. Even at rest, your body is buring calories; a pound of muscle tissue burns far more calories at rest than a pound of fat tissue, creating an overall boost to your metabolism. Strength and resistance training will add muscle mass to your body while creating a leaner and more sculpted physique. And strength training doesnt just build muscle tissue it increases bone density, too, helping to prevent osteoporosis as you age.
Once you have an established exercise routine, dont be afraid to try new and different types of cardiovascular exercise. Varying your cardio routine will keep exercise interesting and will challenge different muscle groups and improve your overall fitness.
Lifestyle Changes May Not Always Be Enough To Control Biologically Driven Body Changes
You spend hours in the gym every day. You eat nothing but grilled chicken, fish, and salads. Yet the numbers on the scale don’t budge or worse, they slowly creep up, along with your waist measurement.
Welcome to menopause.
“The change” actually does bring changes for many women, including weight gain that can resist even the most diligent efforts to reverse it, says Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.
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Why Does Menopause Weight Gain Happen
Healthline reports that changes in hormone levels, especially low estrogen levels, during menopause can lead to fat gain, specifically visceral fat in the belly area. This is because estrogen plays a vital role in fat storage and distribution.
Another factor of menopausal weight gain, according to Mayo Clinic, is aging. As the body ages, it naturally loses muscle mass while fat increases. This results in a slowed metabolism because the body burns calories slower with less muscle.
So, the combination of hormonal changes and the aging process is usually what contributes to menopausal weight gain. But other factorslike genetics, lack of exercise, not enough sleep, and unhealthy eatingmay play a role. The cause will vary from woman to woman.
Why Weight Gain Often Happens After Menopause
What is it about menopause that makes it so hard to keep off the weight? It’s likely a mix of factors related to menopause and aging.
The impact of estrogen. In animal studies, estrogen appears to help control body weight. With lower estrogen levels, lab animals tend to eat more and be less physically active. Reduced estrogen may also lower metabolic rate, the rate at which the body converts stored energy into working energy. It’s possible the same thing happens with women when estrogen levels drop after menopause. Some evidence suggests that estrogen hormone therapy increases a woman’s resting metabolic rate. This might help slow weight gain. Lack of estrogen may also cause the body to use starches and blood sugar less effectively, which would increase fat storage and make it harder to lose weight.
Other age-related factors. As women age, many other changes happen that contribute to weight gain. For example:
- You’re less likely to exercise. Sixty percent of adults aren’t active enough, and this increases with age.
- You lose muscle mass, which lowers your resting metabolism, making it easier to gain weight.
- The rate at which you can use up energy during exercise declines. To use the same energy as in the past and achieve weight loss, you may need to increase the amount of time and intensity you’re exercising, no matter what your past activity levels were.
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First What Is Menopause
Menopause marks the end of a womans menstrual cycles. It is defined as a full 12 months without a menstrual period for women over the age of 40.2 While the average age in North America is around 52, the hormonal changes can start in a womans early 40s and last into her 60s.3
Research shows that the timing of menopause is a complex mix of genetics, ethnicity, geography, socio-economic status, and lifestyle factors. 4
The symptoms of menopause are well known: hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, brain fog, headache, disrupted sleep, vaginal dryness, bloating, and more. Unfortunately, weight gain and increased body fat, especially around the abdomen, are very common complaints.5
Its estimated that most women, without changing anything in their diet or lifestyle, gain an average of 2 to 5 pounds during the menopausal transition. However, some gain much more than this.6
Risk Factors Of Menopausal Obesity
Obesity in menopausal women is a result of several modifiable and nonmodifiable factors. Nonmodifiable factors comprise of physiological factors, whereas psychosocial and lifestyle-related behaviors are categorized as modifiable risk factors, as depicted in . Physiological risk factors such as chronological aging, slower basal metabolic rate , hormonal fluctuations, and the presence of metabolic disorders affect the pace of weight gain. Hormonal fluctuations experienced during the transition are strongly associated with psychological distress. Women generally deal with distress by indulging in unhealthy eating behavior. Excessive caloric intake coupled with an overall sedentary lifestyle is conventionally associated with weight gain in menopausal women. The key factors driving the prevalence of obesity in menopausal women are briefly discussed below:
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Stick To Whole Grains And Greens Stay Hydrated And Exercise
For most of my mother’s life, she was able to keep to a healthy weight with little effort, but perimenopause changed that. She was surprised to see that she was gaining weight.
My mom wasn’t alone in this. Weight gain during perimenopause is a concern for a lot of women. So I reached out to Dr. Barb Depree, director of the Women’s Midlife Services at Holland Hospital and a member of HealthyWomen’s Women’s Health Advisory Council to find out how to manage this concern.
“The approach to weight maintenance in the menopause transition doesn’t sound much different than other times, generally speaking,” said DePree, “but the effort required is increased.”
How perimenopause impacts weight gain
During perimenopause which typically starts around age 40 your estrogen levels start to fluctuate, so your body starts to look for an estrogen replacement and finds one in fat, which produces estrone, the weakest version of the three types of estrogen, which also include estradiol and estriol.
“Fat is a source of estrogen,” DePree said. “So the body is very efficient in providing a ‘replacement’ . . . the body deposits fat very readily, especially in the midsection.”
Food and nutritional supplements can’t replace estradiol, the strongest of the three forms of estrogen. The only way to get it back is with hormone replacement therapy, which comes with some health risks.
What to eat and why
The first thing women should do is to take a look at the foods that make up their diet.