By the time you have hit your mid-to-late 40s, you probably noticed that instead of just having an occasional mood swing or hot flash, your favorite pair of jeans are beginning to feel a bit snugger. It is not your imagination.
On average, a woman will gain about four and a half pounds when she begins that part of her life called menopause during her 40s. Unfortunately this is something that won’t slow down, either. A woman will continue to pack on around a pound and a half every year during their 50s and 60s.
The reason this happens is because we lose muscle mass as we age. Because muscles burn more calories than fat, your metabolism will slow down, and this causes you to start putting on weight. Beginning around the age of 30 you lose about a half pound of muscle every year. That number will rise to about one pound by the time you are 50.
As you go through menopause, you might notice that even though the number on the scale might not be rising a lot but the weight you have gained will accumulate around your waist. This leaves you looking like you have a beer belly. During menopause the ovaries will stop producing estrogen. The only place that it gets generated is in the fat cells of the abdomen. Because of this, your body will naturally begin to store fat in this area trying to get estrogen. This is why some people call the stomach the third ovary.
This fat is called visceral fat and is toxic. It produces the stress hormone cortisol and inflammatory proteins called cytokines. These chemicals cause your body to produce more insulin that ramps up the appetite but cause fat to be stored in fat cells. This causes you to gain even more weight around your waist and could cause you to become resistant to insulin. This is the main factor that causes type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Yes, this sounds horrible, but there are ways you can reverse the upward spiral of your scale. Here are a few ways how:
1. Crank It up
If you live a rather sedentary life, begin exercising. Find a program that will help you to shed the pounds. It can also help with some menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. If you are active, crank things up some. The easiest way to achieve this is by doing some high-intensity interval training. This is when you do short periods of intense physical exercise along with longer recovery times. Postmenopausal women who do just ten minutes of HIIT five times each week could lose two times as much weight when compared to women who do traditional exercises such as walking. If you already walk every day or so, just add a few hills into your routine.
2. Resistance Training
You need to lift weights if you want to lose weight as you age. This is the main key to help reverse the muscle loss that wreaks havoc on your metabolism. One study done with menopausal women in their 50s and 60s saw the ones who did an hour of strength training two times each week for a total of eight weeks reduced their body fat more than the control group. They also said they had less pain and felt better. If you have tried strength training before and it doesn’t work for you, think about trying yoga. Yoga gives the same benefits as weight training. It can also help relieve hot flashes, too.
3. Be Careful of What You Eat
Eating a low fat diet that includes five servings of vegetables and fruits along with six servings of whole grains will help you lose weight easier than normal dieting. Women who are going through menopause need to keep their fat intake to less than 20 percent. The majority of that needs to come from good fats like avocados, fish, or olive oil. Begin your meal with protein and vegetables and save the starches for last. This can reduce your insulin and blood sugar levels and this will help you feel fuller longer.
4. Don’t Eat after 7 P.m
Intermittent fasting or alternate day fasting could work, too. Alternate day fasting is when you eat the way you normally would one day and then drastically reduce calories the next. People who cut their calorie intake to between 750 and 1100 a day for five day every month for a total of three months lost more fat around their waist. They also improved their blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure. This might be hard for some people to stick to so just try to eat during 12 hours of the day like between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. After that place the kitchen on lockdown. You will get the same benefits as intermittent fasting without getting too hungry.
5. Get Plenty of Sleep
Not getting enough sleep feel awful but it can lead to weight gain with time. Women who sleep under five hours each night are at a higher risk of putting on about 30 pounds of weight in a 16 year time span. Not getting enough sleep will cause the hunger hormones to go crazy. It will lower your leptin levels. Leptin helps to suppress your appetite. Not enough sleep will increase ghrelin and this increases your appetite. If getting enough sleep is caused by menopausal hot flashes, you could try a short course of cognitive behavior therapy. This type of counseling teaches you behavioral techniques that help you sleep. Postmenopausal and menopausal women that used this technique had a great reduction of insomnia about three months later. The migraine drug gabapentin, antidepressants like escitalopram, venlafaxine, or low dose paroxetine, or hormone replacement therapy are all options you need to talk to your doctor about.