As we age, we lose muscle mass and deposit more fat, and fat is less metabolically active than muscle. So, even with the same calories and same exercise routine, you still gain weight. When you add disrupted sleep, increased stress and hot flashes, it’s no wonder we’re packing a few extra pounds.
Is this normal?
Totally normal! Don’t torture yourself, but keep an eye on it. Extra pounds around the middle put us at risk for heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and arthritis.
What can you do?
Think “healthy” weight, not “ideal” weight. Eat more lean protein, fewer carbs. Drink lots of water, and maybe skip that second glass of wine. Try to move every day (yoga, bike rides, walks with friends). Experts agree that a healthy microbiome can help with digestion and bloat.
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What’s the deal with weight gain during menopause?
If you’re going through menopause and you’ve gained some weight, there are two things we want you to know: You’re totally not alone, and your diet and exercise routines may have absolutely nothing to do with it. On average, women gain one pound per year during menopause. 20% of women gain more than 10 pounds. And, it becomes much harder to lose weight. This is one of those things that just kind of happens. It’s a fact of life.
What causes the weight gain?
To put it simply: as you get older, you lose muscle mass and you deposit more fat. Fat is less metabolically active than muscles, so even if you’re taking in the same number of calories per day and have kept up with your exercise routine, you’ll gain weight. You also may be sleeping less (having to get up to change your sheets and pajamas after a major night sweat cuts into those 8 hours) and stressing more, which doesn’t help either.
So, is this normal?
Weight gain during menopause is actually beyond normal. It’s normal for our bodies to change throughout our lives, and that includes changes in weight. This is one of those times it’s going to change. And, where you gain weight has a lot to do with genetics. There’s no food that makes you gain (or lose) weight in your midsection or anywhere else. It’s completely out of your control.
That doesn’t mean it’s not something to watch. Gaining weight, especially if it’s a lot of weight, can put you at risk for heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis. Talk to your doctor to learn if you may be at risk for any of these.
What can I do about it?
First, we want to reiterate that this is totally normal. Nobody said you were meant to be the same size or wear the same clothes forever, and there’s no point in spending too much time or energy trying. Work on figuring out a healthy weight for yourself. Note: a healthy weight may not be what you think is your “ideal weight.” Eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes lean protein, fat, and carbohydrates like beans, fruits, and lots of vegetables. Drink plenty of water. Have a glass of wine when you want one, but maybe skip the second. Drinking less will also help you sleep better and will decrease your risk of breast cancer.
Exercise is now more important than ever. Remember, your muscle mass is declining, and that affects bone density. Be sure to do some resistance training with weights or bands as part of your routine.