There it is. The number on the bathroom scale that has been so steady for so long has begun to move... in the wrong direction. As if hot flashes and mood swings weren't enough, weight gain in spite of a healthy diet and moderate exercise is one of the most common menopausal symptoms. Also known as the "middle aged spread", menopausal weight gain does not have to be inevitable. Before you throw your scale out of the bathroom window in a fit of rage, try implementing these simple ways to stop menopausal weight gain in its tracks.
Catch Enough Z's
Getting enough sleep may seem like a strange way to combat weight gain, but studies have shown that women who sleep less than six hours at night not only snack more, they also have more fatigue during the day and have trouble regulating hormones that are linked to hunger and satiety. Getting just seven hours of sleep at night can not only help you have the energy you need to exercise more effectively, it makes your body more effective at sending hunger and fullness signals to your brain.
Balance the Hormones
While some women may feel the need to opt for hormone replacement therapy to balance estrogen and progesterone levels in their body, most menopausal weight gain can be linked to three primary hormones in the body - insulin, cortisol, and adrenaline. Insulin is necessary to break down carbohydrates we consume. Cortisol and adrenaline are hormones released by the body during stressful situations. High levels of stress and diets high in simple carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, processed foods) are more likely to lead to excess fat around the abdomen. Learning to manage stress through breathing, meditation, and exercise and eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and protein can balance these primary hormones and combat that expanding waistline.
Hit the Weights
As a basic rule in the body, muscle burns more calories than fat. Yet 60 percent of adults aren't physically active enough. Bone and muscle loss also dramatically increases with menopause leaving many women weaker, even if they are physically active. The answer lies in strength training. Not only does it prevent bone loss, it increases muscle mass which in turn speeds up your metabolism. If you have never lifted weights before, consult a doctor before you begin and consider hiring a personal trainer or fitness and rehabilitation expert who can help you maintain your form and avoid any injuries.
Re-examine Your Diet
With hundreds of nutritional diary apps on the market, it is easier than ever to keep track of what, when and how much you are eating. Even those who claim to eat relatively healthy often find shocking gaps when they begin writing down what they put in their mouths. With so much conflicting nutritional information on the internet and in books, consider discussing your results with a nutritional counselor who can help you maximize your food intake.
Menopausal weight gain does not have to be inevitable. With a few strategic changes to your routine, you can not only keep your waistline from expanding, you will have the energy you need to enjoy this time in your life.