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Menopause and Weight Loss: 5 Tips To Help You Stay Healthy and Fit

Updated: Jun 27, 2023


A menopause woman working out

What the hell is happening to my mind and my body?

I don't know about you, but I have asked myself this question since the very first night sweat. If you have not had the pleasure of waking up in the middle of the night feeling like a "convection oven left on broil all night," consider yourself warned! Believe me, it's just a matter of time.


For many women in their 40s or 50s, transitioning into menopause has been a roller coaster experience of sleepless or restless nights, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, irregular cycles, unexplainable mood swings, low energy, weight gain, and the infamous explosion of belly fat often referred to as "menopot" or "menopause belly."


While all of these things are understood aspects of the natural, female aging process, it can be an overwhelming, isolating, and a highly frustrating experience.


Menopause is defined as the permanent cessation of a menstrual cycle for 12 months. Perimenopause is a short period that occurs before menopause. During perimenopause, you still have a menstrual cycle however a number of hormonal changes occur. The decreases in levels of estrogen, progesterone, along with increases in androgen levels, trigger a number of metabolic changes. These hormonal shifts contribute to more intense hunger signals, higher accumulation of abdominal fat, decreases in muscle mass, and slower metabolism.


All these hormonal changes contribute to excessive weight gain in a short period of time.


Environmental changes also contribute to weight gain and metabolic conditions in menopausal women. Unhealthy eating habits, positive energy balance, poor diet quality, Westernized eating pattern (high fat, high sodium, high sugar diet), low dietary fiber, high consumption of processed, fried, or convenience foods, sedentary lifestyle, reduction in daily, physical activity, stress, and lifestyle related chronic health conditions contribute to additional weight gain or metabolic conditions related to overweight or obesity.


The good news is two fold. First, you are not alone. You are not crazy; you are not losing your mind, and technically, nothing is "per se" wrong with you. Secondly, there are simple things you can do to better manage (or alleviate) symptoms, improve your energy, and lose weight.


Diet and physical activity are two critical, modifiable lifestyle factors essential during all stages of life. During perimenopause, it is even more critical to maintain a well-balanced diet and daily, physical activity. Both factors help facilitate better health, sustainable weight loss, improve rest, mood, and mental clarity.


5 Tips to Improve Perimenopause Symptoms and Weight Management:

  1. Eat Fruit and Vegetables: Fruit and vegetables (FV) are essential to a healthy, well-balanced diet. Consuming more fruits and vegetables daily increases your dietary fiber intake, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Antioxidants decrease oxidative stress which directly affects ovarian quality. In addition, dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach and greens are great sources of calcium. Green vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, and kale help to reduce the severity of hot flashes.

  2. Eat Lean Protein (Increase Protein Intake): Protein has a number of functions within the body. One of the main functions of protein is to regulate body processes. Some, but not all, hormones are protein. Protein also helps to increase bone strength and muscle mass. Lean proteins to include can be both animal and/or plant based. Include protein sources like chicken, eggs, fish, turkey, beans, legumes, and lean red meat (<2x per week).

  3. Eat Calcium Rich Foods: After the age of 30, our bodies begin to lose bone. With the decline of estrogen, bone loss is accelerated. Calcium-rich foods will help you keep your bones strong. High calcium sources include low fat milk, low-fat cheese, soy milk, Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, beans, and green, leafy vegetables.

  4. Check Your Vitamin D: Menopausal women are vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D, like calcium, is vital to bone health because it helps maintain the calcium level in the blood. Daily sun exposure enables the body to synthesize vitamin D derived from plant and animal foods. Just 10-20 minutes of daily sun exposure can be sufficient for vitamin D synthesis. If you consume a milk alternative like soy or almond milk, be sure to read the label to make sure the product is fortified with vitamin D. Sources of vitamin D include milk or milk products fortified with vitamin D, orange juice fortified with vitamin D, fortified cereals, egg yolks, and oily fish like salmon, tuna, or sardines. If you need to supplement, consult your doctor about best practices suited for you.

  5. Increase Physical Activity/Strength Training: Physical activity that includes aerobic, strength training, and balance exercises are essential to weight loss, weight maintenance, muscle building, bone mass, core strength, flexibility, and mood. Committing to 150 minutes (30 minutes / 5x per week) of moderate-intensity physical activity each week can help you offset menopausal symptoms, improve quality of sleep, reduce stress, and promote sustainable, weight loss. Remember two things: The best workout is the workout you complete AND you will never out exercise a bad diet. You must have a combination of a well balanced diet and a well balance activity regimen.


References

1. Capasa. Menopause diet: What to eat to help manage symptoms. Cleveland Clinic. April 6, 2023. Accessed June 27, 2023. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/menopause-diet/.


2. Bartosch J. Why am I gaining weight so fast during menopause? and will hormone therapy help? UChicago Medicine. April 24, 2023. Accessed June 27, 2023. https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/womens-health-articles/menopause-weight-gain-hormone-therapy. 3. Lombardo M, Perrone MA, Guseva E, et al. Losing weight after menopause with minimal aerobic training and Mediterranean diet. Nutrients. August 17, 2020. Accessed June 27, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468767/.


4. Chopra S, Sharma KA, Ranjan P, Malhotra A, Vikram NK, Kumari A. Weight management module for Perimenopausal women: A practical guide for gynecologists. Journal of mid-life health. 2019. Accessed June 27, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6947726/.



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