As you hit your menopausal years (mid-to-late 40s), you may notice that besides battling the occasional hot flash, your favourite pair of jeans are also starting to feel noticeably more sung – particularly around the waist. You’re not alone. Many studies have found that due to hormonal changes, menopausal women are more likely to put on weight and have larger midsections than women who have not gone through menopause.
But here’s good news: weight gain while you’re going through the big ‘M’ isn’t inevitable. Here, we cover the four lifestyle changes you can adopt to help you reverse the scale’s upward spiral.
#1 – Crank your activity level up
If you’re sedentary, increasing your physical activity level will not only help you shed pounds but will also relieve annoying menopausal symptoms, like headaches! If you’re already active, you should consider cranking things up a notch.
The best way for you to do this is to do high-intensity interval training (HIIT), where you alternate brief periods of intense (all-out) physical exertion with more relaxed recovery periods. If HIIT sounds intimidating, don’t worry – you honestly don’t have to do a lot. It can be a matter of choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator, and picking up the climbing pace every level or so.
#2 – Add in resistance training
Also, as you go through menopause, you naturally lose muscle mass – this lowers your resting metabolism, meaning you burn fewer calories daily. To reverse this metabolism-wrecking muscle loss, you have to start adding strength-building exercises into your workouts.
If you’re not a big fan of pumping iron, however, consider yoga; it has the same kind of weight-bearing benefits as lifting weights. To aid in quicker post-workout recovery, you can also supplement with amino complex – this helps your body repair broken-down muscles. Fish oil supplementation can also help reduce any muscle or joint inflammation you have.
#3 – Watch what goes onto your plate
To keep your weight gain in control, you need to be extra diligent about following a healthy diet. Whenever possible, you should avoid fad diets (like the lemon detox diet and the cabbage soup diet) that promise rapid weight loss; they’re not sustainable over the long-term.
Instead, you should make reasonable diet changes you can keep up for the rest of your life, such as cutting down on your fat intake. In general, due to the high-calorie density of fats, menopausal women are recommended to keep their fat consumption between 20 – 25% of their daily calorie intake. And it’s not just that: you should also strive to include more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. Avoid deep-fried, overly-processed foods that are low in nutritional value.
#4 – Get enough shut-eye
Don’t forget to catch enough Zzz’s every night. Lack of sleep causes your hunger hormones to go haywire: it increases the level of ghrelin, a hormone which stimulates your appetite and lowers leptin, which suppresses appetite. As a result, you’ll want to eat more – causing your body to deposit the excess fat around your midsection!
If you’re facing difficulties falling asleep at night, practice good sleep habits: stop using electronic screens at least an hour before bedtime, go to bed and get up on the same schedule daily, and ensure a restful sleep environment. You can also try supplementing with melatonin, or magnesium, to regulate your natural sleep-wake cycle.