Menopause and Weight Gain
By Ronayne Herbert, RNP
Women often see menopause in one of two ways: the glass is either half full or half empty. Some women are thrilled to be done with monthly mood swings but just as many are depressed as menopause signals the end of their fertility. Either way, women have to deal with the changes that accompany this life-changing event. Hot flashes or flushing, emotional instability, insomnia, decreased bone density and weight gain. For people who have worked so hard to lose weight, the unintentional weight gain during menopause can be very difficult to deal with.
Hormonal changes, diminishing muscle mass and increasing fat mass all combine to make weight gain, especially abdominal weight gain, more common. And let’s not forget about genetics, medications and stress which can also lead to weight changes as we age. So what is a woman to do?
The answer is the same now as it always has been: move more and continue to follow a healthy diet. Research shows that the only way to actually keep a stable weight as we age is to increase our activity level. That being said, it isn’t always easy to be active when your knees or back are hurting. So you have to get creative. Brisk walking, cycling, yoga, tai chi, low impact aerobics, weight training, resistance bands and Zumba can burn those excess calories as well as tone muscles. Plus they have the added benefit of relieving stress by releasing endorphins, the body’s “feel good” neurotransmitters. A steady diet of exercise improves sleep, decreases depression and anxiety.
A healthy post-menopausal diet needs to take into consideration the medical conditions that are more common as we age such as osteoporosis, anemia and hypertension. Dietary recommendations include a daily calcium intake of 1200 mg; 8 mg of iron and 21 grams of fiber per day. While these are dietary recommendations, keep in mind your needs may be slightly different so ask your doctor. It is also important to stay well hydrated and to keep caffeine, salt and sugar to a minimum.
So consider the glass half full, if you like, and enjoy this time of life while you continue to follow the guidelines that you have learned throughout your journey to manage your weight.