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Five Ways to Stop Menopausal Weight Gain

Weight Gain in Menopause

As a middle-aged woman, I know a thing or two about weight gain in menopause. I have personally tried many diets and different forms of exercise to lose weight and get healthier at different points in my life. I recognize now that the practices I had put in place in the past worked at that time.

Keep reading to learn the five ways to stop menopausal weight gain that worked for me and the women I work with.

As I learned more and more about fluctuating hormone levels, it was no surprise that my old ways were currently not helping me lose weight or stop menopause weight gain.

Weight loss at this stage in my life is more than trying to look good and fit into my clothes. However, don’t get me wrong, these reasons still matter. But more importantly, I want optimal health to prevent some of the leading health concerns for aging women — heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Extra weight can also increase the risk of some cancers.

Why We Gain Weight in Menopause

woman implementing practices to stop menopause weight gain

Inevitably, as you age, your ovaries make less estrogen and progesterone – our sex hormones. As estrogen declines, you lose muscle mass which affects metabolism and ultimately causes weight gain. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Incorporating strength training into your exercise routine can have profound positive results.

I also recognized that declining hormones were causing a host of unwelcome visitors, hot flashes and night sweats, that were increasing my stress levels and creating poor sleep. Also the top complaints for women that I work with. I want to feel better, and I want them to feel better!

Poor Choices to Manage Menopause Symptoms

To deal with these symptoms, personally, I relied on alcohol and sugar to help me de-stress and forget about life’s problems. No surprise that this temporary fix was creating new problems and a big contributing factor my poor sleep. This poor sleep and (no surprise) unmanaged stress because I was too busy with the wine and sugar to develop healthy coping skills, were directly creating weight gain. Twenty pounds to be exact! I now know that feeling less stressed takes work. But when we heal it one area or adopt healthier habits, the good news is that it positively affects other areas.

Changing Hormones and Weight Gain

When you understand your changing body due to declining hormones, it feels natural to embrace a holistic way of tackling getting healthy to prevent weight gain. During peri-menopause, the 7 to 10 years leading up to menopause (when you have no period for 12 months), hormone levels decline. The hormonal changes contribute to weight gain and where your fat is distributed. Namely, an increase in belly fat accumulation. For some women, this can be as early as in their 30’s.

Is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) an Option?

You can talk to your physician about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which is beneficial for many women. Most benefits are seen when HRT is started within 10 years of menopause. However, not every woman is a candidate. HRT can put them at risk for other health concerns. Each woman has to weigh the pros and cons after educating themselves on hormones and with a discussion with their physician. The best place when tackling declining hormones and to stop menopause weight gain is managing your lifestyle choices first.

Can You Lose the Weight You Gain in Menopause

I lost the 20 pounds I put on during my 40’s. But I had to get honest and make changes. As I stated previously, muscle mass declines as hormone levels drop. With less muscle, our metabolism – the sum of chemical reactions that take place at the cellular level, decreases. This is why you can exercise the same as you always have and eat in a ‘healthy way,’ and your weight stays the same or even increases.

Your body needs a different approach at this stage in your life for improved health. Also being honest about your caloric intake is important since your metabolism is naturally slowing down and weight gain is likely if you don’t make changes.

person standing on white digital bathroom scale losing weight

Five Ways to Stop Menopause Weight Gain

Making lasting habit change can happen easily if you start small. Trying to change too many things will cause you to want to change nothing. I know, I tried this approach! Remember, the body and the brain do not want too much change at once. Look at small, consistent changes surrounding what you are eating, how you are moving, managing stress, your relationship with alcohol and sleep patterns.

Here are some ways you can get started:

Food Choices

Embrace a whole-foods way of eating. With habit change as I talked about in my blog  Three Ways to Make Positive Habit Change in Menopause, start small and be consistent. For example, if your goal is to improve your diet, start by improving your breakfast. Make sure you are incorporating, fiber, fruits and/or vegetables into your first meal of the day. I add Spectrum Essentials Flaxseed to my oatmeal for added fiber every morning. You can add berries into your oats or cold cereal. At warmer times of the year, adding spinach into a smoothie is a great way to start the day.

Once you have mastered this meal and are actually enjoying your whole-food choices, look at your snacks and other meals. Incorporating protein into each meal will help you balance your blood sugar and prevent sugar cravings as well. For a quick and healthy, on-the-go snack, try these plant-based bars I enjoy – MenoWell. They support nutrition, vitality and weight control.

Movement

pink and gray rolling chair

Get Moving! Find activities you enjoy. A walk with a friend and a good chat, stretching for 10 minutes in the morning to your favorite music or lifting weights for 15 minutes three times a week are perfect places to start. Try this medicine ball I got (and asked for) on Christmas to help me stay fit.

There are so many free videos you can follow for instruction and proper technique. Find a time that works in your day and stick to it to help prevent loss of muscle mass. Post a calendar on your refrigerator or add the activity to your schedule on your phone calendar. Habits form quickly when done consistently. These activities then become a natural choice your body craves.

Sleep

Get your sleep. The way we eat and move is the natural place to start when trying to become healthier. But how is your sleep? Are you getting 7 to 9 hours of good sleep? You should feel rested the next day. First, take a look at your caffeine intake. Skipping the caffeinated beverages after 2pm may be necessary or switch to decaf. Keeping your phone charging in another room is also something that I recently put into practice. Keeping the phone off my nightstand has greatly improved by sleep habits and still allows me to be reachable.

Stress Management

Stress Management. Inevitably, stress will happen but how you deal with it, is where the problems arise. As you start your day, think of holding an empty glass. This glass will get depleted during the day as you encounter stress. Your job is to fill the glass with things you enjoy and help you feel energized. Some examples are prayer, meditation, reading, writing, exercising, gardening, taking a bath, talking to a friend or anything that ‘fills you up’.

I have Aura essential oil ‘sandalwood’ at my desk and in my car to help with calming down my nervous system. I apply a drop of 2 between my thumb and forefinger and take a big inhale when I need help my nervous system understand there is no danger.

If you don’t put positive habits into practice, you will feel depleted very quickly. It is no one else’s job to make sure you are in balance. That job is yours. Make you a priority so you can be there for others.

a woman holds her hands over her face after being stressed from triggers

Relationship with Alcohol

Alcohol consumption. Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol should not negatively affect your health. But for many people, we can use alcohol to ‘calm’ us or reduce stress after a long day. If this is the only way you deal with life’s stressors, you could quickly develop a problem. Personally, I decided after many years of consuming alcohol to abstain from drinking. It was not uncommon for me to feel very tired after a few drinks and make poor eating choices once the wine was flowing.

I knew stopping was the best choice for me. I didn’t sleep well since I had more hot flashes and night sweats when I drank. Additionally, I was working hard at curbing my sugar intake so giving up my preferred drink, red wine, was a good next step. I sleep better and no surprise, my mood is more consistent. Managing my weight is much easier since I make better food and exercise choices that I actually stick to and enjoy.

Consistency versus Intensity

woman spreading her arms finding the glimmers

As many women look to form healthier habits later in life, they realize that consistency is far more superior than intensity. It took me many years, but I strive to be consistent 80 percent of the time with food choices, sleep practices, stress reduction and exercise to keep healthy. I consume mostly whole foods that help me feel energized and balance my blood sugar. 

Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep is non negotiable for me. When I sleep well, I make better eating and exercise choices. As I make healthier eating, moving and sleep choices, I feel I can better manage stressful situations. 

Perfection Doesn’t Exist

I don’t get it perfect every day nor do I expect to. This is where I have gotten into trouble in the past. I know this is an area where many women struggle. We expect perfection and then completely give up if we have a ‘bad‘ day or week. We are human. Life happens and we should plan to overindulge at times.

Some days we have the stamina to set our health goals high. Other days we may need to slow down and rest as we listen to what our bodies need. Choose to Work with Me if you want support, accountability and guidance to help you reach your goals.

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