As if you need more to worry about during one of the biggest biological changes in your life. Menopause is steered by hormones, and hormones play a big role in weight management. As your body shifts to shut down fertility functions, you experience side effects outside of an absent period. Nearly 90 percent of women will experience weight gain during and after menopause, and yes, it can be controlled and limited.
There’s a natural decline of estrogen and progesterone in a woman’s late 40s and early 50s. It sometimes begins to fall as early as your 30s. Weight gain will become an issue at the onset of menopause and afterward. If you cannot control the weight change on your own, talk with your doctor. Adding on extra pounds after age 50 can set you up for some increased health risks, like heart disease and diabetes. Your waistline should measure less than 35 inches and expect the gain to be between 12-15 pounds.
Eat Some, Move Some
Now that you know what to expect, you can better prepare yourself by slightly cutting back on caloric intake and bumping up your daily exercise. This is the first wave of attack. Talk with your doctor on exactly how much you should cut out of your diet, but approximately 200 calories is normal. This can happen with smaller portions and smart selections. It doesn’t mean you need to adopt a new diet or fall for a trendy one. Reach for foods low on the glycemic index (less affect on your blood sugar) and avoid the carbs.
>> Read more: Pay Closer Attention to the Glycemic Index
But does it make sense to cut back on your fuel when you’re increasing your activity? Think of it more as a math equation: Add up what you eat and subtract what you work.
The good news is you’re not expected to run marathons or perform 300-pound deadlifts. Taking a walk after dinner every night or adding 1- to 3-pound hand weights to your workout should do the trick. In order to improve or maintain your desired weight, you should be getting up and moving around 150 minutes each week (about 20 minutes a day). The goal is to get your heart rate up and the blood flowing. Any kind of high-impact exercise should be avoided since you’re now at risk for osteoporosis and your bone density might be compromised. Don't let that get you down – you know you're fabulous and here are eight things you can do to keep it that way.
Don't Sweat It
With these body and lifestyle changes happening all at once — and that fact that you don’t feel up to accepting any of it because of the constant hot flashes — you’re probably stressed. This cannot happen. You should be enjoying your food, your exercise and your new chapter in life. Stress will raise the cortisol levels in your body, which will tell your body to go ahead and store fat. Meditate, write, discuss, breathe — do what makes you happy. Try an art class, adopt a pet, redo your bedroom or living room, sign up for a yoga class, take a weekend getaway when you can and more.
>> Be proactive: What You Need to Know About Menopause Before It Starts
If watching your plate, upping your movement and decreasing your stress don’t seem to work, go for the second wave of attack. This means going to your doctor and ruling out a thyroid problem. The thyroid is a gland located in neck below the Adam’s apple (yes, women have them, too!) and it is responsible for secreting hormones that control metabolism, body temperature and growth. If the thyroid can’t do its job right, it will affect you from several angles.
The third wave is a bit more invasive. If the first two steps do nothing, you might need to look into hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. You and your doctor can decide if it’s right for you. There are risks and unwanted side effects, but it has a good track record. The HRT will provide your body with more estrogen. It’s a temporary solution (as in a few months) in hopes that your body will eventually get the reigns back and the symptoms will fade.
>> Read more: Is Hormone Therapy For You?