Most women gain weight as they age, but it is not inevitable. How can you minimize weight gain after menopause? Step up your activity level and enjoy a healthy diet.
Have you noticed a few extra pounds padding your waistline? You may be in the throes of midlife expansion, a familiar complaint among women in their forties and fifties. During this time, you either gain weight or you find that maintaining your usual weight has somehow become more difficult. You also discover that the weight you gain tends to accumulate around your abdomen, rather than your hips and thighs. But you don’t have to accept weight gain as inevitable.
One of the foremost menopausal symptoms seems to be weight gain and change in the overall shape of your body. Though you may not be so happy about this, it is important to keep in mind that this weight gain is normal and is to be expected. About 90% of menopausal women gain some weight between the age of 35 and 55. You may not necessarily have to blame yourself for this newly acquired weight – research now shows that weight gain during menopause is caused by shifts in your hormones, not greedy eating. Take steps to prevent weight gain before it starts, and if you have already begun adding to your waistline, it’s never too late to reverse the course through proper diet and exercise.
THE FACTORS INVOLVED IN MIDDLE AGE WEIGHT GAIN
For most women, increases and shifts in weight begin during peri-menopause, the years leading up to menopause. On average, women gain about a pound a year during this time, but changing hormone levels associated with menopause are not only necessarily the cause of weight gain. Aging and lifestyle factors play a big role in your changing body composition, including:
Exercise Less: Menopausal women tend to exercise less than other women, which can lead to weight gain.
Eating More: Eating more means you will take in more calories, which are converted into fat if you don’t burn them for energy.
Burning Fewer Calories: The number of calories you need for energy decreases as you age because aging promotes the replacement of muscle with fat. Muscles burn more calories than fat does. When your body composition shifts to more fat and less muscle, your metabolism slows down.
Early Menopause: Women who have experienced early menopause or surgical menopause (from removal of reproductive organs) may experience more rapid and extreme weight gain. You will start to notice that the weight is not distributing itself as it used to. During menopause, you will begin to put on more weight around your abdomen, instead of around your hips, thighs and rear. People commonly refer to this as an “apple” shape, because the stomach area becomes rounder. You may miss your old “pear” shape that you had during your childbearing years, but it will be harder and harder to redistribute your weight evenly around your body.
Genetic Factors: Genetic factors may play a role in weight gain as well. If your parents or other close relatives carry extra weight around the abdomen, you may be predisposed to do so too.
Weight gain can also have serious implications for your health. Excess weight increases your risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance, which can lead to Type II Diabetes. These factors also put you at high risk of heart disease and stroke. Again, arthritis of weight-bearing joints and susceptibility to fractures are complications related to excessive weight gain after menopause.
There are some very encouraging statistical data with regards to weight loss in menopausal women, which suggests that women who lose weight after menopause can reduce the risk of breast cancer. It was found that weight gain during the menopausal years increases the risk of breast cancer. Women who gain weight in excess of 20 pounds increase their breast cancer risk by nearly 20 percent, but women who lose 20 pounds after menopause reduce their breast cancer risk by as much as 23 percent. Even smaller amount of weight loss after menopause lead to a modest risk reduction.
REAL CAUSES OF MIDDLE AGE WEIGHT GAIN
Many women are quite shocked and frustrated when they begin to notice those extra pounds graciously provided by menopause. You may be eating and exercising exactly the same as you always were but still can’t seem to maintain your weight. As you enter the early stages of menopause, maintaining weight becomes more and more difficult and losing weight becomes almost impossible. This is because of the fluctuation in your hormones.
Your body’s hormones have a direct impact on your appetite, metabolism and fat storage. This is why it is so difficult to control your weight during menopause no matter what you do. Fluctuating estrogen, testosterone and androgen levels WILL fight you all the way!!!
Hormones Involved In Weight Maintenance
Estrogen : Estrogen is the female sex hormone that is responsible for causing monthly ovulation. During menopause, your estrogen level declines rapidly, causing your body to stop ovulating. However, estrogen also seems to play a big role in menopausal weight gain. As the ovaries produce less estrogen, your body looks to other places for the estrogen it needs. Fat cells in your body can produce estrogen, so your body works harder to convert calories into fat to increase estrogen levels. Unfortunately, fat cells don’t burn calories the way muscle cells do which causes you to pack on the unwanted kilos.
Progesterone: During menopause, progesterone levels will also decrease. Like estrogen, lower levels of this hormone can be responsible for many of the symptoms of menopause including weight gain or, at least, the appearance of it. Water retention and menopause often go hand in hand since water-weight and bloating are caused by decreased progesterone levels. Though this doesn’t actually result in weight gain, your clothes will probably fit a bit tighter and you may feel a bit heavier. Water retention and bloating usually disappear within a few months after the commencement of progesterone supplementation.
Androgen: This hormone is responsible for sending your new weight directly to your middle section. In fact, weight gain during menopausal years is often known as ‘’middle age spread” because of the rapid growth of the mid-section. Often, one of the first signs of menopause is an increased level of androgen in your body, which causes you to gain weight around your abdomen instead of around your lower half.
Testosterone: Testosterone helps your body to create lean muscle mass out of the calories that you take in. Muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells do, thereby increasing your metabolism. In natural menopause levels of testosterone drop, resulting in the loss of muscle. Unfortunately, this means a lower metabolism rate. The lower your metabolism is, the slower your body burns calories.
Misconceptions About Hormone Replacement
There are some misconceptions about hormone replacement therapy, that if followed can make you gain weight during menopause.
The first misconception is that decreased estrogen levels is the main reason for many of the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes, sweating and mood swings ,to mention but a few. We now know that the deficiency in estrogen is not the cause of these menopausal symptoms. Actually, this false/incorrect theory was encouraged by the pharmaceutical industry so they could sell their synthetically fabricated estrogen. The unfortunate resultant effect of synthetic estrogen, apart from causing breast cancer and other side effects, is that it always leads to significant weight gain.
Another misconception is that using “natural” estrogen called phytoestrogens from plant sources such as flaxseed, soy ,evening primrose oil and fish oil instead of synthetic estrogen will be better for and reduce the risk of breast and other cancers. Such natural sources of estrogen should not lead to breast cancer however, their usage could result in weight gain due to their estrogenic reactions in the body.
New research has shown that it is the decline in progesterone that causes most of the menopausal symptoms and progesterone replacement will normally stop most of these symptoms. Again, the progesterone must be from natural, plant-derived sources, and not from synthetic sources. Bio identical sources of progesterone will not lead to weight gain and will also reduce water retention, making you feel and look a lot better. The best type of progesterone is in the form of creams, which are rubbed onto the body. They are easily absorbed through the skin, rather than in the form of pills, which have to be taken orally, digested through the system and the liver which may reduce their efficacy and then, add unnecessary toxic load on the body.
Other Factors Involved In Weight Gain During Menopause.
Insulin Resistance: Insulin resistance can occur during the menopausal years. This is when your body turns every calorie you take into fat. Most women follow a low fat, high carbohydrate diet. After a while, processed and refined food may make your body resistant to insulin produced in the blood stream. This is often a cause of weight gain after age of 40.
Stress: Stress is also a contributing factor in weight gain in menopause. Stress hormone can prevent weight loss as they signal to your body to go into storage mode. This is referred to as the “famine effect” – your body thinking it won’t get food for a long time, stores every calorie it takes in, causing weight gain. Indeed the stress factor has been linked to adrenal stress and adrenal fatigue, which in turn affect your ability to metabolize carbohydrates. When you cannot metabolize carbohydrates then you become insulin resistant which is a pre-diabetic condition that causes weight gain.
What You Can Do To Prevent Or Reverse Weight Gain
There is no magic formula for avoiding weight gain as you get older. The strategies for maintaining a healthy weight at any age remains the same: watch what you eat and get moving. The most effective approach to reversing weight gain after menopause includes a combination of the following:
Increasing your physical activity: Aerobic exercise boosts your metabolism and helps you burn fat. Strength-training exercises increase muscle mass, boosts your metabolism and strengthens your bones.
You can become physically active without starting a formal exercise program. Just spend time doing the thing you love that also gets you moving. Do more gardening and dancing. Take longer walks or try out a bike. Make it your goal to be active for a total of 30 minutes or more a day, on most days. Increased physical activity, including strength training, may be the most single important factor for maintaining a healthy body composition more lean muscle mass and less body fat as you get older.
Reducing Calorie In-Take: The important thing to note is that weight gain is not noticeable overnight although it occurs overnight. To gain 6 kilograms(14 pounds) in six months, you need to consume around 270 calories more than you need each day. It might sound like a lot but in reality it is equivalent to roughly one large packet of crisps, half a bottle of wine, a small bar of chocolate or a couple of slices of toast and butter and that is enough to do every day! Although you say you have not changed your eating habits, you might find it helpful to take a closer look at your diet. That small addition is what you need to get to the big weight. Pay attention to the food you eat and slightly reduce the amount of calories you consume each day. By choosing a varied diet composed mainly of lean protein and vegetable, you can safely cut back on calories and lose weight. Be careful not to cut back too drastically on calorie intake, or your body will respond by conserving energy, making extra pounds harder to shed. Because your metabolism slows as you get older, you need about 200 fewer calories a day to maintain your weight as you get into your mid-to late 40s. This shouldn’t be a problem if you eat only when hungry and only enough to satisfy your hunger.
Decreasing Dietary Fat: Eating large amount of high fat foods adds excess calories, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. Limit calories from fat to 20-35 percent of your daily calories. Emphasize on fats from a healthier source, such as nuts and olive oil, palm oil, coconut and avocado oils.
Reducing Carbohydrate: With age, many become insulin resistant which will reduce the ability to metabolize carbohydrates. To reduce weight gain, you need to cut down on carbohydrates. All highly processed carbohydrates should be removed from the diet. These include sugar, soft drinks, cakes, biscuits, meat pie and white bread. Natural carbohydrate should be eaten in moderation. These include eba, rice, yam, elubo and fruits such as pineapple and mangos, which have a lot of sugar. Instead, eat grape fruit and pawpaw and plenty of green leafy vegetables like the different types of efo vegetables but please remember to watch the ororo and epo!
Medical Consultation: It is important to see a doctor, particularly one that knows a lot about reproductive hormones and menopause, to help you check your hormone panel and help you balance the deficient ones with natural bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. Maintaining hormonal balance is essential for good health and keeping your weight down.
Body regeneration and anti-aging therapy does occur at Mart-life detox clinic (www.martlifedetoxclinic.com)
You will be assisted to cope with the problems of menopause and given a new mode of eating, diet advice and youthful living, with an all encompassing detoxification programme to first balance your body’s physiological processes. These would be in accompanied by weight-loss and menopausal symptoms management.