The average age of menopause diagnosis for women in the United States is 51, but it can happen anywhere in a woman’s 40s or 50s, and is unique to each and every one. After the monthly menstrual cycle ends, your body goes through a whole new set of changes, and among the symptoms can be unexpected and unwelcome weight gain. This article will discuss the symptoms of menopause, the different ways they can be healthily managed, and specifically how to lose weight during menopause so that you can maintain your body as you see fit, no matter what new changes arise.
During the month or years that lead to full menopause, these early perimenopausal symptoms may occur. These are the symptoms of menopause that may alert you to the changes your body is experiencing, and lead you to guard against the more unpleasant aspects of the change.
|Hot flashes||Weight gain|
|Night sweats||Thinning hair|
|Irregular periods||Dry skin|
|Vaginal dryness||Loss of breast fullness|
|Sleep issues||Mood changes|
These symptoms will be different for each and every woman, just as the start of the menstrual phase of life is different and unique for every young girl. However, generally most women will experience some irregularity in their period before they stop entirely, and skipping periods is a common and expected aspect of the perimenopausal phase. Periods may skip for 1 month and return, may skip for several months and return briefly, and may occur on shorter cycles or closer together than ever before. Regardless of the irregularity, it is still possible to become pregnant during this transition, so women are encouraged to maintain their birth control practices until the change is complete (consult with your doctor for surety).
There are actually a few circumstances that can cause the onset of menopause, which include the following.
In a woman’s late 30s or early 40s, her ovaries decline in production of progesterone and estrogen. These are the hormones that regulate menstruation, and when they decline, fertility declines also. Again, it is different for each woman, and periods may become heavier or lighter, longer or shorter, depending on your body. Ultimately the ovaries will stop releasing eggs, and when that occurs, a woman’s periods cease.
These therapies for the treatment of cancer can sometimes interrupt normal menstruation, induce menopause early, or cause symptoms of menopause (like hot flashes). These halts and interruptions to menstruation might not be permanent following the completion of chemotherapy treatment, but, as with normal hormonal menopause, pregnancy may still be possible despite the irregularity of periods.
A surgical removal of the uterus but not the ovaries may not cause immediate menopause. Periods will, of course, cease, but if a woman’s ovaries are still releasing eggs and producing hormones, menopause may not occur right away. A complete removal of the uterus and ovaries however (total hysterectomy, bilateral oophorectomy) may bring on sudden and severe symptoms of menopause, as the change will happen abruptly instead of gradually over a span of several months or years. A woman should consult with her doctor if the aftereffect of this procedure requires further therapy or treatment to ameliorate the symptoms.
Though rare, about 1% of women will experience menopause before 40, which is known as premature menopause. The cause for this might be primary ovarian insufficiency, wherein the ovaries fail to produce sufficient levels of the needed reproductive hormones. This condition can be brought on by autoimmune diseases or by genetic factors, but more often no specific cause can be found by physicians. This early onset of menopause is often treated with hormone therapy until the natural age of menopause in an effort to protect the bone, heart, and brain health of women.
A woman is considered to be menopausal when the menstrual cycle has ceased for at least 1 year (12 months). Some of the reasons women gain weight during the perimenopausal phase may be due to hormonal changes causing an increase of fat storage, a loss of muscle mass (sometimes exacerbated by a decrease in physical activity), increased insulin resistance, or trouble sleeping, which can also contribute to lack of energy and weight gain. Whatever the cause, you’ll want to maintain the healthiest weight possible, and below are some tips on how to do that.
Weight gain as a result of menopause can be dangerous to a woman’s health. During menopause, fat storage shifts from the hip/thigh region of the body to the abdomen, which ups the risk of metabolic syndrome and can lead to heart disease or the onset of type 2 diabetes. The loss of belly fat is very important for a menopausal woman for many reasons, including her physique, her overall health, and her longevity. So: how can this weight be lost?
While it’s well known that a decrease in calories leads to weight loss, a low-calorie diet will not necessarily work long term for menopausal women. While research shows that low-calorie diets do lead to weight loss, with the decreased energy levels of menopausal women, you’re suddenly working at a disadvantage.
With age, we all burn fewer calories at rest than we used to, and so even a lifetime of moderate diet and regular exercise might still lead to gaining weight during menopause. Instead of restricting calories for an extended period of time and risking a decline in muscle mass or the development of osteoporosis, changing your diet can be a much healthier and more sustainable solution. These are healthy diet options you can choose from to maintain an optimal weight during menopause.
Multiple studies have shown that a diet low in carbohydrates leads to reliable weight loss, as well as a reduction in abdominal fat. One study showed that a low-carb diet’s effect on postmenopausal women resulted in a significant reduction in body fat, weight, and waist size, while still retaining healthy lean muscle. Another study featuring postmenopausal women and the low-carb paleo diet showed a reduction in belly fat greater than the reduction experience by women eating a low-fat diet.
Carb intake does not have to be extremely low to achieve these results. Roughly 30% of your calorie intake can be from carbs and still provide you with maintainable weight loss.
Studies show that a vegan diet significantly outperforms a low-fat diet when it comes to weight loss for older women. It’s not so much about how much you eat but what you eat that brings the desired results to the table. Whether it’s a vegan or vegetarian diet (which includes dairy and eggs), the weight and health effects of both diets are clearly positive for postmenopausal women specifically.
Another proven way to reduce heart disease and obesity, the Mediterranean diet includes foods traditional to Mediterranean cuisines, particularly fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, olive oil, seafood, and poultry. It also allows for a glass or two of red wine, which itself contains tannins that are good for heart health.
Research has shown that both men and women over the age of 55 saw a significant reduction in abdominal fat when following a Mediterranean diet and meal plan.
Due to reduced energy and the fact that most people become less active as they age, putting an emphasis on regular exercise is a particularly effective way of not only maintaining a healthy weight, but also improving mood and bone health. The best types of exercise for postmenopausal women include the following practices.
Using weights or exercise bands for resistance training is extremely effective at both preserving and increasing lean muscle mass. High volume resistance training (the more reps the better) has been shown to reduce abdominal fat in postmenopausal women.
Aerobic exercise (cardio) has been shown to not only reduce belly fat but also to preserve muscle mass during weight loss. Including both strength training and aerobic exercise combined in a regular fitness routine is likely the best way to get the greatest results from your workout.
Quality sleep is important for anyone to maintain overall health, and specifically a healthy weight. The less you sleep, the higher levels you’ll have of ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”), the lower levels you’ll have of leptin (the “fullness hormone”), and the more likely it is that you’ll be overweight.
Menopause can frequently cause unusual interruptions to your sleep due to night sweats, hot flashes, and other effects that can come along with estrogen deficiency, such as increased stress. That makes it all the more important to do your best to preserve the quality of your sleep. It’s recommended that (among other practices) you maintain a consistent bedtime schedule, get regular exercise, and make sure your bedroom is cool and dark when you’re sleeping.
At least one study has shown that acupuncture can increase estrogen levels and reduce hot flashes in peri and postmenopausal women, both of which allow for better sleep and improved overall comfort and ease.
Psychotherapy can help treat insomnia and is being studied for its benefit regarding that and other sleep disorders in menopausal women. Therapy can also help with relieving stress, another menopausal symptom that can lead to problematically high cortisol levels (which leads to an increase of belly fat), as well as increased risk of heart disease.
Aging is an honor and a privilege, and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle helps with weight loss during and after menopause and preserves your health in a multitude of ways. Less weight on your frame, more energy, healthier bones, and better sleep: use these tips to stay strong and age well!