The hormonal changes of menopause can result in mood swings, urinary incontinence, hot flashes and osteoporosis. It can also lead to weight gain. Excess body weight can result in cardiovascular disease, breathing problems, type 2 diabetes, and cancer such as breast, colon and endometrial cancer. However, being attentive to healthy eating and exercise behaviors will help prevent what many women struggle with.
What causes weight gain during menopause?
Muscle mass diminishes with age, while body fat percentage increases. As muscle mass is reduced the rate at which your body burns calories is reduced making it much more difficult to maintain optimal body weight. Most women continue to eat the same amount of food as they always have which leads to increased weight. In addition, hormonal changes that occur during menopause can make you gain extra weight in the abdominal area.
Tips for menopause:
- Consume bone strengthening nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K. Although you can always get calcium in supplement form it is best to look for food sources. Aim for 1,200 mg daily which is equal to four servings of dairy. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables. Most women will need to take a supplement to get enough vitamin D. Daily vitamin D requirements are 600 IU for those over 50 years of age and 800 IU for those over 70. You may need additional supplements depending on your blood lab values.
- Tame hot flashes: There is some evidence that soy may help with hot flashes and night sweats because they contain a weak form of estrogen called isoflavones. It may also be helpful to limit caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods.
- Exercise daily to support cardiovascular health and maintain healthy weight.
- Participate in strength training exercises two times per week to maintain bone density and muscle mass.
- Eat less. Since your metabolic rate slows down as you age you will need about 200 calories less each day when you are in your 50’s compared to when you where in your 40’s. One way to eat less is to consume a high fiber diet because fiber helps keep you full. Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Limit or avoid alcohol because alcohol contain excess calories and therefore contributes to weight gain.
- Make sleep a priority. Hormonal changes from sleep deprivation result in weight gain.
- Eat a nutritious diet with whole foods instead of foods that are processed or high in fat, sugar or sodium.
- Get social support. Have a team of friends and family that understand what you are going through.
Successfully managing menopause takes focus and commitment. Seek help from an experienced Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist to problem solve and strategize a plan of action.