What on earth is going on? You haven’t changed your eating habits but lately your clothes feel like they’ve been washed at the wrong temperature.
Weight has crept on, it’s mostly camping out around your middle – and it’s proving harder to shift than it used to be.
But why do women gain weight during the menopause? Weight gain is complex and while hormones play a role, often there’s more going on.
Muscle mass also typically diminishes with age, slowing the rate at which your body burns calories (your metabolism). So, if you eat as you always have and don’t exercise more, you’re likely to expand.
Stir other perimenopause and menopause symptoms into the cooking pot (think fatigue, joint pain, cravings and difficulty sleeping and it’s easy to feel less like jumping about in legwarmers and more like slumping in front of the TV with a sharing packet of crisps.
Fear not. You don’t have to accept that weight gain in the menopause is inevitable. You can do something about it.
There are hundreds of ways to lose weight – the multi-million pound diet industry is testament to this. But we’re not jumping on that particular supermarket trolley.
Instead of eating plans, we offer a few ways for you to combat and prevent weight gain in the menopause by using your mind, asking for help and finding new ways to look after yourself.
FIND YOUR MOTIVATION
Instead of scaring yourself about the link between tummy fat and heart disease, think of this as an opportunity to be the healthiest you’ve ever been.
Losing excess weight during the perimenopause or menopause will set you up to be fit and foxy for the rest of your life and you don’t have to aim to look like a supermodel. How do you want to feel in your seventies? How active would you like to be? Find a goal that motivates you now.
Before you Google ‘how to lose menopause weight gain’ and sign up for the latest diet craze, take an honest look at what you buy week-to-week from the supermarket.
Have you become more reliant on quick-fix, processed foods? Do you make time to eat or grab things on the go? Are you a carb-loving comfort eater? How are your portion sizes? How do you feel before and after eating? Keep a simple food diary for a week and do your own detective work. You may be surprised – and be brutally honest with what you write down!
GET THE RIGHT SUPPORT
If you could murder someone for a Hobnob, it may be worth getting some advice from a registered nutritionist who can help you plan more frequent, smaller meals to regulate your blood sugar.
If you don’t know how to start exercising, talk to someone at a local sports club or gym to find something you really want to do. Book a personal training session (you could always split the cost with a friend), join a dance class, sign up for swimming lessons. There are so many people out there that can help you make the transition from floppy and fearful to firm and fabulous.
We all know exercising doesn’t just benefit our physical health. It has a hugely positive effect on our whole being – and it could help you mentally and emotionally deal with other symptoms and changes associated with the menopause.
Next time you do anything that hikes up your heartbeat, whether that’s a brisk walk or mowing the lawn, just appreciate the fact it’s probably helping your body deal with hot flushes, mood swings and insomnia.
GO FOR STRENGTH
Worried that picking up a dumbbell will turn you into Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Well, unless you’re planning on bench-pressing for four hours a day and mainlining more eggs than Mr Strong, that’s not going to happen. In fact, resistance training – even just using your own body weight – will help you shift pounds and build lean muscle.
Weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise also helps you preserve your bone density, as a drop in oestrogen during menopause can lead to osteoporosis.
SORT YOUR SLEEP OUT
It’s so much harder to make good food choices when we’re tired. This might sound ridiculously obvious but getting enough sleep is fundamental to balancing your hormones and maintaining a healthy body weight.
How do you treat yourself after a hard day or congratulate yourself on a job well done? If your answer is ‘chocolate muffin’ rather than ‘pedicure’, you might want to rethink your rewards structure.
We spend so much time racing around looking after other people, it can be hard to prioritise self-care. But a relaxing, hot bath on a regular basis is better than a spa visit once in a blue moon. When’s the last time you did something nice just for you? Find new ways to pat yourself on the back that don’t involve food.
HINTS AND TIPS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE THEY THINK MAY BE ENTERING OR IN MENOPAUSE
There’s loads you can do whether you’re a friend, partner or colleague to help someone get their weight under control and feel great about themselves again.
OUR ADVICE TO THEM
We’ve recommended that they keep a food diary, find the right overall goal to motivate them and revamp their rewards structure – treating themselves without using food. If they make sure they get enough sleep too, they will be set up for shrinking.
CREATE A WEEKLY MEAL PLAN
Planning meals ahead is a good way to get an overview of what you’re eating, while shopping for the ingredients together and sharing the cooking can take the pressure off.
Embarking on a healthier diet together means you’re both more likely to lose a few pounds and keep them off. You could even enlist the support of a registered nutritionist too.
STOP SNACK-CIDENTS IN THEIR TRACKS
Don’t sabotage their efforts to lose weight by flaunting junk food in front of them or ordering everything on the menu from the local chippy. Leaving other temptations lying around for them to see is probably something else they could do without.
If you love to take snacks into the office for your colleagues, and one of those colleagues is doing their best to shrink their waistband, be considerate. The same goes for your housemates.
Swap sugary cakes and biscuits for a fruit platter or low cal, high protein treats like these.
Regular exercise is a key tool for managing weight gain during the perimenopause and menopause.
Resistance training – even just using their own body weight – will help them shift pounds and build lean muscle. And you could be the buddy they need to spot them. You could also seek out support in the form of a personal trainer.
Even if they don't want to pump iron, partnering up to go for a walk or a swim still counts as valuable movement and will help to keep them motivated and the number on the scales down.
If you’re worried about weight gain, you should see your GP who can discuss your symptoms in the context of the menopause.
If you'd like more information, we have put some further references below for you.