As you enter postmenopause, you might notice two things: one, your menopausal pounds have stayed; and two, losing weight isn’t as easy as it was when you were in your 20s or 30s. Both of these are normal and happen to most postmenopausal women, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with this reality.
If you’re frustrated by the pounds your body packed on, we’re here to help. In this post, we’ll explore what causes menopausal weight gain, plus examine a few ways to get rid of those unwanted pounds.
Why is weight so hard to lose after menopause?
To understand why it’s so hard to lose weight post-menopause, it’s important to get to the root of your weight gain. Most women gain weight during menopause due to factors such as genetics and aging, however, the main culprit is estrogen.
As estrogen decreases, your body’s metabolism slows down, causing you to gain weight and lose muscle mass, even if you haven’t changed your diet or continue to be active.
Sadly, the weight you gain during menopause doesn’t drop the moment you enter post-menopause (we wish!). In addition, losing those pounds becomes more challenging due to metabolic changes, and because you’ll probably be too tired to get active. The result? More fat ends up being stored around the belly – in fact, belly fat (or visceral fat) accounts for about 15 to 20 percent of post-menopausal women’s body weight!
Not only can visceral fat make you feel self-conscious, but it’s also bad for your health. An increase in weight can put you at greater risk of obesity, heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases.
Tips for losing weight after menopause
Weight gain is a common postmenopause symptom that many women have struggled with and overcome. It will take time, but it is possible to drop those pounds. Here are a few long-term strategies to help you lose weight at this stage in your life:
1. Stay active
Maintaining an active lifestyle is more important than ever once you enter postmenopause. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. Break that down to 30 minutes of activity for 5 days a week to make it more doable.
Consider cardio exercises such as brisk walking, biking, and water aerobics to slash those extra pounds off the scale.
Another way to maintain your weight is strength training. Remember that when you build muscle mass, you burn more calories than fat (lifting for 30 minutes burns anywhere between 90 and 126 calories). Try to schedule 2 to 3 strength training sessions each week so you can maintain the muscle mass that you naturally lose with age.
2. Get enough sleep
One of the postmenopause symptoms is sleeplessness due to hot flashes, sweats, and stress. Unfortunately, inadequate sleep can prevent you from losing those pounds as you’ll be too tired to work out when you wake up.
Furthermore, women who don’t get enough sleep have higher levels of ghrelin – also known as the “hunger hormone” – which makes you want to eat more.
With that said, one way to keep the weight off is by getting a good night’s sleep. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted shut-eye per day. If you’re struggling to sleep because of hot flashes, lower the temperature in your bedroom and sip on cold water right before bedtime.
3. Count your calories
As you age, your body will begin to burn fewer calories. This means that if you continue to eat the same amount of calories that you consumed when you were younger, you will gain weight. Therefore, the most straightforward way to deal with your low metabolic rate is to cut your calories.
However, be careful not to try a very low-calorie diet as it can backfire on you. Not eating enough calories can lead to decreased muscle mass, and your body might go into “starvation mode” in an effort to maintain its weight.
Simply eat less than you did in your 30s and 40s. While there’s no “golden number”, a good rule of thumb is to eat 200 fewer calories than you’re used to in your 50s, and 400 to 500 calories less in your 60s.
If you’re not sure how many calories you should cut to lose weight, consult a nutritionist who can design a custom food and supplement plan for you.
4. Mind what you eat
Cutting your calories isn’t enough – you also have to choose your calories carefully.
Be smart about what you put into your body and eat only “good calories” that are rich in nutrients and healthy fats. Even if you eat fewer calories in a day, if you only eat bad calories such as biscuits, sweets, and white bread, you won’t be able to drop your pounds. A 200-calorie frappuccino, for example, is nowhere near as healthy as a 200-calorie salad.
Here are a few diet tips to help you lose those postmenopause pounds:
- Pack on the protein. This can help you feel fuller for longer, which can reduce your cravings.
- Eat high-fiber foods. Foods high in fiber such as broccoli, avocados, and beans can boost your body’s insulin sensitivity.
- Don’t eat mindlessly. Focus on your food. Avoid eating while doing other tasks (e.g. work, conversing with a colleague, etc.), as you may not notice how much food you’ve already eaten.
5. Consult your doctor
If you’ve changed your diet and have been working out, yet you still haven’t seen any changes, it’s best to consult your doctor or ob-gyn. They may be able to prescribe you supplements that can help you manage your weight.
Plus, they can investigate whether your weight gain really is due to postmenopause or age, or if you have a condition that needs treating. Conditions such as hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), for instance, are known to hinder weight loss.
Do you suspect that your medication has something to do with your weight gain? Do not stop taking your meds! Consult your doctor and ask if you can switch to a new medication, or if you can reduce your current medication’s dosage.
Drop those pounds with a personalized weight loss program
Losing weight after menopause can be a real battle, not to mention discouraging if the number on the scale seems to be at a standstill. If you’ve hit a wall with your weight loss, or if you simply want someone to hold you accountable for your goals, create your personalized program with Weight Loss Direct today. We use algorithms to design a food and supplement plan that works specifically for you.
Schedule a commitment-free consultation with one of our wellness coaches today.
Author: Katie Pierce
Katie Pierce is a teacher-slash-writer who loves telling stories to an audience, whether it’s bored adults in front of a computer screen or a bunch of hyperactive 4-year-olds. Writing keeps her sane (most of the time) and allows her to enjoy some quiet time in the evening before she walks into a room of screaming kids (all of whom she loves dearly) the next morning.