Most of us have heard the term “middle age spread.” This is because as the body ages, there is a natural tendency to put on a few extra pounds. Does this mean that weight gain is a fact of life? This is not necessarily the case. Weight gain is a typical occurrence during menopause, but there are things that you can do to stop gaining and help take off the weight that starts to collect as you enter menopause.
Causes of weight gain during menopause
Hormonal fluctuations cause the body to pack on more body fat around the abdominal region, but this is about the extent to which hormones can be blamed for weight gain. The largest contributing factor in weight gain during menopause is the aging process, followed by genetics and lifestyle choices.
How aging contributes to weight gain?
As the body ages, lean muscle mass begins to decline. There is a natural tendency for fat cells to increase. This is due to the fact that as muscle mass decreases, the body’s metabolism also slows and calories are not burned at the same rate. This results in weight gain. By consuming the same amount of calories without increasing physical activity, weight gain is inevitable.
Genetic factors in weight gain during menopause
If you have close family members that have had issues with excess abdominal fat then the odds that you will as well are higher.
Other factors contributing to weight gain at menopause
Menopause is a transitional phase in every woman’s life that leads to physical and emotional changes. Compound this with the time of life when children are leaving the nest, parents are aging or perhaps passing away and other stressful situations and the potential for making changes in your usual lifestyle habits is higher. Some women decrease the amount of physical activities or exercise programs, or change their eating patterns. Skipping meals can cause the body to go into starvation mode, thus burning even fewer calories. Any increase in alcohol consumption can also contribute to weight gain.
The risks of weight gain after menopause
Gaining weight after menopause can increase the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular issues and certain cancers. It doesn’t mean that you will, but it certainly increases your odds. This is particularly true if you are not getting the proper nutrition from a healthy and balanced diet along with plenty of good exercise.
Tips for preventing weight gain during and after menopause
First and foremost, it is vital to pay attention to your diet. During and after menopause your body needs to have the proper fuel to function properly. Avoid skipping meals and make sure that you are getting the recommended amounts of lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains in moderation, dairy products and foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids. These include salmon, trout, tuna and some other sea foods. Portion control is also important. Overdoing a good thing can have consequences. Limit your portions so your body is getting the fuel and nutrition that is needed, but avoid overeating. Choose healthy snacks that are low in calories to tide you over in between meals. Avoid an excess of fats, sugars, salt and carbohydrates as these can also contribute to menopause weight gain.
Increase your activity levels. You may want to take up ballroom dancing or some other enjoyable activity that gets your heart rate up. Exercise can help you to maintain a healthy weight while providing other benefits such as building muscle mass and relieving stress.
Weight gain during menopause is common. While hormonal changes are partly responsible for the addition of pounds in the abdominal area, there are other factors which more strongly contribute to weight gain during menopause. The aging process causes the body’s metabolism to slow and burn fewer calories. Adjustments may need to be made in the amount of calories that are consumed. Eating a healthy and balanced diet can also help in the maintenance of the proper body weight. This is helpful in conjunction with increasing exercise and physical activities.
Menopause may just come at the time in a woman’s life when she is most likely to experience weight gain. Although some byproducts of menopause may result in weight gain, overall, the lifestyle that is chosen including eating habits and exercise, are the largest contributors affecting weight gain during menopause.