Menopause and the Weight Loss Battle
By: Peggy Zeller Posted on January 30, 2012
Menopause may present many challenges to women, including hot flashes, which can result in mood swings, changes in sleep patterns and weight gain. Why does this happen? Menopausal weight gain is caused by hormonal changes in the body. It is also attributed to the aging process. At midlife, our metabolism starts to slow down and our muscle mass begins to decrease, making weight loss harder. Also, we can no longer rebound like we used to from our poor health choices, such as eating fast food or drinking too much.
The Menopause Diet – A Sound Female Weight Loss Strategy?
This is a disputed topic. While it sounds good, there is no miracle menopause diet. The best solution to combat gaining weight during menopause is to follow a healthy lifestyle and good nutritional guidelines. This includes incorporating weight loss tips, such as:
- Follow the ChooseMyPlate nutritional guidelines
- Do aerobic exercise at least 30 minutes a day and strength training (weights or exercise bands) 2 to 3 times a week. Yes, ladies, I’m talking about strength training. You have to work to build and maintain muscle mass.
- Restrict fat intake to no more than 30% of your calories. (For example, if you consume 1,200 calories per day, your total fat intake should be 40 total fat grams per day or 50 grams if you consume 1,500 calories per day.) Two pieces of cheese pizza = 40 grams of fat! So it’s easy to blow the lid off fat grams, just like it’s easy to burst through your clothing if you don’t restrict your fat intake.
- Increase fiber to 25 to 35 grams per day. This is filling and helps you more slowly absorb carbohydrates.
- Limit caffeine, alcohol, sodium and sugar. This quartet will sabotage your weight unless you sabotage them first!
Menopause Food Essentials
In addition to the USDA guidelines, midlife women should also increase their consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, “good oils” like omega-3 fats, as well as the important mineral, calcium. It is recommended that women ingest 1,200 mg of calcium a day (some women need to ingest up to 1,500 mg a day); however, most women ingest only 600 mg a day! I recommend taking a calcium supplement to help reach the recommended daily amount if you don’t get this in your diet already. It is also important to note that women older than age 55, who are not on estrogen, absorb less calcium from their diet. Because of this, they need to ingest 1,500 mg of calcium a day.
All in all, the best way to tackle menopause weight gain is by following these weight loss strategies:
- Increase your fruits and vegetables.
- Practice portion control.
- Read food labels.
- Don’t skip meals. Eat breakfast.
- Strive to get 30 minutes of exercise each day.
- Record your food intake. Yes, mark down in a journal what you truly eat. And don’t cheat!
By practicing all of these steps, YOU will be able to kick-start yourself on the road to menopause weight loss and I assure you, you will feel healthier.
– Peggy Zeller
Peggy Zeller is a dietitian and nutrition educator at Cleveland Clinic. Zeller provides nutrition counseling at Cleveland Clinic’s Solon and Beachwood Family Health Centers, conducts various health talks and actively supports community health fairs.