How to Lose Weight Around Menopause – and Keep It Off!
Losing weight during and after menopause may seem impossible, but help is at hand.
Hormone changes, stress, and the ageing process can all work against you. However, there are several steps you can take to make weight loss easier and more sustainable.
Why menopause makes weight loss so hard
Menopause officially starts when you haven’t had a menstrual cycle for 12 months. Around this time, it may be very hard to lose weight.
In fact, many notice that they actually start putting on weight during perimenopause, which can begin a decade prior to menopause.
Several factors play a role in weight gain around menopause, including:
– Hormone fluctuations. Both elevated and very low levels of estrogen can lead to increased fat storage. Oestrogen dominance, where are your progesterone levels are considerably lower than your oestrogen levels – and this can occur even with low oestrogen as well as with high oestrogen levels.
– Loss of muscle mass. This occurs due to age, hormonal changes, and decreased physical activity. There is certainly a tendency at Menopause to have a double effect of both oestrogen dominance and a lower rate of exercise so checking that you are getting sufficient physical activity is really important.
According to some research, a woman’s resting energy expenditure, or the number of calories she burns during rest, declines during and after menopause so it is even more important to check that you are getting enough exercise in a week.
– Inadequate sleep. Many women have trouble sleeping during menopause for a variety of reasons including night sweats and having to go to the bathroom more often. Unfortunately this is stressful, and poor sleep is linked to weight gain, which is also frequently linked to increased levels of anxiety and stress.
– Increased insulin resistance. Women often become insulin resistant as they age, which can make losing weight more difficult . What’s more, fat storage shifts from the hips and thighs to the abdomen during menopause.
This increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease
Therefore, anything that you can do to help increase the loss of abdominal fat is particularly important at peri/menopause.
Menopause may lead to hormonal changes, loss of muscle mass, poor sleep, and insulin resistance. These effects may, in turn, increase the risk of weight gain.
Importance of a calorie deficit diet
To lose weight, a calorie deficit is needed and although it may be tempting to try a very low calorie diet to lose weight quickly, eating so few calories can sometimes make weight loss harder.
Research shows that restricting calories to low levels causes loss of muscle mass and a further decline in metabolic rate.
So while very low calorie diets may result in short-term weight loss, their effects on muscle mass and metabolic rate will make it hard to keep the weight off.
Moreover, insufficient calorie intake and decreased muscle mass may lead to bone loss. This can increase your risk for osteoporosis (12
Adopting a healthy lifestyle that can be maintained long term can help preserve your metabolic rate and reduce the amount of muscle mass you lose with age.
Good diets at menopause
There is no one diet that will work for everyone, so you have to take into consideration your lifestyle, and various other contributing factors, but here are some suggestions.
– The low carb diet. Many studies have shown that low carb diets are excellent for weight loss and are also able to help reduce abdominal fat.
Although perimenopausal and postmenopausal women have been included in several low carbohydrate studies, there have only been a few studies looking at this population exclusively.
In one such study, postmenopausal women on a low carbohydrate diet lost 21.8 pounds (9.9 kilograms), 27.5% of their body fat, and 3.5 inches (8.9 centimeters) from their waists within 6 months.
What’s more, carbohydrate intake doesn’t need to be extremely low to produce weight loss.
– The paleo diet in one study was providing roughly 30% of calories from carbohydrates and produced a greater reduction in abdominal fat and weight after 2 years than a low fat diet. The low fat diet provided 55–60% of calories from carbs (17
– The Mediterranean diet is best known for improving health and reducing heart disease risk, but studies show it may also help you lose weight.
Like low carbohydrate diet studies, most Mediterranean diet studies have looked at both men and women rather than perimenopausal or postmenopausal women exclusively.
In one study of men and women ages 55 years and older, those who followed a Mediterranean diet had significant reductions in abdominal fat. Their diets were supplemented with either nuts or olive oil.
– A vegan or vegetarian diet has also shown promise for weight loss. Older studies in postmenopausal women reported significant weight loss and improvements in health among a group assigned to a vegan diet
A 2018 survey found that vegans in perimenopause experienced less severe vasomotor symptoms (such as hot flushes) and physical symptoms than omnivores.
However, a more flexible vegetarian approach that includes dairy and eggs has also been shown to work well in older women.
Diet tips that work
Here are a few other tips that can help with weight loss during menopause or at any age.
– Eat plenty of protein as it helps keep you full and satisfied, increases metabolic rate, and reduces muscle loss during weight loss
– Include dairy in your diet. Research suggests that dairy products can help you lose fat while retaining muscle mass.
– Eat foods high in soluble fibre like flaxseeds, Brussels sprouts, avocados, and broccoli as they can help increase insulin sensitivity, reduce appetite, and promote weight loss.
– Drink green tea as it contains the compounds caffeine and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). They may help you burn fat.
– Practice mindful eating as it may help reduce stress and improve your relationship with food, so you end up eating less.
Best types of exercise for weight loss
Most people become less active as they age, but exercise may be more important than ever during and after menopause.
It can improve mood, promote a healthy weight, and protect your muscles and bones.
Resistance training with weights or bands can be extremely effective at preserving or even increasing lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass normally declines with hormonal changes and age .
Although all types of resistance training are beneficial, recent research suggests that performing more repetitions is better, especially for reducing abdominal fat.you
Aerobic exercise, or cardio, is also great for menopause. Studies have shown that it can reduce abdominal fat while preserving muscle during weight loss.
A mix of resistance training and aerobic exercise may be the best strategy for weight loss.
Resistance training and aerobic exercise can help promote fat loss while preventing the muscle loss that normally occurs around menopause.
Lifestyle changes that promote weight loss during menopause
There are several ways to improve your quality of life and make weight loss easier during menopause.
– Getting restful, good quality sleep is ideal, but many women in menopause have trouble sleeping.
However, if you want to lose weight, and keep it off, have a good nights sleep is essential.
People who sleep too little have higher levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin, have lower levels of the “fullness hormone” leptin, and are more likely to be overweight
There are also a considerable number of alternative and complementary therapies which have been found helpful at menopause..
– Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is a form of psychotherapy shown to help with insomnia, and so help with weight loss.
According to a 2019 study, postmenopausal women who received CBT for their insomnia saw a greater increase in sleep duration over 6 months than women who received sleep hygiene education or sleep restriction therapy
– Acupuncture may also be helpful as in one study, it reduced the frequency of hot flushes by 36.7% over 6 months.
– Stress relief is also important as in addition to increasing the risk of heart disease, stress leads to elevated cortisol levels, which are associated with increased abdominal fat.
– Yoga has been found in several studies to help reduce stress and relieve symptoms in women going through menopause.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising, getting enough sleep, focusing on a nutrient-dense balanced diet, and eating mindfully can help you look and feel your absolute best during menopause and beyond.
Although losing weight may be your primary goal, it’s important that you make changes you can maintain long term.
It’s also best to focus on health rather than the number on the scale and if your concern is hormonally based weight gain, then you will find this diet helpful too.