I have come to the conclusion that life likes to play little “tricks” on us. How so you ask? Well, it starts out when we are little. We want something such as candy, ice cream, etc., when we are young and our parents say, “No, it’s not good for you!” Now, our little minds really can’t understand that and so we say to ourselves, “When I grow up I am going to buy all the candy I want” or “When I grow up nobody is going to tell me how much ice cream I can eat.” Do any of those statements sound familiar?
Then we get a little older and one day we’re given some money from Grandma or some chore done around the house and when somebody finally takes us to the store we sadly find out that we don’t have quite enough money to purchase all the candy we want. However, in all of our 7 year old wisdom we know that when we grow up and get a job, THEN we’ll have enough money to get that candy.
Well, you know how that works out. By the time we get that job in our teens we aren’t thinking about the candy anymore. We have moved on to important things like clothes and movies. (wink-wink). And so goes the “wants” and “means” as they evolve over time going through many phases.
So I was just thinking one day on how as kids we want something and an adult tells us we can’t or shouldn’t have it and we have no choice but to accept it either willingly or kicking and screaming at the check out . And then fast forward to the day when we find ourselves being the adult and having to tell ourselves, “No, you can’t have that, it’s not good for you” even though we have the freedom and the means to buy it for ourselves. This being one of the many little tricks that I was talking about.
Wow! I said all of that to say this. I am now considered a “mid lifer.” That is someone of middle age for those of you that don’t know (yet) but hold on you will eventually. And with that middle age comes something called menopause for us women.
Now when we are let’s say in our mid to late 30’s we might be thinking, “Come on menopause!” It’s time to move on from “certain issues” in our lives and we think menopause will solve some of those. But au contraire, anyone who has truly reached menopause knows that in fact your so called “certain issues” have just been traded for “other issues.” Hence this being another little (or big) trick depending on what’s going on and how your body has reacted to the “change of life.”
But for the sake of this blog I’m just going to talk about one of the new issues that seems to pop up, (or should I say pop out) and that is weight gain. Even though we know we haven't changed our eating habits we wonder in frustration what in the world is going on when we try to fasten our favorite jeans.
Menopausal weight gain has been reported to be one of the most frustrating symptoms of menopause. Have you noticed a change in the size and shape around your abdomen? Maybe a bulge above your waistband that you didn’t have before? Some people refer to it as the “Middle age spread.” This is usually caused by a change in your hormones.
Even if you have never had a weight problem in the past, you might find it harder now to manage your weight when you find yourself approaching menopause. Many women gain around 10-15 pounds during the perimenopause to the actual menopause period at a rate of around 1 pound per year on average. And you will probably notice that your weight is not distributing itself the same as it used to be. And while some women might not see an actual weight difference on the scales the proportion of body fat has increased. Can we all just say, Yippee, Yippee Yay?
Now remember when I said that the weight gain could be attributed to hormones? Well, that is just partially true. Our hormones do play an integral part in influencing menopause and weight gain in relation to our appetite, metabolism and fat storage. However, there are other factors as well.
Age and lifestyle are the main culprits. Aging is associated with slowing of the metabolism. In fact most women experience a 5% decrease in metabolic rate per decade. And because metabolism slows as women approach menopause, they need about 200 fewer calories a day to maintain their weight as they enter their mid to late 40’s. Our lean body mass also decreases with age while body fat accumulates throughout adulthood. Another Yippee Yay right there right? Also, women generally become less physically active as they go through their 40’s and the years beyond. So it’s really not hard to see that because we are less active our weight and fat mass increases and with decreased activity our muscle mass decreases.
So, what are us “mid lifers” to do? Do we have to accept that it is inevitable we are going to gain weight? Not necessarily. Although there’s no magic formula to avoid weight gain as we age, the strategies below can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight:
- Be proactive. Get ahead of the game. Knowing that weight gain is in the cards don’t wait for the weight to add up before switching to a healthier lifestyle. One interesting fact is that menopausal women who manage to retain their “youthful figure” are usually those who have always been active and continue to do so. They might notice a change in the distribution of their weight but overall they look trim, fit and healthy.
- Increase your physical activity. Find an activity that you enjoy (think aerobic) such as jogging, dancing, cycling or good old fashion walking, and do it on a regular basis for at least 45 to 60 minutes four to five days a week thus boosting your metabolism which aids in burning fat.
- Do strength training. Exercises such as weight lifting can boost your metabolism as well as increase muscle mass and strengthen bones. Use resistance bands or use your own body as resistance and do push-ups, squats, or lunges. Even heavy gardening such as digging or hoeing weeds can be classified as strength training. Building muscle mass is also more likely to protect against future weight gain.
- Watch your diet. You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Take a good look at your diet and see what you can do to improve it. I’m sure you can find some refined carbohydrates hiding in there somewhere that can be cut out. It doesn’t hurt to look at portion sizes either, remember, women need about 200 fewer calories a day just to maintain their weight as they enter their mid to late 40’s. But don’t forget to keep up with the daily calcium requirements if you are simultaneously trying to lose weight though as women are at an increased risk of bone density loss at this age.
Whew! that was a lot of information. Hopefully you are not dealing with menopausal brain fog and you got all of that. Okay, a little humor there! Well, that’s it. I guess we have more control over weight gain than we would like to admit. We can’t just blame it on menopause. We have some responsibility too.
So if you are nearing or in the “change of life” time frame and would like some coaching to help you put these strategies into motion to ward off menopausal weight gain, please call me at (616) 516-1570 and together let’s just see if we can’t play some tricks of our own on menopause.