As you age, your body will undergo changes, not the least of which is menopause. As you go through this change you will most likely gain weight. This weight goes right to your middle. You begin to feel the frustration of the so-called middle-aged spread. But the weight gain associated with menopause need not send you spiraling into body image crisis. You can manage the weight and the reshaping of your body will be nothing more than another milestone in your life.
During menopause, the fluctuations in hormone levels and systemic changes cause a woman’s body to shift priorities. Calories are retained as fat and an increase in androgen levels sends fat to the abdomen rather than to the hips and thighs. Belly fat is more difficult to convert to muscle, and more difficult to lose. But a flat belly and tight butt shouldn’t be the goal of a menopausal woman. Those few extra pounds are your body’s way of adapting to the change.
Most women enter perimenopause sometime in their forties. During perimenopause, your period may become irregular. You may experience mood swings and your energy levels may drop. Your hormone levels are fluctuating and in response, your body is beginning to store calories as fat.
During perimenopause and the first years of menopause, you will most likely gain weight. You may gain about a pound a year. Previous to perimenopause, an extra pound would distribute throughout your body and would be lost with increased exercise. As you go through the stages of menopause, these slowly gained pounds gather around your middle. In your late 50s and early 60s, your body changes from pear shaped to apple shaped.
This natural progression of your body doesn’t give you license to eat a lot of junk food and skip exercise. You can’t blame excessive weight gain on menopause and expect to remain healthy. During perimenopause and menopause you need to follow the golden rules of good health: eat a well balanced diet and get plenty of exercise.
To manage your weight gain, you should eat more fruits and vegetables and less bread. You should drink more water and less caffeine. And you should begin taking vitamin D and calcium supplements.
Vitamin D is necessary to processing calcium and calcium is necessary for healthy bones. But vitamin D and calcium supplements can also slow down the process of gaining weight; you may not gain as much over the duration of your change.
You should, and need, to gain some extra weight, but no more than ten pounds, depending on your height and bone structure. It is a misconception that those extra pounds indicate you’re on the road to heart disease. Those extra pounds are providing your body with the ability to maintain healthy bone mass and prevent severe hot flashes, or at least lessen their frequency.
Those extra pounds are also helping to prevent thyroid malfunction, gall bladder problems and insulin resistance, a condition that may result in diabetes or metabolic disorders.
Menopause may cause some discomfort, and you may need to change your diet and exercise regimen to manage the weight gain. Be realistic in your goals, and you will be a healthy and strong woman for many years to come.