When my waistline began to bulge a bit a very years ago, I simply I ate a bit more carefully for a few weeks and the bulge disappeared. However, I’ve recently realized that it’s much harder than it used to be to shift that “spare tyre”—just cutting back a bit doesn’t work so well any more. It was quite a revelation to discover that the menopause could be to blame. I eat fairly healthily (although the occasional chocolate fudge sundae has been known to pass my lips!), and I exercise regularly, but now I’m having to pay more attention in order to maintain a healthy weight.
If you’re struggling with the same problem, it will help to know why the menopause can make it more difficult to lose excess weight and to learn what you can do to tackle it.
Why does the menopause cause weight gain?
When women hit the menopause, estrogen levels reduce. Estrogen plays a role in how efficiently the body process our food and converts into energy if we need it, or fat if the body thinks we don’t. Starches are digested less efficiently, so they’re more likely to be stored as fat. Low estrogen also influences how much energy we expend when we’re active, so we need to exercise more to achieve the same results. Some studies have found that estrogen also increases our sensitivity to hunger hormones, so we feel hungrier and often crave carbs. As well as undermining our weight loss on a physical level, estrogen-induced lethargy and depression can make us feel less like exercising and more like comforting ourselves with a slab of chocolate.
We all know that eating healthily and having an active lifestyle can help us maintain a good weight and make us feel better all round. So how can we combat the negative effects of low estrogen and improve our quality of life?
A healthy diet
Just because we follow a healthy diet doesn’t mean our food has to be tasteles sor that we can’t enjoy the occasional treat. With a little planning, it’s possible to cook tasty meals that will satisfy the appetite and the taste buds. If you love cooking, check out some online sites and experiment with new spices and flavorings. If you’re less keen on being a gourmet chef, many supermarkets offer delicious readymade meals that are geared to suit healthy eating plans. Choose wisely when you eat out, and avoid hidden high-fat horrors like creamy salad dressings. Portion control is essential, so make your kitchen scales your best friend and never trust your eyes. Eating healthily will help you avoid many of the problems associated with poor diet, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. As a bonus, you’ll feel better in yourself too.
Once you’re eating good food, you’ll have more energy and feel more like hitting the gym or pounding the sidewalk. Daily exercise will help your mental and physical health and is a great ally in your fight against the flab. If you haven’t exercised much recently or you have a medical condition, check with your doctor first and take advice about which activities are safe for and how hard you should be working. Take things carefully at first—after all, you don’t want your progress to grind to a halt with an injury. Aerobic activities like swimming, bike riding or running are all great, but if that’s all a step too far then a brisk walk will do just as well. You may prefer an organized sport such as tennis or badminton, or you may just like to get out into the great outdoors by following a hiking trail. Strength training will supplement your routine, so activities like lifting weights or doing Pilates exercises three times a week will also help build your muscle tone.
Living an active lifestyle
Finally, you can also increase your fat-burning capacity by staying active as much as possible. Chasing the grandchildren around the park will certainly keep you on your toes, or a couple of hours of brisk housework will do the job too. Walk as much as you can rather than relying on the car, and always choose the stairs over the lift where possible. Look for every opportunity to keep your body moving, and you’ll find those stubborn pounds will eventually shift.