As we age, our body stops working as efficiently as it did before. Muscle mass starts to decrease – a process known as “sarcopenia” – and fat begins to increase. Menopause accompanied by weight gain is bother-some. Menopause belly fat is also known as meno-pot.
And because muscle mass is one of the determining factors of how fast your metabolism will run, when your muscle mass decreases, your body starts to burn fewer calories at rest. This might make it more challenging to maintain your weight.
Certain areas such as your stomach are more prone to weight gain during menopause. This is because the change in hormones, which lead to a higher testosterone-to-estrogen ratio, alters where the body deposits fat(meno-pot). Fat comes off the hips and is deposited around the middle.
But the hormonal changes involved in menopause aren’t the reason you gain weight.
As we age, we tend to continue with the same food habits but don’t increase our activity. In fact, aches and pains can make some people decrease their active lifestyle.
Your body starts eating away at muscle mass around age 40. Not compensating for the ageing process and the change in body composition can lead to weight gain.
Menopause and weight gain
Due to a change in body fat distribution and an increase in waist circumference, menopause can also increase your risk of other health conditions.
Following menopause, your ovaries make very little of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen helps to keep your blood vessels dilated – relaxed and open – which helps keep your cholesterol levels down.
Without estrogen, or with lower quantities, your bad cholesterol (known as low-density lipoprotein or LDL-cholesterol) starts to build up in your arteries. This can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Having less estrogen also results in a loss of bone mass, putting you at risk of the disease osteoporosis, which makes your bones more prone to fractures.
Tips to Bounce Back
Weight gain associated with ageing is not inevitable. There are a number of things you can do to maintain your weight as you age.
Incorporate regular daily exercise, with a mixture of intensities and a variety of activities. Try to include body-strengthening exercises two days per week.
- Weigh yourself –once/week
Weigh yourself once a week at the same time and day to monitor the trend over time. Any more than this will only create a fixation with weight. Day-to-day fluctuations in weight are to be expected.
- Create positive habits
Create positive habits by replacing negative behaviors. For example, instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media of an evening or turning on the TV and comfort-eating, replace it with positive behaviour, such as learning a new hobby, reading a book, or going for a walk.
- Eat more slowly
Eat food away from technological distractions and slow down your food consumption.
Try using a teaspoon or chopsticks and chew your food thoroughly as slowing down your food consumption reduces the quantity consumed.
- Switch off from technology:
Turn off technology after dusk to improve your sleep. Blue light emission from phones, tablets, and other devices tells your brain it’s the day, instead of night, which will keep you awake.
Lack of sleep (less than six hours per night) can compromise your decision-making abilities which might lead you to make unhealthy choices that contribute to weight gain. Getting less sleep can increase levels of stress hormones, which can be powerful in convincing you to put down that apple and reach for potato chips instead.
- Curb sugar cravings naturally
If you’re craving sugar you’re better off reaching for foods naturally high in sugar and fat first. Some great options are fruits, nuts, avocado, and 100% nut butter. These foods release the same feel-good chemicals in the brain as processed and fast food and leave us feeling full.
Allow yourself your favourite treats, but keep them to once per week.