“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
Aging is a good thing! At least it is better than the alternative. This is for all of the women out there wondering if it is even possible to stop the weight gain that occurs as they approach the mid to late 40’s, 50’s and beyond. Here’s the deal:
Research shows the average weight gain during peri-menopause and menopause is 10-14 pounds. Research also shows this weight gain is avoidable!
The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data documents the largest increase in the percentage of women who become overweight or obese occured between the ages of 40 and 59. (68%)
In a large study from Australia, over a five year period, women, on average, gained a little more than one pound per year. The research scientists adjusted for biological factors and discovered the decreased exercise, hysterectomy and more sedentary lifestyle were independently associated with weight gain.
In another, even larger study, researchers evaluated post-menopausal women, and documented a 10-pound weight gain over seven years that they attributed to increased sedentary behavior and decreased recreational activities.
Good news that weight gain is preventable. The bad news is that as the level of estrogen decreases, there is a shift in where fat is stored. It moves from the hips to the stomach and any new fat is deposited around the stomach. Abdominal (stomach) fat is associated with serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many others. So it is essential to lose extra weight before it is depostited in around the mid-section.
If weight gain is avoidable, why does it occur and what can we do to stop it from happening to us? Great question!
Exercise. There appears to be a decrease in planned, purposeful exercise. Review of health club enrollment and class evaluations indicate this is the age many women drop gym memberships or take less intense exercise classes. It is common to hear women say they used to walk four miles, five times a week, but now only walk 2 miles, three times a week.
Less exercise results in not only fewer calories burned but a decrease in muscle mass, which further diminishes calories burned. Studies show that women in this age range should make 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and two strength training sessions per week a high priority.
Change in Eating Habits. Lifestyle changes during this time period can easily impact calorie intake. Family dynamics change as kids’ age and cooking meals at home may not be as high of a priority. Market studies indicate an increase in money spent by women at casual dining restaurants during the 40’s and 50’s. Restaurant eating generally results in increased calorie intake. American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends women eat 200 fewer calories per day than what they ate in younger years.
Stress. This is a hard one to manage. Estrogen helps to regulate the hormone Cortisol. Cortisol helps us control stress. As estrogen decreases it becomes difficult for the body to manage stress and cortisol levels rise. Many women eat more and less healthfully when they are stressed. Manage stress levels and it should be easier to manage diet.
Lack of Sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reports approximately 61% of menopausal women do not sleep well. Not enough sleep raises the levels of ghrelin, a hormone which helps regulate hunger. Ghrelin increases your appetite and fat production. Lack of sleep also lowers the hormone leptin which tells your body you are full and don’t need to eat. It is recommended women get between seven and eight hours sleep per night.
At the end of the day, menopause is going to happen. Understanding that the changes in your body are due to fluctuations in hormones and not because you are lazy or undisciplined is important. Also, knowing there are very active things you can do to manage your weight and the changes to your body is critical. Be empowered!