Menopause – Where Did This Weight Come From?

Today we have a special guest post from one of trainers Diane Anderson. Many women have asked about menopause and Diane is certainly more qualified to speak to it then I. Thanks, Diane!

Menopausal weight gain—it’s real, it’s necessary, and it’s the most stubborn weight gain you’ll ever experience. Menopausal weight gain has been viewed as part of the aging process and a result of eating too much and/or exercising too little. For years people have been telling us to eat less, exercise more, and diet harder to lose weight. The problem is the harder you try to lose weight by dieting alone, the the harder it is to do it! You’re gaining weight because your fat cells are responding to lower hormonal levels, a drop in metabolism, and an overriding need to maintain your physical and emotional health during the menopausal transition and beyond. This doesn’t even count the emotional issues that occur during menopause and what happens when we get emotional? Here’s a hint: we don’t crave salad!


Not What We Crave Under Stress

There are several things that play a role in this weight gain:
• Hormone fluctuations – reduced levels of estrogen lowers our metabolic rate (the rate at which the body converts stored energy into working energy) which leads to increased fat storage. Your fat cells grow larger to start producing estrogen for you.
• Loss of muscle mass – this occurs naturally due to age, hormonal changes and decreased physical activity.
• Inadequate sleep – many women have trouble sleeping during this time and poor sleep is linked to weight gain.
• Increased insulin resistance – women often become insulin resistant as they age which can make losing weight more difficult.
On top of that, fat storage shifts from the hips and thighs to the abdomen during menopause.

What’s a woman to do???

Dieting too aggressively not only makes your midlife fat cells larger, it makes your menopausal experience worse! That being said, in order to lose weight calories must be reduced. During and after menopause, the number of calories a woman burns during rest declines. Although you may want to try a very low calorie diet to lose weight quickly, this is actually the worst thing you can do. Restricting calories to low levels causes loss of muscle mass and a further decline in metabolic rate. Eating more nutrient dense foods such as more fruit and vegetables and lean protein, and watching portion sizes instead of drastically slashing calories is a much better alternative.

A good diet may also reduce those pesky hot flashes and night sweats. Weight loss that occurs in conjunction with a low-fat, high whole grains, fruit and vegetable diet may help to reduce or eliminate hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause, according to a 2012 Kaiser Permanente study.

You need to move during your midlife years more than you have ever needed to before. Most people become less active as they age. Exercise is the only way to stimulate the release of fat from your fat cells. Regular exercise will help fight fatigue, recharge your metabolism, reduce mental sluggishness, improve your sleep, stabilize your moods, diminish food cravings (did someone say chocolate?), reduce hot flashes, achieve greater mobility, balance and agility, strengthen your bones, and stabilize your blood sugar. It keeps your joints and muscles strong. It helps your bowels work well. It relieves depression and stress. It just improves your overall health and helps to live a longer life. This sounds good doesn’t it?

What type of exercise is best?
• Strength training helps build muscle mass and improves metabolism. It also helps maintain and improve bone mass and density. This is a huge concern during menopause! I’m sure you’d heard of osteoporosis and osteopenia. This is one of the main reasons that we emphasize strength training at our gym. Let’s put it this way: if you only have time to perform one type of exercise, this would be it.
• Low impact aerobics such as walking, swimming, cycling, and dancing.
• Add some time of activity to your daily schedule.

What should you do now?

Do something. Pick up those weights to build your muscle and strength. Boost your metabolism, recharge your battery, and feel your best.

Throw away your scale, but not your common sense. Give up extreme dieting, but not your desire to be healthy, fit and strong. Think of a lifestyle approach, not a deprivation approach. Eat as clean a diet as you can – load up on the protein, vegetables and fruit – reduce or eliminate processed foods.


Let go of control, but not your commitment to take care of yourself.

Our bodies are wondrous and beautiful in all sizes and at all stages of life. Menopause is a pivotal stage of female passage, awakening us to new and rewarding ways of living. Form a partnership with your maturing body, embrace its changes, and experience health and self-acceptance as you journey through your midlife years and beyond.

By Diane Anderson

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
Mitch Rothbardt Fitness at 2861 Grove Way
Castro Valley’s Premier Fitness Facility
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