By: Holly L. Thacker, MD
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Weight gain during menopause is so common that some women even have a name for it — the “meno-pot.” It’s the potbelly that develops in so many women during mid-life, when changing hormones and a slower metabolism team up to pack on the extra pounds.
There’s no quick-and-easy fix for mid-life weight gain, but weight gain during menopause is not inevitable. Even though there is evidence that hormone therapy may help to control weight gain, battling your meno-pot comes down to basics — a low-calorie diet and exercise.
Ways to approach diet and exercise
There are many ways to approach diet and exercise. Here are a few suggestions I offer my patients:
Keep a diet journal. You may be eating a lot more calories than you think, which is a common problem. Keep a journal of everything you eat, and consider consulting a registered dietitian for help in creating a healthy eating plan.
Strength train. When it comes to exercise, the most important thing mid-life women can do is incorporate strength training with weights. Your body starts eating away at muscle mass around age 40, and weight training is necessary to protect it. There are lots of great fitness apps that can help you create and track your exercise routine also.
Work to prevent weight gain in younger years. Premenopausal women, listen up — now’s the time to take action to prevent mid-life weight gain. Get your weight under control now and develop an exercise routine that you can stick with into mid-life and beyond.
What causes the meno-pot?
How tough your fight will be against menopausal weight gain really depends on your body type and overall health.
Both a slower metabolism and loss of hormones can team up to challenge women after menopause, making it harder to maintain their weight. Most of it is the result of the normal aging process. As we get older, our metabolism naturally slows down, and we often lose muscle mass.
The loss of hormones also plays a role, often disturbing your sleep and affecting your appetite. 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.
Also, women with chronic illnesses like diabetes are most at risk for mid-life weight gain. The same goes for women with polycystic ovary syndrome or sleep apnea, which can zap your daytime energy. Women who are recovering from hip, knee or foot surgeries that make exercise difficult may also struggle.
Despite the challenges, you can combat weight gain. Be persistent, which is more important than working for quick results. With a slow, steady approach to diet and exercise, you can incorporate the changes over the long haul as part of a healthier lifestyle.