Menopause Weight Loss
Menopause weight loss is possible. Let’s set that straight. Conventional wisdom (is there such a thing?) says it’s typical for a woman to gain weight during menopause. If this title and topic got you here, then you’ve likely read (and I hope, rejected) the metabolism slows with age.
That’s another point that needs clarity.
In the past metabolism slowing has been associated with age and menopause.
Metabolism slowing is actually related to more than age or menopause:
- reduced physical activity
- lack of muscle preserving and building exercise
- increased social eating and drinking
- inadequate overall caloric intake
- Inadequate protein intake
- Inadequate micronutrients (even if you’ve got enough – it better be good!)
So, let’s rephrase. The truth is this:
A slow metabolism typical of both aging men and women, and specifically women in menopause is related to habits. What we’ve seen in the past does not have to be true of you! Menopause weight loss is possible and menopause weight gain is avoidable.
Simple steps to menopause weight loss
Stop doing those things that slow your metabolism in order to increase it. That makes sense, right? Where do you start?
Increase your daily physical activity.
Yes, you may have a sedentary job. You may have a special condition that limits you in some ways. Look for the small things you can do. Find the movement you can do. Even, as little as sitting up on the edge of your chair instead of sitting back allowing the chair to hold you counts. Get up and walk to the water fountain, and inevitably to the bathroom.
Move during breaks and lunch. It doesn’t have to be a sweat session. Even yoga, stretching, or walking to where you’ll eat add to the little movement you do during the day. It’s not about total steps by the way. It’s more about getting a little breathless walking up a hill or the stairs for a few minutes. I know if you love counting steps, I may alienate you, but you’ve got to have some intensity. An accumulation of steps alone doesn’t do it. But to those High-intensity-interval fans I say this too, you also have to move the rest of the day!
This Non-Exercise-Activity-Time (N.E.A.T.) is more correlated to overweight and obesity than is formal exercise. You can’t out-interval 23 1/2 hours of inactivity. Whether its menopause weight loss or any other time of life, what you do most of the time matters far more than what you do a small portion of the time.
As you read through this list I hope you’re not thinking of this as multiple choice responses where you’re going to choose one, or even two. Let me give you the answer key right now. It’s “all of the above.” So when you get to the bottom of the page you’re going to start a check list and look at which you’re doing. Work at getting them all checked. Once you have all items checked or if you do now, you need to dive deeper with getting clear on HOW you’re doing them. “Eating healthy” does not mean the same for each of us any more or for you now as it did back in the day. Weight training has some specific requirements to get you results (none of which include pain or not being able to walk tomorrow).
Get into the weight room now.
The only real way to prevent muscle loss is resistance training. Reaching fatigue in every single set that you do (I’ll leave latitude where you’re doing some rehab or corrective exercise) is a must. Women notoriously, both in literature and in 34 years of observing them directly and indirectly [having supervised over 250,000 personal training sessions during 6 years as a personal training director] underestimate their strength. Or they fear bulk and actually end up doing what is a bulk-training protocol because they choose too light of weights or a wrong protocol match for their body type.
In 12 week of a weight training program you can expect to lose 4 pounds of fat and gain 3 pounds of muscle. Not a big win for weight loss in menopause, I hear you. That change is expected to continue during the first 12 weeks of starting (or getting a better weight training plan). In three months then you lose 12 pounds of fat and gain nine of muscle. Still not an impressive needle mover on the scale? True. Your clothes will fit differently however. Your shape will be tighter and more toned. You will carry yourself differently thanks to better posture. You will sleep better. You will also have reduced risk of anxiety and depression.
When all those goodies happen, you will start making more positive changes in the things that follow. And you will have raised your metabolism. For about $100 you can have three or four sets of dumbbells and an exercise ball that will allow you to do almost any kind of exercise at home. If you can use the floor, you’re good to go. If you can’t, add a bench to your list.
Be social at home or learn to order off a menu better
An active social life (no pun intended) is good for health too. It’s better if your socializing with others who also want to have healthier habits. Swap out restaurant eating with cooking at home. Get familiar with what to order and ask for at a restaurant. “Healthy food” isn’t always healthy for you. Just because it has a star or points at a restaurant, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. You’ve been duped by RDAs, AHAs and point systems. You may not tolerate certain healthy foods and by eating them be slowing your metabolism. Learn to eat for your body. It can still be delicious. We’re supposed to get pleasure from food. It’s far more pleasurable when you enjoy eating it and how you feel afterwards though, right?
Reconsider everything you know about food and calories
In the U.S. at least, we tend to eat more food than anywhere else in the world and yet we’re the most undernourished. We’re eating crap. We’re eating too little good food and too many chemicals.
You’re not a point system or a calories in-calories out equation. You don’t get to eat more or earn eating because you exercised. It just doesn’t work that way. If you feel the need to “treat” yourself because you exercised, you probably don’t like the exercise you’re doing! Find something you do! Then eat for fuel. Eat because it tastes great and its good for you: those two are not mutually exclusive.
You have to eat enough. Women more often than not in my 34 years – especially in the last half of that as we understood better about the nutrition-exercise-metabolism integration, eat too little. When you get more fit, you have more lean, you rev your metabolism and you must feed it. For weight loss in menopause or any other time for that matter, you have to send your body a message to burn more. Eating more (of the right foods at the right time) helps you do that. Eating less tells your metabolism to slow down. Menopause weight loss will be impossible if you confuse your body with go fast, go slow messages at the same time.
Pay attention to protein amount and timing
You potentially get either a good feeling or negative one even beginning to read this point. It’s a point you either agree with, you disagree with, or you’re still confused by and not doing anything about yet. I understand the frustration. Science since 2008 is supporting recommendations for three meals spread out through the day of protein intake between 20-30 grams each. For older adults, additional research finds protein synthesis is reduced, meaning higher amounts of protein, and pre and or post exercise protein intake is better to boost lean muscle preservation.
Muscle requires protein and specific essential amino acids. Even if you’re lifting weights, unless you’re eating protein to repair and rebuild muscles, you may be breaking down faster than you’re building your metabolism. Protein is also key, together with fiber, in keeping you full – and not just full, sated. When you’re sated you don’t have a desire for whatever sugary treats await in the break room or those Girl Scout cookies in the icebox. It’s not even willpower. You’re just good.
Eat more good stuff and get a better vitamin
We are going to have a hard time eating 21-27,000 calories a day. That’s what on average, some of the healthiest and most popular diets (even DASH, designed by a physician) require to get even the minimum amount of vitamins and minerals. Impossible! And not a suggestion!
The more and the more diverse vegetables you can eat, the better. The more you’re aware of your lifestyle habits that rob you from absorbing nutrients you are eating, or prevent their absorption the better.
Food has changed. Eating well is a challenge. To “eat healthy” is not enough. You need to dig into what that means to you, and whether that’s about true for you right now or based on old learning and thoughts. Menopause weight loss with teenage or 20-something methods is bound to fail.
When you eat well and you’ve got a body fueled optimally, you want to move more. You’ve got the energy to do it – as well as the stuff better digestion and sleep are made of. Menopause weight loss is absolutely possible. Avoiding weight gain in the first place would be even better. Share this with those younger women in your life. They can avoid the pitfalls and you can recover from them.
Food and exercise both are medicine if we allow them to be. Menopause weight loss is a lot easier and comfortable than you might think.
I’d love to hear from you. Is menopause weight loss a challenge for you? How can I help?