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Must Try Diet and Exercises for Menopausal Women
Published on November 24, 2021 and last updated for accuracy on January 8, 2022
Losing Weight During Menopause (and Keep It Off)
Losing Weight during and after menopause can be difficult. Hormone fluctuations, stress, and aging can all be detrimental. During this time, you can take several steps to help you lose weight.
Menopause is defined as a period of 12 months without a menstrual cycle. Weight loss may be difficult at this time. In fact, many women notice weight gain during perimenopause, which can start a decade before menopause.
Weight gain during menopause is caused by a number of factors.
- Hormone swings. Estrogen, both high and low, can increase fat storage.
- Muscle loss. This is caused by aging, hormonal changes, and inactivity.
- Lack of sleep. Menopause causes insomnia in many women. Stress leads to weight gain.
- Insulin resistance rises. Women’s insulin resistance increases with age, making weight loss more difficult.
During menopause, fat storage shifts from the hips and thighs to the abdomen. Diabetes type 2 and heart disease are linked to obesity.
So abdominal fat loss strategies are crucial at this stage of life.
Menopause can cause hormonal shifts, muscle loss, insomnia, and insulin resistance. These side effects may contribute to weight gain.
A calorie deficit is vital!
Losing weight requires a calorie deficit.
During and after menopause, a woman’s resting energy expenditure, or the number of calories she burns, may decrease.
While a low-calorie diet may seem appealing to lose weight quickly, eating so few calories can sometimes hinder weight loss.
Low calorie diets cause muscle loss and slower metabolic rate, according to research.
However, the effects of very low calorie diets on muscle mass and metabolic rate make weight loss difficult to maintain.
Insufficient calorie intake and loss of muscle mass can cause bone loss. This can cause osteoporosis.
Adopting a long-term healthy lifestyle can help maintain your metabolic rate and reduce muscle mass loss.
A calorie deficit is required to lose weight. However, excessive calorie restriction causes muscle loss, which accelerates the aging metabolic process.
Menopause Diets That Work
Here are three healthy diets proven to help women lose weight during and after menopause.
Low Carb Diet
Many studies have shown that low carb diets can help you lose weight and reduce belly fat.
Several low carb studies have included perimenopausal and postmenopausal women, but only a few have focused on this group.
Some postmenopausal women lost 21.8 pounds (9.9 kilograms) of fat and 3.5 inches (8.1 centimeters) from their waists in 6 months on a low-carbohydrate diet.
Moreover, low carbohydrate diets can result in weight loss.
In another study, a paleo diet with roughly 30% carbs reduced abdominal fat and weight more than a low-fat diet after two years. The low-fat diet provided carbs for 55–60% of calories.
Aside from its health benefits and reduced risk of heart disease, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to aid in weight loss.
In contrast to low carb diet studies, most Mediterranean diet studies included both men and women, not just peri- or postmenopausal women.
In one study of older men and women, those who ate a Mediterranean diet had significantly less abdominal fat. Their diets included nuts or olive oil.
Veggie or Vegan Diet
Vegan and vegetarian diets may also help you lose weight.
In older studies of postmenopausal women, a vegan diet led to significant weight loss and improved health.
A 2018 study found that vegans had fewer vasomotor (hot flashes) and physical symptoms than omnivores during perimenopause.
A vegetarian diet that includes dairy and eggs has also been shown to benefit older women.
Diets low in carbs, Mediterranean, vegan, and vegetarian have been shown to help women in menopause.
Exercises to Lose Weight
As we age, we become less active.
Exercise is critical during and after menopause.
In addition, it protects your muscles and bones.
Resistance training with weights or bands can help maintain or gain lean muscle mass. Normal hormonal and age-related loss of lean muscle mass
Recent research suggests that more repetitions are better, especially for reducing abdominal fat.
Cardio is also great for menopause. It has been shown to reduce abdominal fat while maintaining muscle mass.
Weight loss may be best achieved by combining resistance and aerobic exercise.
Resistance and aerobic exercise can help burn fat while preventing muscle loss associated with menopause.
Recommended Lifestyle Changes
Here are some tips to help you feel better and lose weight during menopause.
Get quality sleep
Insomnia is common among menopausal women due to hot flashes, night sweats, stress, and other physical symptoms.
But getting enough good sleep is important for maintaining a healthy weight.
People who sleep too little have higher ghrelin levels, lower leptin levels, and are more likely to be overweight.
Insomnia-relieving cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help women with low estrogen symptoms.
A 2019 study found that CBT for insomnia improved sleep duration more than sleep hygiene education or sleep restriction therapy for postmenopausal women.
CBT includes sleep restriction therapy. Sleep restriction therapy’s goal is to reduce the amount of time spent awake or not sleeping.
Acupuncture may help.
In one 6-month study, it reduced hot flashes by 36.7 percent. A review of studies found that acupuncture may increase estrogen levels, reducing symptoms and improving sleep.
Find a way to relax
Stress relief is important during menopause!
Stress raises cortisol levels, which are linked to increased abdominal fat.
Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and relieve symptoms in menopausal women in several studies.
Getting more quality sleep can help manage menopause symptoms. As a result, weight loss may be easier.
Here are some other weight loss tips for menopause or any age.
Get your protein. Protein keeps you fuller longer, boosts metabolism, and slows muscle loss.
Consume dairy products. Dairy products may help you lose fat while keeping muscle mass.
Soluble fiber-rich foods In addition to increasing insulin sensitivity, high-fiber foods like flax seeds and broccoli help reduce appetite and promote weight loss.
Green tea. Green tea has caffeine and EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). They may aid fat loss.
Mindful eating So you eat less because you’re less stressed and better connected to food.
12 Other Ways To Overcoming Menopausal Belly Fat
Hormonal changes as we age can lead to belly fat. Follow these tips to stay fit.
Weight gain may seem inevitable once you hit your forties, but it doesn’t have to be. Menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings are caused by natural hormonal changes, but you don’t have to accept that the number on the bathroom scale will also rise.
What’s going on with your body if you’re wearing elastic-waist pants now: Menopause alters weight distribution, with extra pounds accumulating around the belly. Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of Body for Life for Women, calls the extra fat around your middle a ‘menopot.’
During and after menopause, estrogen levels decline and metabolism slows, making it difficult to lose weight, especially around the midsection. And belly fat isn’t just an annoyance. A JAMA Open Network study published in July 2019 found that perimenopausal weight gain around the middle puts you at the same risk for cardiovascular disease as obesity and a thick waistline. This is a fact of life, but we must combat it, says North American Menopause Society director Stephanie Faubion, MD. “It is possible, but difficult.” Here are a dozen ways to beat the bulge.
1. Exercising More Often and Intensely to Combat Midlife Weight Gain
First, combine moderate and vigorous exercise to lose menopausal weight. Swimming, walking, bicycling, running, and resistance or strength training should be part of your routine. “Now you want to use high intensity interval training (HIIT),” says Dr. Peeke. “Mild exercise is interspersed with high intensity intervals throughout the week.
This includes leg, hip, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arm strengthening exercises. The CDC advises that if you use HIIT, you should aim for an equal mix of moderate and high intensity exercise every week, with the same two days of strength training.
“What we do at 30 and 60 is very different,” says Kathryn A. Boling, MD, of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “As we age, we have to modify our exercise.” If you’ve lost your mojo, create incentives to keep moving. On her Apple Watch, she likes seeing the completed exercise circle closed. Peeke says you don’t need to join a gym to keep your muscles strong and your metabolism humming. Try activities that require you to lift, push, and pull.
Remember that the intensity of an exercise is personal. For someone who hasn’t exercised in years, a small amount of exercise can be intense. To avoid injury, consult a personal trainer or physical therapist.
2. Stand Instead of Sit When You Can
The formula is simple: the more time spent moving, the more calories burned. What’s a low-effort way? “Stay as vertical as you can,” Peeke advises. This can help prevent other health issues as well as increase calorie burn. A January 2018 study in the journal Obesity found that prolonged sitting is linked to increased abdominal fat and fat around organs like the liver, which increases risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Staying vertical isn’t the same as breaking a sweat (though it’s great when you can). To stay upright more often, stand and pacing while on the phone or parking further away from the front door of places you visit. If you binge watch, put a pedal exerciser in front of your couch so you can get some exercise while you watch your shows.
To stay upright more often, stand and pacing while on the phone, or parking farther away from destinations so you have to walk more. If you binge-watch, put a pedal exerciser in front of your couch so you can move while you watch.
Try a standing desk if you spend all day at a computer. Standing desk users reported less sedentary behavior and less upper back, shoulder, and neck pain, according to a study in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management. A study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that standing for six hours instead of sitting could burn 54 calories per day for a person weighing 143 pounds.
3. Limit Carbohydrate Intake
Some experts believe a steady diet heavy in unrefined carbs like pasta and bread is a significant factor in excess belly fat. The enemy of the middle-aged woman is carbs. “If you are perimenopausal, watch your sugar intake. Carbs are digested into sugar. Oatmeal burns slower than candy bars, but eventually it all turns to sugar. You will do better if you are aware of your carb intake.” A low-carbohydrate diet may reduce the risk of postmenopausal weight gain, according to a 2017 British Journal of Nutrition study.
4. Tai Chi or QuiGong to Lose Belly Fat
You may not have tried it, but a recent Hong Kong study found that this Chinese discipline of low-impact meditative movements could help trim waistlines in middle-aged and older adults. This study found that people aged 50 and older with central obesity (weight disproportionally packed in their midsection) who practiced tai chi for 12 weeks shrank their bellies as effectively as those who exercised aerobically and strength trained for the same period. A more accessible exercise modality for middle-aged and older adults to manage central obesity, according to the study’s authors, is tai chi.
5. Watch Your Portion Size and Meal Timing
By menopause, your metabolism has slowed, and some research suggests you burn fewer calories per day. “You can easily save 200 calories, but that can quickly add up if you don’t reduce your calorie intake,” says Chicago nutritionist Christine Palumbo, RD.
Palumbo notes that this is a time in your life when you may want to take a break from preparing meals for your family. “She’s sick of cooking and wants to go out to eat,” Palumbo says. This leads to overeating and drinking, both of which contribute to abdominal fat gain. When ordering a large main course, ask for a to-go container for leftovers.
Limiting restaurant meals and takeout is an easy way to control portions, but meal timing and frequency are also important. “There’s many research on meal timing, and it’s growing,” Palumbo says. “Eating three square meals a day appears to help with weight loss.” She recommends a hearty breakfast with lean protein and a light supper. “Eating your main meal at noon can help you lose weight,” says Palumbo.
6. Eat Meals with Healthy Fats to Avoid Weight Gain
Fat enhances flavor and is part of a healthy diet. The good news is that it is not necessary or recommended to completely avoid it. Palumbo says you just need to learn to pickier. Think walnuts, not Whoppers.
Healthy fats like those found in avocados have the same number of calories as the fat found in an ice cream sundae. “An ounce of nuts has 170 calories,” warns Palumbo. “Extra virgin olive oil is the same. The American way is to overdo it, so you have to be very careful and measure your fats and oils.”
Restaurant meals are also not your fat-friends. We don’t need restaurants to make us healthy. Their fats add many flavor carriers,” Palumbo says. Salad dressings are a major source of added fat in our diet, so ask for them on the side.
7. Plan Meals and Snacks to Avoid Mindless Eating
It’s not just about what you eat, but also about when you eat. For example, midnight ice cream binges and potato chip raids are bad ideas — even during the day. “Don’t eat too much too late,” Peeke advises. “Eating late at night is murder for weight loss.”
Another way to limit snacking calories is to avoid mindless munching or the dreaded afternoon snack trap. “Everything a menopausal woman does after 3 p.m. determines her belly size. So that’s when most women tend to binge.”
Peeke suggests tracking your circadian rhythm to help curb your snacking. “Eat for 8–12 hours per day, then stop eating. Weight management is important at any age, but especially during menopause,” she says.
Set a strict time limit. Eat until 7 p.m., then 12 hours later, at 7 a.m. A University of Glasgow review of studies published in February 2018 in the JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports found that restricting eating days of the week may be an effective strategy for treating overweight and obese adults. Before experimenting with intermittent fasting as a weight loss strategy, talk to your doctor about the risks of under-nutrition and any risks associated with your health conditions.
8. Try New Activities and Workouts
It’s easy to get into an exercise rut, and even easier to stop exercising altogether. But at this point in your life, staying put isn’t an option. “Ideally, you’ll work out three or four times a week, with HIIT [or other strength training] thrown in,” Peeke says. Incorporate weight training, even if it’s just using your own body weight.
So maybe a Zumba or barre class. Join your friends for a beginner CrossFit class one weekend. Have you heard of PiYo? It’s a Pilates/yoga hybrid. There are so many exercises to try, you’ll be able to find ones you like.
It’s possible you’ll enjoy the thrill of discovering new workouts. Adding variety to your workout routine may help you stick to it, according to research published in the Journal of Sport Behavior. Any physical activity is better than none, but a routine will cause your body to stop burning belly fat (or any fat) as efficiently as it used to.
Try new classes, especially strength-based ones like CrossFit, and listen to your body. If you’re lost, uncomfortable, or the instructor isn’t helping, you should hire a trainer to help you get started. A good form can help you avoid injury.
9. Update Your Healthy Sleep Habits to Fight Weight Gain
Insomnia is a very common perimenopause symptom. From four to eight years, the North American Menopause Society says. Getting up unrefreshed means you’re probably too tired to go for a workout. “Sleep is vital as you age,” says Peeke. “Quality sleep is one of the best ways to fight menopause.”
Insufficient sleep affects ghrelin and leptin. “Ghrelin and leptin become dysfunctional when you don’t get enough sleep,” says Peeke.
Palumbo advises closing the kitchen and brushing teeth by 7 p.m. This will keep you from eating late, sleeping late, and gaining weight. “Eating before bedtime will disrupt your sleep,” she says.
Aim for seven (ideally eight) hours of sleep per night, though this varies by person and over time. Keep your room cool to avoid hot flashes and night sweats, and turn off all lights an hour before bedtime. If you can’t bear the thought of doing so, Peeke suggests wearing amber-lensed glasses to counteract the effects of blue light on sleep.
10. Find an Exercise Partner or Group
To lose belly fat and other menopause weight gain, Peeke recommends burning 400-500 calories per week through cardio exercises like walking, jogging, cycling, dancing, or swimming. Need a boost? Find a friend who shares your need for exercise and plan a workout together. The British Journal of Health Psychology found that actively seeking a new workout partner and exercising together benefits both exercise and emotional support.
Instead of going it alone, sign up for a group fitness class at your local gym or community center. Taking regular group fitness classes reduced stress and improved physical, mental, and emotional well-being compared to exercising alone or not exercising at all, according to research published in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine in November 2017.
11. Modify your coping strategies and reduce stress to help prevent weight gain
Don’t ignore the link between fat and stress. “Stress and fat are linked,” Peeke says. “If you are constantly stressed, your cortisol levels will rise, making it easier to store fat deep inside the belly.”
The stress hormone cortisol helps the body convert fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into usable energy. It is released during stressful times to give your body a natural energy boost, but when cortisol levels are constantly high due to chronic stress, it can cause insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Use simple relaxation techniques to reduce stress and belly fat.
Enjoy the greenery outside. Being in nature reduces stress. In one study, people who simply looked at images of trees reported feeling less stressed.
Switch apps. Apps like Insight Timer, Headspace, and Calm provide beginners with five-minute timed meditations that can lower heart rate and shorten the stress response.
Limit booze. It’s not a long-term coping strategy, and the extra sugar from the booze and mixers adds to the belly-fat situation.
Seek out a therapist. Sugar, alcohol, and overeating may be signs of unprocessed emotional energy or a mind-body imbalance like depression or anxiety.
12. Discuss Weight Gain and Other Menopausal Symptoms with Your Doctor
Your symptoms (despite trying non-medication approaches) are severe enough to impact your quality of life that you should consider hormone therapy (HT) or other medication.
Since its FDA approval in 1942 for the treatment of menopausal hot flashes, HT has been a source of controversy. Hormones were suspected to be harmful to women’s health as early as the 1950s. But, especially with new, lower-dose formulations available, each woman should discuss the risks and benefits with her healthcare provider.
Some studies suggest HT may help women avoid menopausal weight gain. A study published in March 2018 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggests that menopausal hormone therapy may help reduce visceral (belly) fat, BMI, and overall body fat. The study found that current users had a lower BMI and a lower fat mass than previous users.
Ask your ob-gyn about medications to help manage menopause symptoms. Your doctor will likely want to confirm that your weight gain is due to menopause and not another health issue.
While losing weight may be your primary goal, it’s critical to make changes you can keep. It’s also best to focus on health rather than weight. Exercising, getting enough sleep, eating a nutrient-dense balanced diet, and eating mindfully can help you look and feel your best during and after menopause.