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Combat Menopausal Weight Gain

Orange Icon  Combat Menopausal Weight Gain

Orange Icon  Combat Menopausal Weight Gain

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As a woman, there are some things you just can't do anything to avoid, no matter how hard you try. Death and taxes, as we all know, are two of them. Menopause is a third.

Menopause occurs in midlife, generally in women between 45 and 55 years old. While official menopause doesn't begin until a year after your last menstrual cycle, most women begin experiencing symptoms of menopause long before that. These symptoms include:

  • • Irregular sleep patterns
  • • Hot flashes
  • • Mood swings

hot flash

None of the symptoms of menopause are particularly pleasant, especially for women who have lived healthy, active lives. But the most depressing - and concerning - effect of menopause is this: menopausal weight gain, which usually accompanies the onset of menopause, tends to focus around the abdomen.

We've talked before about the dangers of excess belly fat. While researchers are unsure of why menopausal weight gain focuses around your midsection, they do have an idea of why the numbers on your scale tick upwards when you hit menopause.

For one, menopausal women tend to exercise less – which is somewhat understandable when you aren't getting a good night's sleep and are constantly plagued by hot flashes. Plus, muscle mass decreases with age. So even if you continue on the exercise plan you used in your 30s and early 40s, chances are you're not getting the same benefit. If you don't replace the lost muscle mass, you'll eventually be less muscle, more fat. Since muscle revs your metabolism, and fat slows it, you'll be faced with a situation where you're still eating right, still exercising as you had when you were younger, but are gaining weight.

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Excess fat is something we all want to avoid, and belly fat is something we should be particularly wary of, since it increases your risk of developing cardiovascular problems, diabetes and certain cancers (breast cancer among them). To ward off menopausal weight gain, take the following steps.

  1. Increase activity levels: And no, I don’t want you spending hours in the gym every day, but in order to gain back some of the muscle mass lost during menopause, you'll need to do more of what I like to call “activity." This might mean walking with your grandkids, swimming (a great low-impact cardio exercise for people with joint problems), yoga, or even gardening! You don’t have to stick to a vigorous exercise program to lose weight, but your body will FEEL better, you’ll gain energy, speed up your metabolism, and burn fat faster if you move your body on a regular basis. Those hormones can play nasty tricks, and regular activity balances our mood, making us happier and more likely to stick to a healthy eating plan.

  2. Eat more protein: We know protein is good for us, but you need more of it as you age. As mentioned earlier, aging reduces muscle mass. So, what do you need to eat to increase muscle mass? You guessed it – high quality protein! A high protein diet combined with increased activity levels will support regeneration of muscle mass as you reach menopausal years. And increased muscle mass and less fat supports a faster metabolism.

    Make a few batches of Bean-Free Chicken Chili for high protein lunches and dinners.

    chili

    Skip the high-carb cereal for breakfast. Choose a protein-packed Almond Butter Smoothie instead!

    smoothie


  3. Cut processed foods and sugars: There are added hormones in the excess of GMO containing, processed foods on the market today – none of which is helping the hormonal roller coaster many women go through as they reach their menopausal years. Therefore, you may need to rethink your diet when confronted with menopausal weight gain. While focusing on calories may not be the right way to go, keep an eye on what you're eating. Replace processed foods with fruits and vegetables, and be aware of portion sizes. Cutting out processed food may also help tame hot flashes.

    Crave processed, salty chips? Make your own Zucchini Chips using fresh veggies and sea salt.

    chips

    Conventional baking sugars are just as fattening as other highly processed foods (usually even worse). Start baking delicious treats like Raspberry Banana Bread Muffins using healthy, all natural sweeteners to fight weight gain.

    muffin

Losing weight successfully gets harder as we age, and the worst thing you can do is lose all compassion for yourself. The Beyond Diet community encourages its members to rely on not only ourselves, but the grace and kindness of others so you don’t have to go through this weight loss struggle alone. Forgive yourself and start again when you slip up, and open up to the Beyond Diet community where thousands of other women are sharing the same challenges – and successes on Beyond Diet.

»Click here for a discussion group lead by Beyond Diet members, specifically for women going through menopause. (If you can't view this thread, login to BeyondDiet.com or sign up below)

»Join Beyond Diet today for a lifetime of support from members and coaches, tips and tricks on how to incorporate more protein and less processed food into your diet (made easy), and 28 days of supercharged meal plans.