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Cessation of menstruation is called menopause. It is a normal part of life like puberty and usually occurs naturally at an average age 51, but for some women, it can happen as early as 40 or as late as 55 years of age. According to National institute of Aging , it has three phases: perimenopause, menopause and postmenopausal. Perimenopause is the time before the menopause; this can happen several years before the last menstrual period. After having a full year without the period, you can say you have been through the menopause and perimenopause is over. Post menopause follows menopause and lasts the rest of life.
Menopause happens when ovaries stop producing the main two hormones- oestrogen and progesterone. And theses reduced the level of hormones causes the different set of symptoms such as irregular period, hot flushes, mood swings, sleeplessness and weight gain.
Weight gain during menopause is so common and frustrating. According to Academy of Nutrition and dietetics "Menopausal weight gain is not just uncomfortable, but it is also hard for your health and often correlated with the increased risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure and insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes". But on a brighter side, menopausal weight gain is not inevitable. Healthy eating habits and active lifestyle can reverse the changes.
Why there is weight gain during menopause?
During menopause women tend to put weight around their abdominal area, instead of hips, thigh and rear, and had a typical "apple shape" figure. There are several factors that contribute to weight gain during menopausal period. According to a scientific studies conduct by National institute of health , the hormonal changes during the premenopausal period contribute to abdominal obesity which may further lead to other physical and psychological changes. There are mainly 3 hormones that influence the fat distribution during the premenopausal and menopausal period.
Oestrogen: even though there is the lack of enough scientific studies but certain animal studies suggested that as during menopausal period ovaries reduces the oestrogen production, the drop in oestrogen level influences the fat distribution and causes lower metabolic rate (a rate at which the body converts stored energy into working energy). During this period of time as the fat cells also has the capacity to produce oestrogen so body work harder to convert calories into fat to increase the estrogenic level. Unfortunately, fat cells do not burn the calories the way muscle mass do, which causes an increase in weight gain.
Progesterone: increase water retention and menopause often occur simultaneously. Since during menopausal period there is the decrease in progesterone level causes more tendencies to water retention and bloating. Though this does not result in weight gain, but women feel themselves heavier, this bloating and water retention disappears within few months.
Testosterone- it is the third hormone that influences body fat distribution during menopause. Testosterone helps your body to create lean muscle mass out of the calories that you take in. as during menopause, a level of testosterone drops results in loss of muscle mass. And unfortunately, it means the slower metabolism. The lower your metabolism is, the slower your body burn calories.
Even though hormonal factors had an influence on body weight, but hormonal changes alone do not necessarily cause menopausal weight gain. Instead, there are other factors are also very important that influences weight gain. Such as:
Decrease in muscle mass- decrease in muscle mass is a common occurrence that begins usually after 4os and continues a steady, downhill course into old age. And women who are physically inactive can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. And this decrease muscle loss becomes an important contributing factor for weight gain all over your body including belly.
Genetic factors – genetic factors also play a role in menopausal weight gain. Women who have strong family history of obesity have a higher risk of gaining weight during menopause.
Lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise- of course, adopting a healthy life style is the must for maintaining an ideal weight. It also helps in prevention of various metabolic disorders. Unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise, poor sleep and the higher level of stress are a prominent contributing factor for weight gain during menopause.
How to prevent weight gain during and after menopause?
Of course, "eat healthy and regular exercise" is the key to maintaining an ideal and healthy weight. As during menopausal period age, hormonal factors and decreased muscle mass creates more challenges for maintaining an ideal weight, it is mandatory to follow "weight loss basics" more vigilantly. That should include:
Regular exercise has numerous health benefits for everyone. And during menopause regular exercise especially aerobic activities can help you shed those extra pounds and also help in maintaining an ideal body weight. According to National institute of health, people who keep themselves engaged in any kind of aerobic activities has 6 inches lower waistline than those who do not exercise. Apart from that strength training exercise also play a vital role in preventing the loss of muscle mass and osteoporosis. It helps in building muscle mass and improve metabolism. Expert recommended it is good to do strength training exercise twice in a week.
Regular physical activities help not only in maintaining an ideal body weight, but it also improves overall mental and physical health. But ii is always recommended to take a professional medical advice before starting any kind of exercise program. Here is a complete guideline for exercise during menopausal period.
Eat healthy and balanced diet
We all know eating a healthy and balanced diet help our body in many ways. It strengths our immune system and plays a great role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancers. But during menopause managing your calorie intake is also very important. According to Mayo clinic to maintain your current weight, you might need about 200 fewer calories a day during your 50s than you did during your 30s and 40s.
Diet had a vital role not only in controlling the menopausal symptoms but it is equally important in prevention as well. According to British nutrition foundation , women from the eastern and western countries often have a different experience of the menopausal symptoms. And it is thought that differences in eating and dietary habits may account for this.
Along with weight management, a good diet can improve other menopausal symptoms too. And for that purpose, it is very important to get organised for getting the nutritional elements in order. And it is good to follow some simplest rules such as:
Apart from these well-known healthy eating strategies, if you want to adopt a more organised approach to healthy diet during menopause period Menopausal diet(a book written by Larrion Gillespie) is a great book for inspiration with perfect guidelines. The book combed the scientific literature to unravel the mystery why women gain and loss weight differently than men. She has developed 135 recopies or mini meal for women who love to eat their way to a healthy life. She has also explained the medical benefits of including certain foods and spices in your diet.
Lifestyle interventions are most important and these are the most obvious tool that can prevent weight gain during menopause. According to results from 5 years randomized clinical trial concludes that "in midlife women weight gain and increased waist circumferences can be prevented with long-term dietary and physical activity interventions.
Take better control of your stress level
Higher level of stress hormones is a major contributing factor for weight gain during menopause. Stress hormones may make weight loss or even maintenance of weight so impossible. It leads to store extra calories in the body and sometimes may cause a metabolic disorder called "adrenal fatigue". So during menopause, when you are already struggling with maintaining an ideal body weight, it is very important to manage your stress level effectively by using stress relieving techniques. Yoga, meditation, spend some quality time alone, focus on your hobby, better sleep are some easiest way to reliving stress and anxiety.
Regular health check-ups for rule out thyroid and other metabolic disorders
Regular health check-ups are very important for early detection and treatment of various metabolic disorders. These diseases may be hidden factors for weight gain. So be extra careful to rule out them.
Last but not the least always seeks support from friends and family. Pick a partner to exercise or walk with. Surround yourself with loved ones who motivate you and encourage your efforts to eat a healthy diet and regular exercise. Make these changes a part of your everyday life. And in spite of this effort you still feel uncomfortable, do not hesitate to take a professional help.
So these are some coolest strategies that can help you during and after menopause not only in maintaining your body weight but also in losing those extra pounds as well. What are your thoughts please share!