Menopausal Weight-Control Tips: Metabolism

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Around the time of menopause, many women find themselves gaining a few extra pounds. This is true even for those who continue the eating and exercising habits that have helped them prevent weight gain previously. It's also common for there to be a shift in where extra pounds end up - what used to attach itself to hips and thighs now finds its way to the midriff.

There are a number of possible reasons for midlife weight gain including:

  • Changes in metabolism
  • The changing ratio of fat to muscle
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Depression
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

This Learn About focuses on metabolism.

Changes in metabolism

When you reach midlife your legs probably don’t go as fast as they did when you were twelve, and neither does your metabolism. This slowing down of metabolism is related more to the aging process than hormonal changes but, in general, slower metabolism means easier weight gain.

What you can do about it

What you shouldn’t do is go on a crash diet. Crash dieting can actually make menopausal weight gain worse. Cutting out too many calories puts you into starvation mode which actually lowers your metabolism even more – not much help really! It can also trigger sugar and fat cravings, which, if indulged, add even more pounds. If you’re not getting enough calories you also risk bone and muscle depletion, which is a bad thing for anybody’s body, let alone one that is heading into an age where strong bones and muscles are even more vital for good health. So before making any changes to your diet or exercise regimen, you should check with a health-care professional and after their assessment aim to make small, sustainable lifestyle changes that will lead to safe, gradual weight loss.

As your metabolism slows, however, you do need fewer calories. It is generally recommended that postmenopausal women who wish to maintain their weight consume around 1900 calories a day, compared to 2200 for younger women. That means a drop of between 200 and 400 calories a day. This is best achieved by decreasing portion sizes of meals while keeping a wide variety of foods in your diet to ensure adequate nutrition. Limit fatty foods and excessive alcohol and fill up on more whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.