Weight gain during menopause may feel like it is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be. Around menopause, your estrogen levels decrease and your metabolism slows down, making it more difficult to lose weight, especially around your midsection.
Yet, the menopause bulge is not just irritating—it’s also unhealthy. Studies show it increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and even early death. Here are six things I recommend to my patients to help successfully fight the battle of the bulge.
6 Tips to Win the Menopause Weight Gain Battle
1. Be proactive in your health. It’s important to get updated lab tests that include your blood sugar levels, thyroid health, and cardiovascular markers. You should also ask for a chemistry panel that evaluates the health of your liver, gallbladder, and kidneys. The DUTCH hormone test is one of my favorite tests for getting a comprehensive overview of my patients’ adrenal and sex hormone levels. Most importantly, work with a provider who shares your health goals and who will review your lab work and support your whole body. Don’t settle for your numbers being ”normal”—make sure they’re optimal!
2. Adjust your eating habits. I recommend a well-balanced diet that focuses on organic fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, and enough protein from grass-fed meats and pasture-raised eggs and dairy. The Mediterranean diet is a great choice. Try not to eat fruit or carbohydrates alone. Balance them with healthy fat or protein to curb a blood sugar spike and help you feel full, so you don’t overeat. Fiber is really important! Two tablespoons of ground flax seeds daily can up your fiber count. Plus, it helps support healthy estrogen levels.
Be honest with yourself about how often you reach for a sugary treat or dessert. Minimize sugary foods and beverages and simple carbohydrates made from flour. And avoid artificial sweeteners. Even though they don’t contain sugar, research shows that artificial sweeteners are linked to increased cravings and weight gain and may contribute to insulin resistance.
Steer clear of harmful fats such as trans-fatty acids (hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils and margarine) and unhealthy inflammatory fats (cottonseed, sunflower, peanut oil). Fried foods and genetically modified soy, corn, or canola oils are also ones I recommend avoiding. I love using olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and organic ghee.
Be careful of fat-free food options. They’re loaded with sugar, which not only spikes insulin levels, it causes overeating. It’s also important to stay hydrated and avoid late-night snacking. And I recommend being mindful of your alcohol consumption. Not only is alcohol loaded with excess calories, but the additional sugar can also make you even hungrier. Like dessert, alcohol should be a treat, not a regular occurrence.
3. Move your body and vary daily workouts. Regular physical activity is a must for avoiding weight gain. Aim for at least 10,000 steps a day (about 30 minutes of exercise). Walking is a fabulous, low impact activity. If you normally do cardio, consider changing it up and focus on strength training instead. Strength training is great for bone health. It helps prevent bone loss and improves your body composition by decreasing abdominal fat and preserving lean body mass. With strength training, not only do you burn calories while you are exercising, you continue to burn calories even after your workout is complete!
Exercise is also amazing for improving insulin sensitivity, glycemic control, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels, improving cardiovascular health, boosting your mood, the list goes on. It isn’t just planned exercise that makes a difference, everything counts! Yoga, dancing, taking the stairs, gardening, walking your dog, and playing with your grandchildren. The key is to move your body regularly and avoid being sedentary. So, get moving—your body and your health are worth it!
4. Support your hormones. Avoid hormone-disrupting chemical exposures as much as possible by making clean choices for the products you use in your home. Choose organic produce, dairy, eggs, and meats to avoid pesticides and do your best to avoid xenoestrogenic plastic that can wreak havoc on your hormonal system.
Work with a practitioner who can help you balance your hormones during your perimenopausal and menopausal years, especially if you are symptomatic. There are wonderful natural options as well as bio-identical hormonal options available depending on your needs and desire.
5. Reduce stress and anxiety. Stress can lead to weight gain. Women at midlife often have numerous stressors in their life, including caring for their kids and aging parents. Take care of yourself with activities that help reduce stress:
- Midday nap
- Bubble bath
- Take adaptogenic herbs
6. Improve your sleep. During the night is when your body rests and repairs from exposures during the day. It’s important to get long, deep, uninterrupted sleep every night to achieve this. If you struggle from sleep issues, consider a sleep study to learn why and rule out obstructive sleep apnea. I also recommend implementing sleep hygiene techniques and talking with your health care provider about natural ways to encourage more restful sleep.