By Allie Lansman, RDN, LD 5-Minute Read
Allie Lansman, RDN, LD is a freelance nutrition and sustainability writer, educator, and consultant. As a dietitian, she is passionate about equipping current and former menstruators to make empowering nutrition choices throughout their lives through inclusive articles—with an eco-consciousness flare!
Weight gain is one of the most common side effects of menopause. And while it’s entirely natural for all bodies to change with age, it’s also normal to be overwhelmed by these changes. So if you’ve put on a few stubborn pounds lately and nothing you used to do to maintain a consistent weight works anymore, it’s likely time to change your approach.
But, have no fear! With simple lifestyle changes backed by research, you can feel confident in your menopause weight loss journey. Bonus: these changes are dietitian-approved and “fad diet” free.
Understanding Weight Gain in Menopause
To understand how to lose weight in menopause, it’s essential first to know why these extra pounds appeared out of nowhere. And why they refuse to leave.
There are many reasons causing weight gain as you age, ranging from lifestyle to genetics, medication, the number of children you’ve carried, and more. But the most significant contributor by far is how menopause naturally alters your body’s biology.
The driver of these alterations is changing hormones—specifically estrogen (also known as oestrogen)—a hallmark of menopause. Estrogen supports a variety of functions in the body before the age of 50 and drops significantly during menopause.
A decrease in estrogen can cause various changes within your body, but one of the most common is the promotion of weight gain and shifts in fat distribution. You may notice your body no longer stores fat in the same places. Transferring fat deposits from the lower body—thighs and glutes—to the abdomen is a common symptom of low estrogen...and a great contributor to the difficulties of losing weight over 50 as the belly is one of the trickiest locations to shed fat.
While all of this may sound overwhelming, there are indeed research-back options for losing weight as your body experiences these changes.
7 Easy Changes to Lose Weight in Menopause
Weight gain can be overwhelming and, at times, downright frustrating. And with all the confusing and complicated weight loss advice, it’s easy to get even more confused about how to maintain your best health.
Well, I (a dietitian) am here to give you two simple lifestyle rules for keeping a constant weight during menopause: Stick to the basics. Make it sustainable.
The best way to nurture your body, health, and promote weight loss in menopause is to add simple lifestyle changes that you can practice consistently without making your day-to-day routine overwhelming. Try these 7 easy, sustainable changes to lose weight in menopause:
1. Beware of fad diets!
You’ve likely come across many diets and regimens to help you “lose weight quick” as you’ve entered menopause—and throughout your life.
And while these claims may sound tempting, modern research has shown that fad diets can be one of the worst things you can do for your overall health. Potentially even more than extra pounds may be.
Instead, focus your energy on adopting healthy habits that support long-term, holistic health outcomes.
2. Pack your meals with nutrient-dense foods
You’ve heard it hear first: when it comes to menopause weight loss, a nutrient-dense diet is much more critical than counting calories. Surprising, right?
Nourishing your body with plenty of macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals every day is one most effective habits for maintaining good health and weight. This is because nutrients are essential for sustaining vital body processes.
Foods you can eat during menopause for weight loss:
Unsaturated fats and omega fats
Prebiotics and probiotics
3. Focus on phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens are estrogen compounds found in plants. Because they have a similar structure to the estrogen produced by the human body, consuming phytoestrogens in your daily diet can assist with raising estrogen levels.
As a result, these compounds can also help inhibit fat production in menopause!
Foods high in phytoestrogens you can add to your meals and snacks are:
Soybeans and other legumes
Nuts and seeds
Green and black tea
4. Avoid pro-inflammatory foods
Inflammation is a leading culprit of weight gain regardless of age, as it can decrease feelings of satiety and increase fat storage in the body. However, research has found that lower estrogen levels in menopause also elevate body inflammation.
Regularly consuming pro-inflammatory foods—those that promote inflammation in the body—can increase weight gain. These food include those that have been highly processed and contain high amounts of saturated fats, refined sugars, and sodium. Excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine are also known to be pro-inflammatory.
5. Make sleep a priority
Getting enough high-quality sleep every night is essential for maintaining good health, regardless of age.
While you sleep, the body and brain actively repair damage caused by daily stress. Maintaining your physical and mental health becomes difficult without this time to rest and repair every night. Poor sleep can also promote weight gain by deregulating important satiety hormones that control cravings.
Prioritize restful sleep—and weight maintenance—by getting at least 7 hours per night.
6. Keep moving
A decrease in muscle mass is another cause of difficult weight loss in menopause.
Losing muscle occurs naturally with age, hormonal alterations, and decreased physical movement. Activity is a primary way to prevent weakened muscles and preserve a consistent weight. This is because forces use more energy throughout the day.
Strength training is crucial to maintain muscle strength and mass as you age. Try adding bodyweight movements—like squats, planks, or step-ups—and/or weight training exercises at least twice a week for the best benefits and promotion of weight loss.
However, if this seems daunting to you, any type of activity you enjoy or can do regularly is valuable movement.
7. Seek support
Whether weight loss is overwhelming or complicated, seeking support through your menopause journey can be crucial for your overall mental and physical health.
Find fellowship with friends and family who are also at the same stage of life, or look for support groups in your area or online.
You can also seek professional support to aid in menopause weight loss. Physicians, dietitians, physical trainers, and beyond who specialize in menopause and after 50 weight loss can help you effectively maintain your best health.
Our Bodies Change in Menopause, and That’s Okay
It’s important to remember that your body is meant to change during menopause. That includes a change in your weight.
Weight loss is possible, but you can also choose to embrace your "new normal." Nurturing and nourishing your body is the most critical step in maintaining your best health—which is possible at any size.
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