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How can women avoid gaining weight after menopause?

The most important way to maintain a healthy weight after menopause is to continue to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise three or more days per week. It is also important to eat a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat. Consult your physician before beginning any new diet or exercise regimen.
Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy weight following menopause:
  • Exercise regularly. Do cardiovascular and strength training exercises most days of the week. Exercise doesn't have to mean a trip to the gym. You can be active doing daily activities. Take the stairs; park further away from your destination and walk; garden; dance or stretch.
  • Eat right. Focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, walnuts, almonds, avocado and fish. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself one drink a day.
  • Watch your portions. Research shows that to maintain weight in the mid- to late-forties, women need about 200 fewer calories per day. Do not skip meals; this can lead to overeating and a sluggish metabolism. The answer: Cut down on your portions. Eat smaller meals and snacks throughout the day to keep your metabolism humming along.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
The best way to avoid weight gain after menopause is to have a healthy, food-felon free diet, reasonable-sized portions, and to exercise regularly. Switching to a low fat, lean Mediterranean diet (that doesn’t include the five food felons) is a great first step. Next, focus on how much you are eating. Eating more than you’re burning is a quick and easy way to pile on the pounds. And finally, don’t forget bumping up your activity level. Women who exercise regularly, especially doing weight-bearing exercises before they transition into menopause, do better in the weight department than women who are sedentary. So get started on an exercise program in your 30s and 40s to prevent the pounds from piling on. That means walking every day, at least 10,000 steps a day (NO EXCUSES!), or doing some other physical activity that you love (cleaning your house, dancing, or riding a bike) for at least 30 minutes a day.

Sadly muscles shrink when adults age. The muscle loss in women starts long before menopause, as early as age 25. This gets worse after menopause due to the decrease in essential hormone production in our bodies. When 'muscle to fat' ratio in our body decreases, the body needs less energy to maintain itself. If we keep up with the same eating habits, weight gain would be inevitable. We can approach this issue in one of two ways below or a smart balance of both: 

  1. Consume less energy:  This means eating less, which can be problematic, since as we age our body needs essential nutrients. For most of us it may be a challenge to get all the required vitamins, minerals and fiber while limiting our caloric intake.
  2. Increase or maintain our bodies' muscle mass: For the elderly, lower muscle mass not only means gradual weight gain, but it also increases the likelihood of injuries from slips and falls. Fortunately there are ways to slow down or even reverse the muscle waste later in life. According to the study detailed in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the research team found that three exercise sessions a week over 20 weeks was enough to reverse muscle wasting. The exercise plan increased blood flow to the legs of older people to a level identical to the younger group.

Following an age appropriate weight and resistance training can prevent, and even reverse the muscle loss in our senior years. Therefore our bodies continue to use energy efficiently as they used to when we were younger. Strength training can contribute profoundly to successful weight management plans.

 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.