“I’m working out like CRAZY and I’m still gaining weight.”
“I’m eating the same way I always have. Why am I gaining weight now?”
These are thoughts common in menopausal women regarding their weight. Weight management is tough enough for women of any age, let alone coupled with night sweats, hot flashes and mood swings.
We sat down with endocrinologist, Ken Chen, MD, director of the Division of Obstetric and Consultative Medicine at Women & Infants Hospital, to get some answers to these and more questions.
Why is weight packing on faster and harder to take off during menopause?
When a woman enters menopause, her metabolic rate slows significantly. Metabolic rate refers to the speed at which your body utilizes your stored food and water to create energy. When rates are higher, you burn energy faster. When rates are lower, you burn energy slower, which translates to weight gain if there is no added exercise.
Do my diet and exercise need to change once I enter menopause?
Exercise and a balanced diet should still be at the forefront of your healthy routine. Walking, swimming, bike riding, aerobics, as well as strength and resistance training, are all appropriate types of exercise to combat the menopause pounds. As for your diet, you should significantly increase the amount of protein consumed each day and, in turn, decrease the amount of carbohydrates (bread). It’s all about cutting down on those comfort foods, especially sweets!
Is the weight gain really about my diet or could some of it be out of my control?
Make sure you continue to visit with your primary care physician on a regular basis. When it comes to weight, specifically ask to be tested for diabetes and an underactive thyroid. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid include:
- Rapid weight gain.
- Cold intolerance in warmer months.
- Sleeping more than normal.
- Hair loss.
- Brittle nails.
Don’t always “assume” when it comes to rapid weight gain and bloating. It doesn’t hurt to bring up these concerns with your doctor.
Besides looking great, what are the other benefits of weight management in menopause?
If you have your weight under control, you’ll find relief from some other symptoms of menopause. Eating well, exercising and getting into a healthy routine can help rectify those sleepless nights to a degree. Sometimes being overweight contributes to sleep apnea, which may not wake you, but can lead to a restless night’s sleep. Do not use weekends to catch up on sleep. Stick to the same sleep pattern seven days a week.
Regular exercise is also important in supporting bone health. As women age and move through menopause, bones lose their strength and become more susceptible to injury. And, of course, regular exercise contributes to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and heart disease, the risk of which is greater in menopause.