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Menopause and Weight Gain

How small changes can make a difference

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Updated June 13, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

3. Focus on Small Changes

The weight gain that happens with menopause is often the result of small increases in calories that add up over time – eating a little more, moving a little less and, of course, a metabolism that’s a few calories less than it was. The good news is that small changes can also reverse these things, good news if you don’t want to overhaul your whole life.

  • Tweak your diet – In Nutrition and Menopause, Women’s Health Guide, Tracee Cornorth suggests focusing on fruits, veggies and whole grains while minimizing saturated fat, processed sugar and high sodium foods.
  • Find substitutions – Check the calories of the foods you eat regularly, such as yogurt, cheese, cereal or bread and spend some time at the grocery store to find lower calorie substitutes.
  • Eat smaller portions – Eat a little less cereal, a smaller piece of chicken, a smidge less olive oil when you’re sautéing the vegetables – these small changes can shave off calories here and there without making you feel deprived.
  • Be More Active - Spontaneous activity often declines during menopause because it's hard to fight the fatigue that comes from lack of sleep, hot flashes, anxiety and depression. Exercise and daily movement can help fight these symptoms while generating energy. Every little bit counts including household chores, short walks around the office or neighborhood, standing up as often as you can and just about anything that helps you avoid sitting for long periods of time. You may need to work in things like meditation or other stress-reduction techniques to help you stay calm and more centered.

4. Monitor Yourself

Keeping track of your daily habits, eating and exercise can help you stay on top of your weight and notice if extra calories are creeping in. This isn't to micromanage every bite you eat or movement you make, but to be aware of what's happening overall. Some ways to monitor yourself:

  • Keep a Food Journal - This is a good place to monitor your meals, snacks and calories, but also to keep track of your cravings and find ways to deal with them that won't derail your diet.
  • Keep a Workout Log - Tracking your exercises, weight, reps and sets can help you progress in your strength training workouts and make sure you're really challenging yourself.
  • Keep an Activity Log - Tracking your movement (or lack thereof) on a regular basis can tell you how active you are and, more important, where you can improve. For example, do you sit more after lunch? That may be a good time to take a walk or do some light exercise to fight post-lunch fatigue.
  • Keep a Health Journal - This is where you can track sleep patterns, menopause symptoms, how you're feeling and the tools you're trying to manage your symptoms. You'll see how those tools are working or if you need to try another approach.
  • Talk to Your Doctor - There may be medications or other treatments available that can help.

Going through menopause doesn't mean automatic weight gain, nor does it mean your body won't go through some changes no matter what you do. Try to work with what's within your control: How much you move, what you eat, how you handle stress and the efforts you make to handle menopause symptoms the best way you can. Managing what you can and allowing your body to respond to your efforts can help you keep a healthy, positive attitude about the changes you're going through.

Sources:

Arciero PJ; Gentile CL; Martin-Pressman R; et al. Increased dietary protein and combined high intensity aerobic and resistance exercise improves body fat distribution and cardiovascular risk factors. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Aug;16(4):373-92.

Campbell W; Crim MC; Young VR; et al. Increased energy requirements and changes in body composition with resistance training in older adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994; 60:167-175.

Kohrt, W. Exercise, Weight Gain and Menopause. Medscape, 6/29/2009, accessed Feb 8, 2010.

Lovejoy J; Champagne C; de Jonge L; et al. Increased visceral fat and decreased energy expenditure during the menopausal transition. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 June; 32(6): 949–958.

Poelman E; Toth M; Gardner A. Changes in Energy Balance and Body Composition at Menopause. Annals of Internal Medicine November 1, 1995 vol. 123 no. 9 673-675

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