Can't lose those extra kilos after menopause? Here's what to do


  • Fitness
  • Thursday, 14 Nov 2019

Declining oestrogen levels cause a woman nearing menopause to feel tired more easily, making it harder for her to work out and lose weight.

I have had my menopause and I’m in my early fifties. My weight seems to have gone up. I exercise routinely and I eat very carefully. But whatever I do, I cannot seem to lose weight! Why is this so?

Well, plenty of menopausal women and women in their fifties who have not reached menopause yet, are in your shoes.

Ever feel like we are working out harder and eating less, but losing weight is not as easy as it used to be in our forties and thirties?

Well, it isn’t! It is estimated that the average weight gain during menopause is around 10 to 15 pounds (4.5 to 6.8kg), but some women gain even more.

This is due to many causes, the primary one being the loss of oestrogen.

Do we have zero oestrogen after menopause?

Well, you certainly won’t have zero oestrogen! But you will certainly have much less than you used to have.

Let’s examine all the causes of weight gain after menopause:

• Age

Yes, you are in your fifties now and you lose muscle mass as you age. The less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism.

Therefore, your basal metabolic rate goes down. You can’t burn food as easily as you used to.

Moreover, fat tends to accumulate around your waist. Your shape starts to change from a pear to an apple!

• Feeling tired easily

Declining oestrogen levels make you feel more tired during exercise.

So you used to run a marathon easily, now you find yourself huffing and puffing much earlier than before.

Whatever you used to do to lose weight simply doesn’t do the trick anymore. You have to work much harder to maintain your figure now.

Some women get very demotivated by this and give up.

• Decreased activity

In general, women become more inactive physically when they get older.

Life is busier with kids, the daily routine and everything else, so they can’t schedule exercise as easily as they used to do when they were single.

• Less sleep

You also don’t sleep as much as you used to. During menopause, you might even have night sweats that keep you up at night.

Lack of sleep increases the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and decreases the “stop eating” hormone leptin.

As a result, you feel hungrier and more depressed.

Oh, my god! That is why I can’t seem to lose weight, no matter what I do. I am so stressed just thinking about it.

Yes, and that stress isn’t going to do you any good either.

Stress produces cortisol, the stress hormone, which increases fat storage and causes weight gain. It also increases your appetite and sugar cravings.

I don’t want to grow old! Can I reverse ageing?

You can’t reverse the age on your I.C., but you can certainly reverse both your physical body’s age and mental age.

Or at least, you can slow down the ageing process.

But it will be difficult. There is a lot of discipline involved and a lot of work to do.

What do I have to do?

It would help to record everything you eat, including the calorie count. There are plenty of apps or smart watches that help you do that now.

You have to:

Be even more vigilant about what you eat

You have less muscle now, so you have to eat more protein.

Eat lean proteins and not fatty ones, like skinless chicken, fish, tofu, yoghurt and egg whites.

Eat more fibre

This means more green vegetables and salads, which will keep you feeling full.

Eat more healthy fats

This includes foods like salmon, avocados, nuts and olive oil.

• Limit the carbohydrates

Eat low glycaemic index carbs if you must, such as apples, sweet potatoes and oatmeal.

Remember, don’t eat too much at any meal! Put your food on smaller plates and avoid buffets as much as you can.

Eat more fruits (but not durian!)

Don’t eat salty foods

They lead to water retention!

Don’t drink so much alcohol

Limit it to two glasses a day.

Don’t smoke

Eat regularly

Eat every few hours, but in very small portions, so that you are not tempted to binge during mealtimes.

• Exercise, exercise and exercise

About 150 to 200 minutes a week is a good recommendation.

That means you have to exercise at least 30 minutes for five days a week.

If you want to lose weight, exercise longer.

• Cut down the sweets

You don’t have to completely deny the things you love eating, just don’t make them an everyday habit like you used to.

You can have chocolates and sweets now and then. Just try not to finish a whole slice of cake.

Forgo your carb portion if you must eat dessert.

Share with a friend. You can taste something in just two or three bites – the rest is just to fill you up.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.


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