As women approach and go through menopause, it seems to become more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Hormone changes, changes in metabolism and lack of exercise can help to accelerate weight gain, even when trying to lose or maintain weight. The good news is that women can make a few changes to help conquer menopausal weight gain. By finding ways to manage hormone changes, change the diet and adding exercise, women can get through the menopause years feeling healthy and looking good.
Managing Menopausal Hormone Changes
As women go through menopause, they begin to experience some of the symptoms of this change of life. Night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, nausea, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, stress, memory and concentration loss, bouts of diarrhea and food cravings are just some of the symptoms that women experience. These symptoms are brought on by fluctuating estrogen levels as well as lowering estrogen levels as menopause progresses. One way to manage hormone changes is to treat the symptoms that are occurring instead of treating all of the menopause symptoms at once. Ways to treat changing hormone levels include:
Adding soy to the diet. Soy contains plant-based hormones similar to human estrogen and can help balance estrogen levels in women. According to a study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, a diet rich in soy can help to reduce menopausal symptoms by up to 40% as compared to no treatment at all. The best way to add soy is through foods such as soy milk, tofu and soybeans. Soy isoflavones are also available in a tablet form. Soy is also recognized as a weight loss accelerator by increasing energy, raising the metabolism and because it is low in calories yet high in nutrients.
Eating more fruits and vegetables. There is a long list of fruits and vegetables that contain estrogen-like chemicals called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens fool the body into believing it has more estrogen than it actually does and helps in calming symptoms as well as managing weight gain. Fruits and vegetables also contain the mineral boron, which increases the body’s ability to hold onto estrogen. Plums, apples, grapes, asparagus, lettuce, carrots and cucumbers are just a few of the foods that can help manage hormone changes.
Using herbal remedies. There are several herbal remedies on the market that are safe to use for managing hormone levels. These include black cohosh, dong quai, wild yam, St. John’s wort and chasteberry. Each herbal remedy is effective for different symptoms of menopause, so read labels before trying. All are effective in helping balance hormones in some way.
Diet Changes for Menopause
As women age, the way their body processes food changes also. Eating a diet high in fat, sugar and simple carbohydrates can affect the balance of insulin in the body and actually cause every calorie to turn into fat. This type of unhealthy diet can also lead to unhealthy food cravings; the more sugar and fat you eat, the more the body craves it. It can be a vicious cycle. But, by making a few changes to the diet, women can reverse the negative effects and acquire a healthier body weight. Some changes in the diet can also help to alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause. Here are ways to change the diet for a healthier body during menopause:
- Eat soy-based products. Yes, once again soy makes an appearance. Try replacing one protein or dairy product you eat each day with a soy product. Try a soyburger instead of a hamburger or drink one glass of soy milk instead of regular milk. This will reduce the amount of fat in the diet as well as calories without sacrificing protein.
- Eat a little protein at each meal. Protein helps to build muscle. Eat baked chicken, fish, peanuts, beans and seeds for variety.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Try having at least one fruit or vegetable at each meal and in-between for snacks. They are low in calories, high in fiber and help you feel full longer. Many also contain phytoestrogens which help to balance your hormones.
- Limit carbohydrates to 60 grams or less each day.
- Eliminate regular and diet sodas. The sugar and artificial sweeteners in these products can play havoc with your insulin levels as well as cause the body to lose calcium in the bones.
- Drink 6 to 10 glasses of water each day.
- Eat “good” fats. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids help to maintain heart health and protect against cancer, two conditions that are dangerous to women during the menopausal years.
- Eat more whole grains. Substitute “white” foods for whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat bread and oatmeal. Whole grain foods are more nutritious, contain fiber and are generally lower in calories than their white food counterparts.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol is high in sugar and calories and robs the body of essential nutrients.
Exercise During Menopause
As the body ages, the metabolism slows down and muscle turns into fat. As women go through menopause it is important to add some form of exercise to help accelerate the metabolism, maintain a healthy weight, lower stress and also prevent heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that adults have at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. Aerobic-style exercise such as running, swimming, biking or walking briskly, is the best way to boost the metabolism so you can lose weight. Adding strength training is a good way to build muscle.
Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight during and after menopause may seem difficult, but can be possible. Managing hormone changes, eating a healthy diet and adding exercise can help women feel healthier and also calm some of the symptoms of menopause.