A greater number of women over age 40 are overweight or obese than women under 40. There are several reasons for that, including that this is the time that most women enter into menopause. Additionally, as you age, you start to lose muscle mass and your fat storage usually increases. This change, especially the fat storage, can put you at risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Menopause is a normal stage that all women will experience as they age. During the perimenopausal and postmenopausal stages there are many factors that contribute to weight gain. The good news is that many of these factors are modifiable. The major factor is that the ovaries stop making estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen plays a role in fat storage and distribution. Most women find that they gain 5-10 pounds in the perimenopausal stage and that this fat is deposited directly over the midsection of the body.
Stress is another important factor in weight gain during this lifecycle. Most people tend to eat during stressful times and middle-age usually involves a great deal of stress. Finding non-food stress relievers may combat this weight gain. Non-food stress relievers may include going for a short walk, deep breathing, listening to music, reading or putting a puzzle together.
Our metabolic rate slows as we age. This may translate into needing 200 less calories per day than we did in our 30s. Movement or activity and eating less will help with this energy imbalance. Simple tips to eat less may include using a smaller plate, splitting an entrée with someone or asking for a take-out box at the beginning of the meal instead of at the end. You can also swap fresh fruit for dessert and cut down on the amount of liquid calories that many don’t count in their total food intake.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise (being able to carry on a short conversation while exercising) per week. You should try to divide this time among five to seven days of the week, but doing 5 or 10 minutes three to six times a day is just as effective as doing 30 minutes at a time. Additionally, adding three or four days of strength training will help preserve or increase muscle mass, which helps to burn more calories while resting.
Weight gain due to menopause and middle age can happen, but the good news is you have the power to combat the effects of what your body throws your way. Take in fewer calories and get moving.
By Molly McBrayer, MSN, RN-BC, CNOR, NE-BC, AGACNP-BC, Clinical Manager for Bariatric and Metabolic Services