Weight gain is common in all people as we age. Most men and women put on a few pounds after 30—the time when the metabolism begins to slow, even if we watch our diet and exercise regularly. Our bodies just don’t process as efficiently as they once did, which can lead to decreased metabolic efficiency and weight gain over time.
Women get an extra kick in the pants when menopause arrives, and hormonal changes compound the aging issue. Thus begins the fight to maintain a healthy weight.
Pretty rotten deal, right?
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be much of a fight at all. Plenty of women hit menopause and find a few adjustments are all it takes to prevent any additional pounds from sneaking onboard. Many even find they’re able to mindfully shift their lifestyle enough to lose additional weight and end up looking and feeling better than they ever have.
With just a few simple steps you can prevent added menopausal weight gain, and even drop extra weight if you need to.
1. Prioritize Weight Training
Muscle mass declines with age, which leads to a slower metabolism. One of the best ways to rev up your metabolism is to increase muscle mass by lifting weights. Weight training increases your metabolism so you burn more calories even while you’re resting.
As an added bonus, weight training also helps prevent bone loss, which is another unfortunate issue for many women in menopause.
If you’re short on time and you have to choose between cardio and weights, choose the weights.
2. Get Plenty of Sleep
Getting plenty of high-quality sleep can help you maintain a healthy weight. Adequate sleep helps keep your leptin and ghrelin hormones in balance, which helps your brain understand when you’re hungry and when you’re full. Throwing those out of balance can lead to excessive hunger and trouble recognizing when you’re actually full.
Unfortunately, most women experience hot flashes with menopause, which can majorly disrupt sleep patterns.
In addition to common remedies for overcoming hot flash-related sleep deprivation, such as avoiding large meals before bed and dressing in lightweight jammies, one of the best ways to regulate body temperature at night is to choose bedding that regulates your temperature for you.
Memory foam mattresses can trap body heat and lead to overheating (and over sweating) at night. Ditch the foam mattress in favor of one made from breathable natural materials, such as natural latex, organic cotton, and wool.
Joma wool, silk, bamboo, and organic cotton are all excellent materials for mattresses, sheets, and other bedding that help naturally maintain comfortable body temps and minimize disruptive night sweats.
3. Clean Up Your Meals
Adjust your diet to creating healthy habits ASAP. Clean eating is the name of the game, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s less about counting calories and more about choosing lean proteins, unrefined carbohydrates, and fresh green veggies.
Limit sugar intake and processed foods and stick to natural choices that are less refined. A great book to get started with a more natural diet is Tosca Reno’s clean eating series. She’s a great example a fierce female over 40 who used diet and exercise to fight off her bulging waistline and ended up totally reinventing herself.
What if cooking isn’t in your wheelhouse or you feel intimidated by the thought of planning healthy meals at home?
Try taking a cooking class or watch a few YouTube videos and just give it a shot. Not only will you learn how to prepare and season delicious meals from scratch, but you’ll also end up with all the know-how to host parties and entertain in an environment that supports your waistline without giving up a supportive community and the valuable mental health benefits of a healthy social life.
4. Minimize Stress
If you’re a stress eater, you’re probably thinking, “DUH!”
But even if you’re one of the lucky few who eat less when under stress, your body can still put on pounds unexpectedly in the face of chronic stress.
One of the big problems stress can cause is elevated cortisol. It’s a normal response to stress, but cortisol can also wreak havoc on your waistline. Not only that, chronic stress puts you at risk for depression and anxiety, which can also cause weight gain and compound stress issues.
To control stress and minimize cortisol-related weight gain consider making meditation a habit. Even a few minutes of mindful breathing can reduce stress levels and help you feel calm and serene.
5. Start Preparing NOW
Get a head start on beating menopausal weight gain by laying the groundwork well before you hit menopause.
Most women hit menopause between the ages of 40-58, but begin experiencing physical and hormonal changes 4-8 years beforehand. If you can start watching your diet and implementing healthy workout habits in the years prior to full-on menopause, you’ll be way ahead of the game and prepared for an easy transition.
Menopause is a big milestone for most women, but it doesn’t have to be a negative one. With all the living you’ve done and all the life lessons under your belt, menopause is just another rung on the ladder to enlightened maturity. Stay positive, treat your body right, get great sleep, and enjoy the process of creating a healthy lifestyle that keeps you lean, fit, and thriving.