Menopause – a commonly dreaded phase that every woman in her late 40s to early 50s has to go through. Experiencing hormonal changes and fat gain during this period can breed frustration and confusion, especially for women who enjoyed high metabolism rates during their younger days. While it may be challenging attempting to stay active during a time when you’re re-discovering your body all over again, it is important to continue keeping fit around menopause.
It may come as a surprise to you, but according to Amos Pines, MD, former president of the International Menopause Society, 70 percent of all women worldwide will gain weight during the menopause. In fact, women can expect to gain 10-20 pounds, and experience a range of unpleasant and capricious emotions including frustration, annoyance and anger when this happens.
When menopause occurs, the ovaries produce lower levels of oestrogen, which induces the fat cells to begin producing hormones. These hormonal changes lead to weight gain, which tends to result in the build-up of adipose tissue around the abdomen.
According to integrative physician and weight loss trainer Dr Jade Teta, “At menopause, both oestrogen and progesterone are low. It's less volatile, but this combo means increased deposition of belly fat since insulin and cortisol are wreaking havoc and brain chemical changes, which means increased hunger and cravings. Post-menopause sees low oestrogen and progesterone, but higher relative testosterone because ovaries keep producing testosterone. This accelerates belly growth.”
In addition, low oestrogen levels can also adversely affect your ability to deal with stress. This means that if you’re constantly in high-stress situations, you’re likely to produce more cortisol and become more insulin resistant, which ultimately results in weight gain during menopause.
To prevent these problems from exacerbating, the most important thing to do is to first recognise the biochemical level changes in your body. Instead of eating less and over-exercising, you should endeavour to engage in a tailored fitness programme that best suits your needs at this particular point in your life. Your workouts should encompass strength training to build lean muscle, and your diet should incorporate nutrition including proteins and complex carbs like fruit, vegetables and fibre. Sufficient sleep is also vital to ensure that your stress levels are kept to a minimum, so don’t hesitate to take a short nap if you’re feeling too tired from a hectic schedule.
Going through menopause alone can be an alienating and isolative experience, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Aside from talking to your family about how you’re feeling, there are also plenty of menopause support groups online that you can reach out to for help. Not only will you have a strong group of friends to confide in, but you can also share tips and tricks with one another on how to get through life’s rough patches. Sometimes, girl power really is all you need!
Hitting menopause doesn’t mean hitting a pause on the incredible life you’ve been leading – it simply entails tweaking parts of it for a more suitable and healthier lifestyle. Time and tide waits for no woman, but with these tips in hand, you’ll be able to run with it and win the race against ageing!