I recently sat down with nutritionist and bestselling author Dr. Diana Fleming to ask how women can lose weight after menopause.
Read on to find out her answers to my questions:
Why is losing weight after menopause so difficult?
Well, first I want to say, as a woman who has been through menopause, I know how frustrating this process can be, and I want the ladies reading to know there’s hope. You can have a healthy, attractive body after menopause, but it is challenging and I’ll tell you why.
In one word, the problem is “change.” Menopause is a time of change for your body. Your metabolism has been slowing down since your 30s, and certain hormone levels change, which makes it more difficult to lose weight or even to simply keep weight off.
Also, one of the most frustrating parts of menopause, as it relates to your appearance, is that in this period, body fat migrates and concentrates around your stomach, hips, and butt. So even if you don’t gain a single pound, you may notice yourself looking pudgier in the mirror.
Unfortunately, the changes I’ve just mentioned are largely unavoidable, which is why losing weight after menopause is difficult. But you can change your lifestyle, which is a huge part of weight loss, so you can feel confident in your body after menopause.
What are some things women can do to lose weight during and after menopause?
One of the biggest things I would say is to get more physically active. As we get older, we often experience a decrease in physical activity, and that makes sense. We’re busy with work and maybe children. We don’t have as much energy. And honestly, it can be intimidating for a woman in menopause to hop on a treadmill surrounded by 20-somethings who look like they can eat whatever they want without gaining a pound. As someone who has been there, I’m very sensitive to this. But I would encourage women to find ways to be more physically active. Go for a walk after dinner – just in your neighborhood. Use this time to listen to an audiobook or call a friend. Turn it into “me” time that you look forward to. That may sound counter-intuitive, but I’m actually serious. Exercise is a proven stress reliever, and it can be very enjoyable.
Of course, there’s more to slimming down than being physically active. The food you eat plays a huge role too. But I don’t want to step on toes by promoting one type of diet, so I’m focusing on exercise since you can add it to any eating plan.
What are some specific exercise tips for women in menopause?
Okay, I’ll give you four, but you should talk to your doctor before you make any of the changes mentioned in this post. These are not specific recommendations. They’re principles I use to stay slim, and I’m in my 60s, by the way.
1. The first thing I do is try to sleep 7-8 hours at night.
I said I was going to talk about exercise, but let’s face it, we all know we should be exercising – and we don’t do it. I’m convinced one reason is because we’re tired. And a good night’s sleep helps me get the energy I need to follow through. Plus, lack of sleep has been shown to increase carb cravings and slow metabolism, both of which are problems when it comes to weight loss.
2. Along those same lines, I stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day.
Kind of like being sleep deprived, when you’re dehydrated, you won’t have as much energy, and you won’t feel like being physically active. A simple method for staying hydrated is to drink water until your urine is clear instead of yellow.
3. I make regular aerobic exercise part of my weekly routine.
And to improve my results, I use a method called high intensity interval training (HIIT). That probably sounds extreme, but it’s basically just alternating between mild activity and more strenuous activity. This can speed up your metabolism and burn more fat in a shorter period of time.
I personally do HIIT on the treadmill. I alternate between walking and running on a treadmill for about 25 minutes, and I do this twice a week. My particular version of HIIT is to alternate between walking and running every tenth of a mile, gradually increasing the speed of the running every time.
4. I do strength training.
A pound of muscle burns more calories than a pound of fat. But women generally have lower muscle mass, at least compared to men, and our bodies lose muscle as we age. If you’ll invest the time to build some muscle, your body can burn more calories every second of the day.
Obviously, the best way to build muscle is strength training – lifting weights. This is something I personally do twice a week. If you’re interested in giving it a try, make sure to learn the mechanics from a professional to avoid injuring yourself.
What would you say to someone who is discouraged?
Well, as I’ve mentioned, you can have a healthy, attractive body after menopause. So I would want them to know there’s hope for that. But I would also encourage women in this position to realize that, even though it’s frustrating, aging is a natural part of life. I still want to look and feel beautiful, but I know that means something different for me now than it did when I was 30. So I work hard to stay active and look good for my age, and I celebrate all of the attractive things about me that have come from being a bit older.
Featured photo credit: Dr. Diana Fleming/Paul Martin via flickr.com