Six tips for preventing weight gain during the menopause

Most women gain weight as they age, but excess pounds aren’t inevitable. Paula Mee reveals how you can minimise menopause weight gain in this month's issue of IMAGE magazine.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Keep your stress hormones at bay. Relax and find some serenity in your day. There are great apps to support you while you meditate. If you don’t like the sound of meditation, get out of your busy head another way.

Some people journal or write “morning papers” on awakening – just three pages daily of whatever it is they are thinking about when they put pen to paper. It’s a stream of consciousness and helps to release thoughts and let them go. Others do yoga, listen to soothing music or enjoy long walks in nature or the garden. Whatever brings you a sense of calm, do it.

Check in with your hunger

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Get your head – not your mouth – into the driver’s seat. It’s tempting to deal with frustration, lethargy, stress and even boredom with food or alcohol. Emotional eating and drinking might give us instant gratification, but bingeing only leads to guilt and bad habits. Find a better way of dealing with emotional pain and needs.

The three Ps

Pilates, plank and posture will help tighten your core and improve your shape. Any strength training will boost your muscle mass and consequently your metabolism. The higher your muscle to fat ratio, the better your metabolism. You can use your own bodyweight in TRX, push-ups, kettlebells, or resistance bands. Yoga can also shape your core as long as your technique is good. A few sessions of fat-burning cardio exercise helps too.

If you’re very overweight, I wouldn’t recommend HITT training, as it might turn you off exercise for good. If you’re a complete newbie to the gym, book a session with a personal trainer.

Hyper-palatable foods

Excess sugar and unhealthy fat equals more belly fat. Start by eliminating any sugary drinks and then focus on enjoying the occasional treat on special occasions, not daily. The natural sugar found in fruit is a good way to satisfy a sugar craving. The fibre and nutrients that fruit contains allows it to be slowly absorbed into the blood stream. Three pieces of fruit is a useful target each day.

Get some shut-eye

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Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Less than that can throw two of your body’s hunger hormones out of balance: leptin and ghrelin. This disruption can cause you to hold onto more fat and crave sugary, salty foods more frequently. Set your alarm for bedtime. Prioritise your sleep. It will help your resilience, both mentally and physically.

The end marks a new beginning

In addition to ending our periods and our ability to conceive, the menopause coincides with the completion of our mothering years. At this life stage, many of us will have independent young sons and daughters carving out careers and fulfilling their dreams. We too have choices to make. We can decide to feel “obsolete” or be determined to find a new “passion”. This doesn’t have to be the two-legged kind – travel, history, poetry, gardening, whatever!

For me, it’s Japan and all things Japanese. I started learning conversational Japanese and planning my travel there. It has taken me two solid years to plan my trip, and my interest is only growing from strength to strength. Find your passion and don’t think it has to have a “save the world” effect. Slow down. Reflect. Go inward. Meditate. What is it you truly enjoy or enjoyed as a younger you?

Paula Mee is a consultant dietitian, paulamee.com.

Pick up this month's edition of IMAGE magazine to see more.

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