Think You Can't Lose Weight After Menopause? Think Again
It's actually pretty straightforward.
Like many women, when I entered my late 40s I noticed that the number on the scale was slowly creeping up and my pants were tighter than usual around the waistband. I looked in the mirror and saw my developing menopot, a belly that is common as women approach menopause.
Even when I tried to “be good” with my eating and exercise, I wasn’t able to drop the weight like I could when I was younger. Frustrated, I began to believe that unless I was willing to crash diet and live on celery sticks, losing weight was going to be virtually impossible at my age.
Liz Josefsberg, celebrity health, wellness and weight loss expert and author of the book Target 100, agrees it can be more difficult to lose and maintain our weight as we age. Josefsberg says, “Women in their 40s and 50s are busy. They are working, running around with their kids, taking care of their parents and constantly stressed. They are not consistent in their healthy habits regarding eating and exercise routine.”
In addition to women not prioritizing themselves, there are physical factors that make losing weight harder as we get older. Josefsberg says, “In perimenopause and menopause, a woman’s metabolism slows down. From age 30, they begin losing muscle mass, as much as 3 [percent] to 5 percent per decade, and this decreases the rate at which your body uses calories.” The hormonal changes of aging can contribute to women gaining weight in their midsection.
But before you throw in the towel (and throw down the Ben & Jerry’s), Josefsberg says there is hope. Women can lose or maintain their weight as they get older; they just have to be willing to commit to making some life changes.
A good starting point is keeping a food journal for one week. Josefsberg says, “It’s not about counting points, carbs or calories. It’s about understanding what you are really eating. Most people that keep a journal find it eye-opening and find they are not as good as they think.” By keeping a journal, a woman may realize that when she skipped breakfast, she overate at lunch. Or that even though she ate a nutritional salad for dinner, she also ate her kids’ leftover mac and cheese and chowed down on a few Twizzlers while watching Game of Thrones.
To lose weight as women age, they need to eat less. Josefsberg says, “It’s pretty straightforward. Eat what you love but eat less. Make our plate half vegetables, a quarter protein and a quarter fat/carbs. Avoid processed foods. Drink a lot of water; most people are dehydrated.”
While there are many “diets” to choose from, there isn’t one way of eating that works for everyone. The key is to find what you need in terms of results and consistency. For example, about 50 percent of research says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, while the other 50 percent encouraged intermittent fasting to promote a healthy metabolism. So, if you are a person who wakes up hungry, eat a healthy breakfast. But don’t stress if you choose not to skip eating in the morning if that’s what works best for you. And while Josefsberg doesn’t promote a specific “diet,” she does encourage women to lower their carbs and sugar, especially if they want to avoid a menopot. She explains, “Sugar is highly addictive, causing us to overeat and promoting a host of issues — including bloating, swelling and inflammation. Sugar is hidden in many carbs, so it is important to read nutritional labels.”
Another important part to losing weight as women age is weight training. Women need to gain back that lost muscle. Josefsberg urges her clients to weight train three times a week in addition to doing a cardio exercise three times a week. If you can afford it, think about hiring a personal trainer. Josefsberg says, “You want to make sure you are lifting correctly. Enough to build lean muscle mass but not so much as to injury yourself. We should also work on balance and stability as we age.”
While many women feel that they are constantly running around all day, many live primarily sedentary lives. Whether it’s sitting at a desk, or in the car driving kids to activities, most women need to move more. Josefsberg says, “Many times when I ask my clients to use a fitness tracker, they find they are only walking 3,000-5,000 steps. I try to get them to double that, in addition to whatever formal exercise they are doing.” It can be as simple as walking around your house when you talk on the phone or taking a long stroll after dinner.
Don’t get discouraged if even when you make these lifestyle changes, results are not immediate. Josefsberg says, “Most of us have a ‘set-point weight’ that we have lived at for a long period of time. It’s what is easy for our body to maintain whether we overeat or eat less. When we go above it, we tend to gain weight quickly. But conversely, when we break through it and start to lose weight, the pounds will come off.” By exercising, moving more, getting a proper amount of sleep and cutting out processed foods (especially sugar and alcohol), you can lose weight at any age.