When you were young, you could cheat and get away with it, but now that you’re pushing 50, it’s not so easy.
You gain weight with ease, and once you do it’s hard to lose it.
But is menopausal weight gain inevitable or is there something you can do?
Just because your body doesn’t feel the same doesn’t mean you have to surrender to weight gain.
With the right diet and exercise, you can still look and feel great.
Here’s the skinny on weight gain in middle-aged women.
Why Is It So Hard for Middle-Aged Women to Lose Weight?
So why do the pounds seem to pile on a whole lot easier as you age?
Most women start experiencing changes in their late 40s. By the time they’re in their 50s, it’s full-blown menopause.
During menopause and perimenopause (pre-menopause), estrogen levels fall and metabolism slows.
At the same time, hormone levels throughout the body get thrown out of whack.
As a result, you can’t eat the same as you did when you were younger. Exercise habits need to change too.
It’s Not Just About Looks: Health Risks of Weight Gain In Middle-Aged Women
Weight gain in middle-aged women is bad enough for self-esteem, but what about your health?
Obesity increases the risk of life-threatening diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and death.
And you don’t even have to be obese to develop serious complications…
A 2017 study found that people with a history of being overweight (not obese) had a 6 percent greater risk of early death. (1)
Worst of all, those mid-life pounds tend to settle around that waist, and belly fat is strongly linked to heart problems and diabetes.
Weight Gain In Women vs. Men
Why is weight loss so much harder for women?
Every year, obesity rates in women have been growing faster than men.
Between 2005 and 2014, obesity rates in men stayed the same, while women’s obesity increased each year.
According to the 2016 study, 40 percent of American women are obese compared to only 35 percent of men. (2)
Even after two months on a diet of arugula salads and salmon, sometimes the weight won’t budge.
All the while, your husband is dropping pounds like they’re going out of style.
5 Causes of Middle-Aged Weight Gain In Women
Several factors can make weight loss more challenging for middle-aged women, and it all starts with hormones, hormones, hormones…
1. Hold the Phone, Hormones!
Blame it on your changing hormones.
Hormones are chemical messengers that control most of your bodily functions, like appetite, metabolism, and reproduction.
As estrogen levels fall during perimenopause, your resting metabolism slows down.
At the same time, other key hormones like testosterone and progesterone go up and down.
This hormonal roller coaster can cause several side effects, including:
Decreased bone density
Lean muscle mass loss
Lower sex drive
…and of course, weight gain.
Eventually, menopause leads to changes in fat accumulation, fat distribution, and body composition.
The key to weight loss in middle-aged women is to jumpstart your metabolism.
Some of the best ways are with plenty of exercises and eating fiber, but more on that later…
2. Insulin Resistance
Insulin is the hormone that helps your body process glucose (sugar).
Over the years, your cells become less sensitive to the effects of insulin.
As the body starts to ignore insulin, blood sugar levels skyrocket.
If you aren’t careful this can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Before that happens, though, you’ll probably notice food cravings and weight gain.
The key to reducing the risk of insulin resistance is to eat less sugar.
If you can, you should cut out sugar and processed carbs entirely.
3. Out of Control Appetite
There’s two very important hormones that we haven’t mentioned yet: ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin tells you when you’re hungry and leptin tells you when you’re full.
During menopause, both of them are all over the place.
Just like your body can become resistant to insulin, it can also become resistant to ghrelin and leptin.
When they stop working, it gets harder than ever to fight food cravings.
One of the best ways to take back control is to track what you eat and when you get cravings.
Chances are you’ll notice that certain foods trigger your cravings.
4. Losing Lean Muscle
When it comes to weight management, lean muscle is something you want to gain, not lose.
This is because muscle cells burn calories, so less muscle means fewer calorie-burners.
The problem is that after 40, women start to lose muscle mass due to falling estrogen levels.
Combine this with a slower metabolism and it’s the perfect storm for weight gain.
The key to gaining more lean muscle is resistance training.
Lifting weights and doing similar exercises builds strong muscles and helps burn fat.
5. Sedentary Lifestyle
One of the worst culprits of weight gain in middle-aged women is a sedentary lifestyle.
By the time you reach your 40s and 50s, most women aren’t as physically active as they used to be.
Maybe you’ve spent the last few decades commuting to work and sitting at a desk.
Worst of all, with such a hectic schedule you end up snagging fast food more often than you should.
To make matters worse, work-related stress increases food cravings through the hormone ghrelin. (3)
It’s a vicious cycle that causes weight gain in middle-aged women across the country.
Fortunately, there’s something you can do about it…
The One-Two Punch to Get Your Weight Back On Track
It’s time to get your weight back under control so you can look good and feel great!
You’re going to do it with diet and exercise:
Step #1: Exercise Like a Loser
Exercising like a “loser” is a good thing…
And if you follow these guidelines you’ll be the biggest loser of them all.
Strength training is the most important form of exercise for women in menopause because it builds lean muscle.
Remember… more lean muscle means more fat-burning cells.
If you’ve never lifted weights before, consider getting a personal trainer. Just two or three sessions is all it takes to learn the correct form and get a plan in place.
However, if you can’t afford a trainer, that’s okay too.
Start with low weight and focus on multi-joint exercises that hit your whole body.
Focus on strength training with light weights and hit all the muscle groups.
You’ll build more fat-burning lean muscle and take it easy on your joints.
Oh, and strength training does wonders for losing that dreaded belly fat! (4)
Aerobic exercise is also important. This includes jogging, swimming, biking, and anything else that gets your heart rate up and keeps it there.
Be careful with running, though, because it can have a lot of impact on your knees and hips.
Years of not exercising can make your joints more prone of inflammation and pain.
Step #2: Eat Smarter
Nutrition is right up there with exercise when it comes to weight gain.
The most important thing is to avoid inflammatory foods that get stored as fat and boost food cravings.
Foods to avoid include:
Processed/packaged foods: Avoid anything that contains added sugar, chemical preservatives, high sodium, toxins, and synthetic additives.
Conventional meat: Meat that is not grass-fed is inflammatory and contains added hormones. Make sure to choose meat that’s grass-fed, hormone-free, cage-free, pasture-raised, and non-GMO.
Added sugar: Sugar is one of the main causes of weight gain, food cravings, hormone imbalances, diabetes, mood swings, and inflammation. In a nutshell, it’s the worst food of all time for weight gain in middle-aged women.
Processed vegetable oils: Deep-fried foods are cooked with inflammatory oil that contributes to heart problems, weight gain, and diabetes. Avoid vegetable oils like safflower, sunflower, canola, soybean, and corn oil.
Carbonated drinks: Carbonated drinks may deplete the body of calcium and contribute to bone loss.
Alcohol: Drinking alcohol is one of the worst causes of inflammation. Plus, it can trigger hot flashes and promote weight gain.
Instead, focus on healthy foods, like:
Cruciferous vegetables: Crunchy, crispy veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale are loaded with nutrients that are important for hormones and heart health.
High-fiber foods: Fiber supports healthy gut bacteria, hormone function, and metabolism. Some of the best sources of fiber are avocado, veggies, and nuts.
Omega-3s: Fatty acids like EPA and DHA support hormone production, fights inflammation, and reduces symptoms of menopause. The best sources of omega-3s are wild-caught fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna. (5)
Healthy fats: What are some of the best fats for lowering inflammation, balancing hormone production, and preventing weight gain? Extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, coconut milk, wild-caught salmon, and macadamia nuts are all fantastic.
Probiotic foods: Probiotics are living bacteria that colonize the gut and help regulate hormones that control appetite. Plus, they strengthen the gut and protect the body from inflammation. You can find probiotics on the shelf as supplements.
Last but not least, make sure to drink plenty of fluids.
Aim for at least eight glasses of water a day to replace lost fluids and reduce hunger cravings.
Sometimes when you feel hungry, you’re really just thirsty.
If you’re really disciplined, you can also give intermittent fasting a try.
All this means is that you restrict your eating to an 8-hour window (1 pm to 9 pm for example).
Intermittent fasting can be a short-cut to burning fat and boosting metabolism.
If you have any more questions about weight gain in middle-aged women, feel free to contact us at Complete Care Health Centers.
We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.