You’re eating and exercising at the same rate you always have, but weight, particularly around your abdomen, is increasing. What’s the reason? For women in their 40s, the hormone changes associated with menopause or pre-menopause could be the culprit.
We spoke with Anita Wolfe, NP, MSN from CU Medicine Women’s Integrated Services in Health – Park Meadows about menopausal-related weight gain and how she treats it.
Wolfe is an experienced nurse practitioner with 27 years of experience in family medicine with a clinical interest in women’s health. Among her long-term patients, a significant number are now entering their menopausal years, allowing her to address the unique health needs of these patients during this transformative phase of life.
Menopause and pre-menopause
Menopause and pre-menopause are often confused with one another. Menopause is when a person has stopped having periods for 12 months. Pre-menopause is the hormonal changes that happen before menopause and contribute to the official milestone of reaching menopause. “Pre-menopause symptoms typically start around your 40s,” explains Wolfe.
Pre-menopausal symptoms are usually what come to mind when people discuss the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause. Wolfe describes, “your progesterone levels start to decline and become unstable. Insomnia, night sweats, irritability and weight gain,” are the most obvious symptoms she sees with her pre-menopausal patients.
The menopause weight gain connection
Menopause itself does not case weight gain. But the combination of unstable hormone levels of progesterone and estrogen, combined with lifestyle changes related to age, can contribute to weight gain around the abdomen, hips and thighs.
Loss of muscle also contributes to weight gain for people in their 50s. Wolfe says, “unfortunately, around menopause age, women don’t have as much muscle mass. I recommend strength training and Pilates because muscle mass helps to burn fat.”
Menopause weight management tips
Wolfe adopts a holistic, personalized and patient-informed approach to weight control for her patients during menopausal years and beyond. “Your physical with your doctor is your time to get the education you need for your wellbeing,” shares Wolfe. Here are Wolfe’s top tips for preventing weight gain during menopause:
- Eat more protein (4-5 servings a day)
- Eat 3 servings of fat each day
- Incorporate berries, olive oil and avocados
- Limit carbs
- Eat as many green vegetables as you can
- Broccoli and cauliflower help to prevent estrogen storage
- Weight train 2 times per week
- Moderate intensity physical activity 3 times per week
Wolfe also recommends a variety of supplements and prescribes hormones to patients who don’t have risk factors. It is important to consult your provider for either of these programs.
Self-care during menopause
“You can’t give to anyone else unless you fill up your own cup,” stresses Wolfe. Making time for yourself is just as important as anything else. Taking the time for a bubble bath, exercising or meditating is a great way to unwind and reset during the ups and downs of pre-menopause and menopause.
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