Maybe you’ve noticed that after menopause, you started to put on a little weight, even if you never had an issue with abdominal weight gain before.
While it’s normal for both men and women to gain weight as they age because of metabolic changes, women going through menopause have a few additional challenges. For National Women’s Health Week, May 14-20, ThedaCare offers some insights — and possible solutions — to midlife weight gain.
“In general, as we age, the body becomes more prone to weight gain,” says Ashley Krautkramer, ThedaCare Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. “Hormonal changes during menopause can make it more likely for women to put on weight, particularly around their abdomen.”
Additionally, genetics play a role. If you have family members who developed extra weight around the abdomen, you may be prone to developing the same issue, Krautkramer says.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
It is important to try to keep a healthy weight, as obesity can lead to serious health problems, including breathing problems, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Excess weight also can increase your risk of certain types of cancer.
The good news is women can take many steps to counter the tendency to put on weight as they enter menopause.
“Lifestyle changes certainly can help you avoid or turn around weight gain,” Krautkramer says. “Reducing your caloric intake, without compromising your nutrition, can help you maintain your weight or lose some.”
For example, to maintain their weight, women in their 50s may need to consume about 200 fewer daily calories than they did before.
“Before starting a new diet, it’s always a good idea to speak with your primary care provider,” Krautkramer says. “Generally, choosing a plant-based diet is a healthy option. Choosing more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and foods that contain more fiber can help you feel full and keep a healthy weight.”
Legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils, are low in fat and high in fiber and can be a great substitute for meats like beef and chicken, which have a higher fat content. Legumes also contain lots of potassium, iron, magnesium and folate — minerals and vitamins the body needs.
Fish, low-fat foods and nuts in moderate quantity are also healthy options.
Tips for the Long Term
Increasing physical activity, particularly a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training, can help women in menopause maintain a healthy weight.
“Simply becoming aware of the foods that you’re consuming can help you make better choices,” Krautkramer says. “Alcohol, sweets and sweetened beverages, including flavored waters, can add a lot to your daily calorie count.”
Seeking support from a dietitian can help you get started on your weight loss journey. Always consult a health care provider before starting a new exercise plan.
“We want women to feel empowered to live their best life,” Krautkramer says. “That can include maintaining a healthy weight, as well as feeling good about yourself. We hope women can find their unique balance, and we’re here to help.”
ThedaCare Bariatrics Program
For certain individuals with significant weight gain, the ThedaCare Bariatrics program may be an option.
The ThedaCare Bariatrics program offers two main solutions:
- Non-surgical weight loss with an intragastric balloon placement — for patients with a BMI between 28 and 40.
- Surgical weight loss — for patients with a BMI of 35 or greater with at least one other significant health risk or those with a BMI of 40 or greater with no additional health risks. ThedaCare offers two types of weight loss surgery: Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and gastric sleeve resection.