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Natural hormone changes mean weight gain may feel inevitable for women as they enter their fourth decade. But experts say gaining weight while experiencing menopausal symptoms is largely down to poor diet and lack of exercise. With a few tweaks, weight gain can be avoided, or reversed.
Menopause is a natural transition period in a woman’s life, typically between the ages of 45 and 55 – although it can start earlier in some cases – and occurs when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 consecutive months.
The menopausal transition usually lasts around seven years, and during that time, a woman may experience several symptoms.
The associated symptoms can include hot flushes, brain fog, difficulty getting to sleep, sleep disruption, loss of libido, low mood, loss of bladder control, anxiety and even severe depression – and the severity of these – vary greatly between women.
Many women also cite weight gain as something they experience throughout the menopause process, although there are other factors contributing to this. As women age, they generally tend to become less physically active and their metabolism naturally slows down, leading to a reduction in muscle mass and an increase in body fat.
Experts at the Bodyline Medical Wellness Group have explained how to combat weight gain during menopause.
READ MORE: Camilla uses £200 fitness tool to ‘track activity levels’ – picturesExperts agree that a healthy diet is key: “It’s important to find something that works for you and that you can stick to.
“As a general rule, upping your intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, lean meat, complex carbohydrates, nutrient-dense foods and healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado, is a good place to start.
“Cut down on excess sugar, fatty foods, refined carbohydrates, processed meat, fizzy drinks and fruit juice, and also try to limit alcohol consumption, which often contains added sugar and empty calories, as well as having a detrimental effect on sleep quality.”
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The experts recommend a minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week; a brisk walk, a round of golf or a swim have been suggested.
Or around 1.5 to 2.5 hours of energetic exercise like jogging, fast cycling or playing an energetic team sport. You could also try a combination of the two.
“You should ideally aim to add in a couple of sessions of strength or resistance training every week,” the experts said.
“Again, it’s about making sensible choices and small changes. The more you move your body, the more calories you will burn.
READ MORE: ‘I feel amazing!’ Woman loses huge five stone in just six months“A good goal is to stay on your feet for as much of the day as you can, so meet a friend for a walk in the park instead of for coffee, take regular breaks away from your desk (sitting still for long periods has been linked to increased abdominal fat) and try to increase your step count whenever and whatever you are doing.
“Taking time out for yourself with mindful meditation, Tai Chi or gentle yoga can be highly beneficial to mental wellbeing, relaxing both mind and body and reducing stress levels.
“Finding an activity that you enjoy makes it easier to maintain – a virtuous circle where exercise lifts your mood, making you feel better and sleep better, therefore you are more likely to exercise the following day. As you gain muscle, your body will burn calories more efficiently, helping you to lose or maintain weight.”
Hormones support many vital functions within the body, including our ability to maintain muscle, lose body fat, and experience stress and hunger. When a hormonal imbalance occurs, it becomes considerably harder to lose weight.
One way to manage hormone levels through menopause is with Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT as it’s commonly known.
HRT is a treatment programme to relieve menopause symptoms by topping up Oestrogen and Progesterone, levels of which decline before and during menopause and can be administered in tablets, skin patches, topical gels, creams and pessaries.
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