It is very common for women to gain weight around the time of menopause. For some women, it is the first time in their lives that they have found it hard to lose weight. For others who have struggled with their weight all their lives, it marks a time where controlling their weight becomes even more difficult.
The first thing to say is that menopause itself does not actually cause gain gain. The reason women gain weight around that time are:
1. Metabolisms slow as people get older. So for most people they gain weight as they get older.
2. As people get older, they accumulate more and more "bad" habits around eating and exercise. They tend to eat more and exercise less.
3. Before menopause women tend to carry their weight around their hips and thighs. Due to hormone changes at menopause, this changes so they start carrying weight around their stomach. This does not mean that they've gained weight, but it just means the weight has "shifted". A lot of clients who come and see me complain that their favorite pair of jeans does not fit any more, which is a sign of this "shift".
So it's all very well learning that menopause weight gain is common, but what can you do about it?
Here's where the advice that you might have followed when you were youngger is no longer as helpful.
For a start, while exercise is good for you for so many different reasons, as you get older, it becomes harder and harder for you to "cancel out" heavier eating with more exercise. I often hear stories from women who tell me that they go to the gym all the time, but it does not seem to be making a difference.
That's not unusual. It's to be expected. This does not mean you should not exercise (heaven forbid), but it does mean that you can not rely on exercise alone. You have to change the amounts you eat.
Secondly, most women tell me that in their 20s and 30s they were able to lose weight quickly at times if they stuck to a fad diet for long enough. Sure, the diets were often unbearable and they gained weight as soon as they stopped them, but at least they worked. As you get older, these fad diets stop working like that. You can not get the 10 pound weight loss in a week that you might have gotten when you were 25.
Again, this is not a bad thing. It's actually to your advantage. It means that instead of turning to unhealthy fad diets, you have to do something much more healthy and much more long-term focused.
And that brings me to the solution to losing weight for a woman who's gained weight at menopause. Here are 6 key steps:
1. Think long-term. Decide that rather than losing weight in a few days or weeks, you're going to focus on changing your habits, so that you lose weight for life.
2. Abandon all expectations about how fast you'll lose weight. This is really important. For clients who I see in their 50s, losing 1/2 to 1 pound a week is realistic and sustainable.
3. Keep a food diary. Writing down what you're eating is the best weight loss strategy ever.
4. Make small changes to your portion sizes. Do not cut them too much. Just start off by reducing them by 5% and see how it goes. Then try another 5%
5. Remove temptation from your environment. If you're always surrounded by food at home, you have to rely on self-control to stop eating. It's not a good strategy. Instead, remove all temptation from home. If you want temptation foods, you have to go out and get them.
6. No matter what happens, keep going. Most people fail to lose weight because they give up at the first sign of things not going to plan. That's the wrong approach. I often tell clients, "the only way you can fail at this is if you give up".
You can lose weight that you gain at menopause, but you're not going to do it following the same old plans. You need to take a long-term, sustainable approach, but the good news is, if you keep the right attitude, success is just around the corner.