Among other things, I’m the Menopause Health Maven for a wonderful health website called Wellsphere. If you haven’t checked it out before, do so now – just click on my Wellsphere badge on the right hand side of this page. It’s sort of a cross between Web MD and Facebook – with experts and real people sharing advice, experiences, and health networks. As a Maven, I get a number of questions in the Menopause Community. Recently, I was asked about menopausal weight gain. Because this is such a universal and recurring problem, I’ll post my answer for all the menopause goddesses out there who are concerned about those extra curves and voluptuousness.
Weight gain post-menopause affects most women to varying degrees. I can tell you that our community of menopause goddesses has struggled with this symptom again and again. We lose, gain, and lose again.
Our metabolic rate has slowed to a crawl. You would think that this slowdown would be more than offset by calories burned through our hot flashes. Literally. And those goddesses who suffer 30 hot flashes per day should be wasting away, regardless of caloric intake. But in seeming defiance of all natural law, the scale tells us we are getting heavier. We look at our favorite fatty, sweet, carbo-loaded treats and we gain weight. We eat "healthy" food and we gain weight. We don’t change our eating habits at all and we gain weight. Some of us starve ourselves and we gain weight. We diet fiercely, trying to shed extra poundage. South Beach, Medifast, Ornish, Atkins. Jenny Craig, Nutrisystems., Weight Watchers. Among the Venuses, we have collectively tried ALL of these at one time or another with varying (read not permanent) success. And each year, it gets harder to fit into our skinny clothes.
The only diet that really works over time is simple: less calories in – more calories out. Eat less and exercise more. But weighing food and counting calories just causes us to obsess about food, to think about it all the time. Which makes us feel deprived and hungry. Theresa Venus and I finally hit upon the Girlfriend Guilt Diet. We eat normally except for one important difference. We eat half. We make or order food as usual, but only eat half of what’s on our plate.
We also drink our 8 glasses of water (64 oz) each day and we walk a minimum of 2 miles. And here’s the kicker: we have to report to each other at the end of each day via phone or email whether it was yes on food (only ate half), yes on exercise, and yes on water. For some reason, we just can’t stand to call one another and say that we failed. Sure, once in a while, one gets skipped, but its rare. I can bail on myself, but not on my girlfriend. We support each other in slowly losing weight. Losing it fast means it won’t stay off in many cases. We have found ourselves losing weight effortlessly, (or at least painlessly) and since we don’t obsess about food all the time, we don’t binge. The best tip we have is to find a girlfriend to work together on your health regimen (sounds so much better than diet!)
The other thing I want to mention is to find what your new optimal weight might be. I kept trying to reach my 30 year old weight – 125 lbs. And it just isn’t right for me anymore. 135 seems just right in terms of feeling strong and healthy. For more on this, check out my Jan. 22 blog entry A Nude Awakening For A Menopausal Goddess.
As for multivitamins? I’ve taken Centrum over 50 as well as One-A-Day Women’s. Noticed little difference, but I also take a calcium with Vit D supplement and extra Vitamin E.
One last consideration: be sure and have your thyroid checked (blood TSH level, not just T3, T4). So many women develop hypothyroidism with menopause and that can greatly contribute to weight gain. (I’ll be writing a detailed blog on this soon.)
Most of all we know how you feel – it’s like you aren’t YOU anymore. And in a sense, you aren’t. But I promise that it will get better.