On average, most women will see 51 birthdays before menopause begins. However, being the unique and mysterious creatures that we are, it may occur much earlier or later in our years. So what happens during Menopause and what effect does this have on your weight loss efforts?
Menopause effects explained
During menopause your body produces less of the progesterone and oestrogen hormones because your ovaries stop sending eggs to your uterus. One visible effect of this hormone change is a reshuffle of your body’s fat distribution. This results in unwanted abdominal fat that can be harder to budge. Things like medication, chemotherapy and your genes can further play a part in deciding what shifts where, and when.
This is why it’s never too early, (or late!), to eat healthy and nourishing meals, to watch your portion sizes, and to try to avoid foods that contain refined wheat products, sugar and saturated fat. Instead, choose those that are as close to nature as possible, such as fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat and wholegrain cereals. So as not to make losing weight even harder, it’s also a good idea to not cut your daily intake below 1200 cals per day. This is because your body’s metabolism will catch up to a low calorie intake over time, making it significantly harder to lose weight.
Working it off
Menopausal-associated abdominal fat is nothing new or scary. It’s still just fat, and we know how to deal with that, so we won’t play nice! Increasing your body composition of lean muscle mass by lifting, pulling, or pushing heavy stuff, (e.g. weightlifting, bodyweight exercises or using resistance bands), is one of the best ways to do this. Muscle gains boost your metabolism and help burn off some of those extra calories, even continuing to do so hours after a session!
Where to start?
A good plan to get you on track would be to dedicate 2 days of training to strength work per week and partner this up with at least 30 minutes of cardio activity (e.g. power-walking, swimming, dancing or aqua-aerobics) 4-6 times per week. We also highly recommend focusing on your flexibility and mobility regularly. If you can stay supple and increase the range of motion in your joints then you will better execute exercises, ultimately making your workouts more effective! Here’s a great beginner workout that ticks those boxes.
Remember that your medical team can often help you manage your transition through menopause or other related symptoms. If you’re just starting out exercising and have an illness or injury, speak with them before kicking off. Keep in mind that success involves so much more than simply checking the scales, so remind yourself to take body measurements every few weeks and note any changes in energy levels, tastes, mood, sleep, strength, mobility and fitness…it all matters! Menopause affects everyone differently, but know that you can still hit incredible fitness and weight loss goals no matter what your age.
It can help to think about what you can do rather than what you can’t. See this next stage in life as a prompt to add new tricks to your nutritional or physical repertoire, rather than as a sign to back off. Why not make it ‘game on’ rather than ‘game over’? Most importantly, be kind to yourself. If you actively work on yourself mentally and physically, you will keep yourself looking and feeling fit, strong and empowered!