A Change of Season

By Jane Sylvestre, RD - 11/5/2014

Menopause, Age and Weight

I know that life is not fair.  Some people can eat anything they want and not gain an ounce.  Some people feel that is they look at a piece of chocolate the wrong way; they may gain a pound or two!  There are so many factors that contribute to one’s weight.  These factors can include anything from genetics, hormones, and medications and of course food intake and activity level.  

Menopause plays a role as well.  With menopause, our levels of estrogen decline, we get less sleep and feel increased stress.  Women tend to put on weight more easily. Unfortunately this weight gain is typically around the middle which puts us women at increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and insulin resistance. 

As noted above, weight gain can cause havoc on one’s health.  One way to combat this weight gain is through exercise.  We do lose muscle mass with age, whether we are going through menopause or not.  This decrease in muscle will decrease our metabolic rate and make losing weight more difficult the older we get.  We need to work harder to replace that lost muscle mass as we age.  Women (and men) should try to do some form of resistance training twice per week.  Here is a link to a great article on resistance training for women over 50.  http://www.livestrong.com/article/104237-weight-training-exercises-women-over/ (you may need to cut and paste).  Of course, resistance training alone isn’t enough for weight loss.   If weight loss is the goal, 300 minutes of aerobic activity per week is recommended which works out to 1 hour 5 days per week or 50 minutes 6 days week.  Be sure to take one day off to rest. 

Try to resist the desire for frequent naps when going through menopause.  Stay active in your daily life by working out in the yard, cleaning the house, doing laundry, walking at the mall. parking further away and  taking the stairs.  I am sure you have heard this many times before, but an active lifestyle truly makes a difference.  I read an article once (sorry I can’t remember the source), but a runner who ran ½ mile per day, but was then very sedentary burned the same calories as someone who was active in the daily lives as noted above, but did not do any formal “exercise.”  Interesting…maybe I have been wasting too much time running… Ha Ha. 

In addition to the exercise, it is important that we eat well while going through menopause.  Unfortunately, we need fewer calories as we age.  You may have figured this one out on your own.   I often hear “I could eat so much more when I was younger and not even worry about it.”  Once you reach 50 years old, you need on average 200 calories less than you did when you were younger.  I guess that is why so many older people “share their meals” at restaurants.  In one respect, that is something to look forward to as we get older as long as our appetite declines with our need for fewer calories!  Of course, if you are reading this, you probably have had bariatric surgery or are planning to do so.  In that case, portion control will be managed for you.  Your job will be to continue making healthy food choices.  Here is a list of healthy foods to aid with menopause which I pulled from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website eatright.org. 

·       Bananas. Bananas (along with apricots, avocados and sweet potatoes) are high in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure.

·       Blueberries. This fruit is full of stress-snuffing antioxidants and vitamin C. Plus; blueberries are high in fiber and low in calories.

·       Dark, leafy greens. These vegetables are rich in calcium and vitamin K, which help support bone health. Women over 50 should aim for 1,200 mg of calcium daily.

·       Salmon. Omega-3-rich foods like salmon raise good cholesterol. Oily fish are also good sources of vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption. You need 600 IU of vitamin D a day — a 3 oz. serving of canned salmon supplies about 465 IU.

·       Soy. Some studies suggest that foods with isoflavens – such as soy milk, tofu and edamame — may have estrogen-like properties in the body, which could help offset the effects of dropping estrogen levels. (Note: If you have a family history of breast cancer or other issues with soy, consult a doctor before adding soy to your diet.)

·       Whole-grain bread and oatmeal. Studies show that soluble fiber may help your body remove cholesterol. The requirement for fiber decreases at age 50 so aim for about 21 to 30 grams of total fiber per day.

·       Water. Water helps move fiber through your system, keeps you hydrated and may mitigate hot flashes. Drink plenty of it!

·       Yogurt. Yogurt is calcium-rich and contains probiotics that may aid digestion. Choose fat-free or low-fat, low-sugar varieties with vitamin D added.

Keep these tips in mind as you do your meal planning and exercise for the week. 

As usual, feel free to contact me anytime by e-mail at janesylvestre@massweightloss.com or call our office at 508-668-4400.

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