What's the best thing to do about menopause weight gain?
If you've noticed your weight increasing as you go through menopause, you've probably also found that it's difficult to find advice that works.
As a doctor who only sees women over 40 in my weight loss clinic, dealing with weight gain at menopause is something I have a lot of experience in.
And there are some key things you need to know about menopause weight gain:
1. It's Not Hormonal
Although it's commonly thought that menopause hormonal changes cause weight gain, this isn't actually the case.
The hormone changes that occur during menopause (a fall in Oestrogen) causes weight to shift from hips and thighs to the belly.
The classic sign of this is noticing that your trousers are getting tighter.
But the Oestrogen drop is causing a movement of weight not actual weight gain.
Your weight is increasing for a different reason.
Metabolism slows as people get older. It happens to everyone, male or female.
This combines with creeping "bad" eating habits, to cause weight gain as people get older.
2. Exercise Won't Help
The generic advice for anyone who's gaining weight is to "go to the gym".
While exercise is highly recommended for your overall physical and mental health, for women going through menopause it has minimal effect on weight loss.
You may have had this experience yourself.
You went to the gym diligently for a few weeks, and then were shocked and dismayed to see that your weight hadn't budged.
This is not abnormal. It's actually expected.
Many of my clients have previously blamed themselves for not doing enough exercise. But this is not the reason they have not been able to lose weight.
Again, this doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise, it just means that it's not enough for weight loss.
3. Diets Don't Work as Well
You may have fond recollections of being able to lose 10 pounds in a week when you were in your twenties.
But after 40, you may have noticed that even if you tried the same diet again, it wouldn't work as well.
Again, this is not abnormal. It is expected.
It's hard to lose weight as quickly after 40.
You might interpret this as a bad thing, but it's not, because...
4. Slow and Steady Wins the Race
The fact that you can't turn to old-fashioned diets anymore is probably your best strength.
It means you need to think about long-term solutions.
The fact is, for women going through menopause, there's one thing you have to accept when it comes to losing weight:
It's going to take longer than you expect.
But that's OK (I'll explain why in a second).
On a practical level, losing one pound a week, which you might have thought was too slow is actually a good rate of weight loss.
If you can keep this up for long enough, after three months you'll be almost a stone (14 pounds) lighter. In six months, you'll be two stone (28 pounds) lighter.
But this also requires another shift of thinking...
5. Think Different About Losing Weight
Most people think of losing weight as going on a diet. And a diet is usually depriving and unpleasant.
But obviously no one wants to feel deprived or miserable for long. You might tolerate it for a few weeks, but not for much longer.
This is why most people don't succeed at weight loss. They understandably can't stick with an unpleasant diet long enough to get the results.
So instead, you need to make it pleasant.
But how do you lose weight while keeping things pleasant?
6. Eat Less Without Feeling Deprived
This is the secret to lasting weight loss.
You have to be able to eat less, without feeling deprived.
Is this even possible?
Yes it is.
Firstly, instead of making drastic changes to your eating habits, just make small ones that are easier to stick with.
Secondly, you need to focus on removing unnecessary eating from your life.
For example, if you finish 2/3 of your plate of food and feel full, then eating the rest is not providing you any extra enjoyment. It is unnecessary calories.
Another example is eating a chocolate bar because you saw it on your desk, even though you weren't hungry and wouldn't have even thought of chocolate if it wasn't there.
Notice, that with each of these examples, cutting out the unnecessary eating means you eat less, but don't feel deprived.
There are literally hundreds of examples of unnecessary eating in most people's lives.
When you eliminate unnecessary eating, you eat less, don't feel deprived and can therefore stick with the weight loss plan long enough to see results and keep the weight off for life.
The ideal plan is based around eliminating unnecessary eating. It blends into your lifestyle and becomes part of it.
Stop the Struggle
One of the surprising things about losing weight for women going through menopause is the realisation that most of the advice they encounter about weight loss is more appropriate for people in their twenties and thirties and not really relevant to them.
If you've been dieting all your life, it is probably a relief for you to hear that you don't need to go on another deprivation diet again.
Instead you need to focus on making small changes that you can live with for the rest of your life.
For more about menopause weight gain and what to do about it, click here.