For me, the first two years of going through menopause were, simply put, miserable. I’m sure most women would agree with me here. I was extremely depressed and uncomfortable in my own skin. I ended up gaining about 25 lbs and it took a lot for me to start actively dealing with menopause in a healthy way. I've talked openly about menopause in my "Can We Talk Series", but this post is specifically about how to lose weight during this time in your life.
You always hear the warnings about how terrible menopause can be, but it’s not until you actually experience it that you understand. At some points I was like, “Why did no one tell me about this?” Throughout this time, the most difficult part was finding the support and answers that I so badly needed, which weren’t easily available.
Menopause affects and changes essentially every woman’s weight. However, when you look around for information, it’s impossible to find. I often heard comments such as:
Just watch what you’re eating.
Menopause doesn’t actually make you gain weight.
First, your body is going through extreme hormonal changes, so weight gain during this time is a real thing! You can have healthy eating habits before you experience menopause, but during and after, your body can react differently to certain foods you’ve always eaten. I don’t know why there isn’t more information out there on this subject, but let’s try to fix that here.
Together with my good friends and experts in their field, Paige Kelly BA, MSACN (functional nutritionist) and Charlotte Brynn (my physical trainer) we will give you 10 tips on how to lose weight during menopause! The information here is based on my personal experiences, as well as credible advice from professionals. Hopefully you can find the answers that you’re looking for here, and get back to feeling like yourself again. Please, please, please: Whatever questions you have after reading this, leave them for us in the comments below and we’ll get right back to you!
DIET TIPS FROM PAIGE KELLY ON HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT DURING MENOPAUSE
1. Remove additional sugars– read your labels!
When Vince and I decided to change our diet to Paleo, I took that opportunity to go through my pantry and clear out anything that has sugar in it. We eat pretty clean to begin with, so I assumed this would be quick and easy. Well, after two large green trash bags (you know the ones) were full, I realized that our pantry was just about empty! Once I started reading the labels I was shocked to find so many items that I thought were healthy and clean were actually loaded with sugar.
There are so many substitutes that are readily available for white sugar. Raw Honey, Pure Maple Syrup, Coconut Sugar being some of the products that I use. Also, they taste great! You’d be surprised how easy it is to remove white sugar from your diet. You don’t have to give up desserts or even chocolate. The options for alternatives are endless.
On another note, there is alcohol.
We would normally have wine with dinner. It just became a part of our nightly routine. It was great to relax at the end of the day, chat and share a glass or two of wine. But boy, does that put the weight on, along with disrupting your sleep. So what we do now is have sparkling water with bitters, pour it into a wine glass, and sit and sip before dinner for our chill time. That little trick- pouring it into a wine glass- really did work!
Now have we given up wine altogether? NO! But again, we’ll only have it on special occasions (or maybe a glass or two on a Saturday night), but no longer every night. It’s a big game changer as far as the number on the scale is concerned. So if you do have wine or a cocktail in the evenings, try limiting that and you’ll see an immediate change on the scale. You’ll also have a better night’s sleep and reduce puffiness around the eyes.
2. Do not skip meals: Think vegetables, protein, healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, coconut oil), complex carbs (sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa) for a basic template when choosing your meal.
This is a big one! So often when I was trying to lose weight I would skip meals, thinking that I was eating fewer calories. I believed that I would definitely lose weight but the scale never budged.
Here’s why! Your body protects you, even from yourself! If you begin to “starve yourself” your body will go into action and begin storing fat, basically holding onto fat so you don’t starve.
I have found it’s really important to make sure you are eating enough and filling yourself up in a long-lasting way. If you don’t have time in the morning for a full breakfast, try an apple with almond butter or a fruit/veggie smoothie that you can make at home. I add protein powder to my morning smoothie. It’s going to keep you full much longer than a few pieces of toast will. But cutting out meals and drastically lowering calorie intake will send your body into survival mode. So make sure you’re eating, but choose healthy options.
3. Low carbohydrates during the day- NO carbohydrates at dinner. *When I speak of carbohydrates, I am talking about bread, muffins, cookies, pasta. I am not talking about beets and carrots :)
When we began Paleo I thought I would NEVER be able to give up bread and pasta. Now, we live in an area where we have so many options for incredible fresh baked bread. Baguettes, focaccia, challah, those little buttery rolls ……. hold it, I gotta stop! Don’t even get me started on pasta, my total downfall. I make fresh pasta and my pasta machine is just sitting on my counter top looking lonely! Cookies and candy were never really my thing but pasta and bread were everything to me. Needless to say, I loved those carbs... but they did not love me.
But I have to tell you: It was not as hard as I thought. Don’t get me wrong, I will have bread or pasta on those rare occasions when you just can’t say no. A girl has to live, right? But I no longer have them on a daily or weekly basis. I always had toast with breakfast. I didn’t think I would or could give this up, but I did and it really wasn’t that hard.
Giving up carbs also showed immediately on the scale and in my face. Puffiness in the mid-section was decreased, I was losing those extra pounds, and I certainly saw a change in my complexion.
So if you’re thinking about going this route but it just seems impossible, start small. Take one or two things out of your daily diet and see how you feel. I believe once you see some changes, you’ll find it much easier to let other things go. It takes about three weeks to break a habit. The first week is the hardest, but it gets easier each day. The trick is to plan ahead of time on what you are going to replace that piece of bread with.
4. Apple cider vinegar each day: 2 Tsp + 8-16 ozs water + 1 fresh lemon + 1 Tsp local honey.
This is an easy one. I take this in the morning, no work or effort involved. I use Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar.
“Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) supports a healthy digestive system by balancing the pH of your system. When your digestion is working well, your body will naturally do its job and eliminate unnecessary toxins from your body.” ~ Paige Kelly
Simple as that!
5. Reduce caffeine to 1 cup per day prior to Noon.
“If you are chronically tired, can’t sleep at night, and need the caffeine boost in the afternoon, adding additional caffeine after 12 noon can keep this terrible cycle going.” ~ Paige Kelly
If you aren’t sleeping, you aren’t healing, including healing your adrenal glands. You may have stressed out adrenal glands, which comes with the territory during menopause, and that can cause that little bit of fat around the midsection (the dreaded muffin top). That fat is a result of adrenal fatigue in menopausal women.
All five of the nutrition tips Paige has listed in this post will nurture the adrenal glands, so keep that in mind when trying to get rid of that pooch.
FITNESS TIPS FROM CHARLOTTE BRYNN ON HOW TO REDUCE BODY FAT
6. Strength Train 2-3 days a week.
“Boost your metabolic rate by building strong muscles. Strength training 3 days/week can increase your caloric burn at rest by 7-9%.” ~ Charlotte
Strength training was the first thing that I wanted to do when I decided to go back to the gym to deal with menopausal weight gain.
If you are thinking of starting a strength training program, I would highly suggest that you meet with a personal trainer at your local gym. It is important to start out using weights safely and at the proper level for you. You don’t have to work with someone each day that you’re in the gym. A trainer can give you a program that you can follow on your own. You can check in with your trainer every month or every other month to update and track your progress. This is also more affordable than meeting a trainer several times a week.
I also like going to a gym instead of working out at home. Of course, you can do weight training at home, but I found that getting out and going into the gym lifted my mood. Talking with other people, meeting new people, and just getting out was really important for me at that time.
I love strength training. Setting a goal and reaching it feels so empowering. I saw my posture improve, my shoulders were straighter, I felt taller. Well, as tall as someone who is 5’2” can feel!
So with this one addition to your life, you are accomplishing so many things:
So what you can expect when you start strength training is that you will lose fat and build muscle. Lean muscle will raise your metabolism. A higher metabolism will burn more calories all day long. The average woman who strength trains two or three times a week will gain muscle and lose fat. For each pound of muscle you gain, you burn 35 to 50 calories more per day. That can really add up over time. For example, 4 extra pounds of muscle can burn up to 10 extra pounds per year.
A myth about women and strength training is that you will “bulk up”. This is a misconception and cannot physically happen. Women do not have the testosterone to build muscle like men. Instead, women will have muscle definition and strength without size. You know, that look of definition in your arms or on your legs that everyone wants? That will come with strength training.
7. Engage in cardiovascular activity 4-5 days/week
“To reduce body fat the surgeon general recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. That’s 30 minutes 5 days per week. You can walk, ride a bike, go hiking, running, or swimming, to name just a few.” ~ Charlotte
Cardio for me has always been an issue. Charlotte Brynn knows this about me and is sneaky enough to get me doing cardio along with my strength training routines without me realizing it! Getting on a running machine, elliptical, or any other cardio machine bores me to tears!
But recently I needed to up my workouts to reach some of the goals Charlotte and I are setting for this summer. So one thing that we came up with was for me to do a walk in the morning for 20 minutes. This sounded like something I could enjoy. So on mornings when I’m not going to the gym, Vince and I take a 20-minute walk on our road, which is quite steep. This raises my heart rate, plus it starts my day off right. Getting some fresh air, being out in nature and just 20 minutes walking with Vince with no distractions has been so beneficial.
Another thing that I’m doing right now is before my strength training workouts, I’ll do 20 minutes on the alpine climber at the gym. I can burn about 200 calories in just those few minutes along with raising my heart rate. Putting my headphones on and listening to music makes those 20 minutes fly by.
Anyone can walk, no equipment needed. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can advance and how your endurance will improve.
Here is one of the most important things about working out, no matter what it is you decide to do:
MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF!
So many times we are sabotaged because things come up, the phone never stops ringing, we’re pulled in different directions... then, all of a sudden, your day is almost over. You then realize that you never found time to take care of yourself. Here’s what you can do:
You know that if you have appointments set up with anyone you will keep that appointment. Treat yourself as well as you treat others. You deserve to carve out an hour a day to help make yourself healthy and happy. This was a great tip that Charlotte gave me when I was struggling with my schedule.
8. Reduce the time you spend sitting during the day.
“Sitting is associated with shorter life spans, obesity and a higher risk of disease. If you can, plan on standing and/or walking breaks from your chair or desk every hour.” ~Charlotte
A major cause of the obesity epidemic in our country is our sedentary lifestyle. Research shows that sitting for 4 hours or longer each day greatly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (possibly more than smoking), diabetes, and other obesity-related conditions.
There are a number of small but important things that you can do to get yourself moving. If you are in the workplace and tied to a desk all day, try standing up for periods of time. Even 5 minute walks, possibly 3 or 4 times during the day at work will help. If you are in a building with an elevator try using the stairs.
If you are at home, try and be aware of the time you find yourself sitting. Those hours can tick by quickly when you’re watching TV or on your devices. Try and make this a top-of-mind goal: Don’t be sedentary! Park further away from your destination when you go out, or just take a walk around your neighborhood, even if it's just a walk around the block.
Invest in a fitness tracker so you can count your steps each day. This can be a really great motivator. When you’re tracking yourself each day, you’ll eventually start competing with those numbers and be motivated to do more. You’ll be surprised how quickly you progress and most of all, how great you’ll feel!
9. Reduce Stress.
“Chronic Stress can cause increases in appetite and abdominal wall fat. Adopt stress-reducing techniques such as yoga, meditation or simply taking a walk in nature. Being outdoors is a natural stress reliever.” ~ Charlotte
I found that when I was going through menopause, stress and depression were some of the hardest things I had to deal with.
As women in today’s world, we find ourselves under stress quite often. Add on to that menopause and the changes that our bodies and hormones are experiencing, we can feel even more stressed. It’s a tough time. Especially if you are having a difficult time sleeping at night. So stress, lack of sleep, and depression can really change your entire outlook.
I’ve done yoga and enjoyed it. I’ve also tried meditation but I found it was too hard to turn my mind off. One thing that has really worked for me is deep breathing. Three deep breaths—through the nose and out of the mouth—can really calm me. I also find if I wake up during the night and it’s difficult falling back to sleep, deep breathing helps. By the time I get to that third breath, I’m back sleeping!
But one of my favorite things is to go outside, listen to the peacefulness of nature, and breathe in some fresh air. We live in an area with lots of hiking trails and outdoor activities. We’re lucky to have this. But most times, just being outside with the dog and walking around the property will do it for me. Sunshine and fresh air are just a natural stress reliever. If you live in a city and getting outside isn’t all that relaxing, try downloading the app called Calm app. My daughter uses it and she loves it!
I’m also going to throw this in here: I learned how to swim a few years ago. I find that when I’m in the water my head is clear, I’m calmer, and most of all I’m thinking about nothing other than being in the water.
10. Buddy Up.
“Get the support of a friend or professional who understands Menopause and can help keep you motivated and working towards your goals. Ask a friend to be your exercise buddy and make workout dates. If you have someone to be accountable to, you are much less likely to skip workouts.” ~Charlotte
I love this, it’s just a great idea! Get started on a program that you feel excited about and want to commit to. By finding an exercise buddy, you’ll be sharing this commitment with someone else. You’re not in it alone. And like Charlotte says here, if you are accountable to someone else, you’ll feel more responsible to keep those workout appointments. Also, you might feel a little guilty if you don’t keep up your end of the bargain (and that’s a good thing!).
For me, my workout buddy is, of course, Vince. He’s always been active throughout his life, running, strength training, etc. We started doing this together about 5 years ago and it is such a great time. We keep each other motivated and, of course, there is that bit of competition between us! We have certainly set goals for ourselves and each time we reach them, we set new ones. I’m also going to say that this is why having a professional trainer work with you is so important. Reaching goals and then setting new ones is so satisfying. So find a friend, your spouse or a group that you can work with and make it fun!
So you might be asking, “Where should I start?” There is a ton of information here and it can be a lot to take in at once. But remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. :)
Try starting off with one of these 10 each week for the next 10 weeks. Some are easier than others, like being conscious about reducing your stress level. Once you become aware of these changes, incorporating them into your daily routine it will seem less daunting. If you get stuck on one and find it difficult based on your schedule or lifestyle, give yourself more time. This is all about you feeling better, so set your own pace. If you think of this list as setting goals for yourself instead of something you have to do, I guarantee you will enjoy it much more!
Welcome to the Mrs. Stafford Community where no topic is off limits! I want this blog to be a forum for women my age to be able to discuss everything beauty and fashion, as well as the more sensitive subjects such as menopause and healthy aging. I’m starting my sixties and I feel the best I have in years, and I want to help other women feel the same way. As a community, I think we can come together and start the conversation. This is all about women supporting other women, and trying to have some fun in the meantime.
Attention Ladies: We’d love to hear from you! Your questions are driving the discussions. Don’t hesitate to comment, especially on the “Can We Talk” series as well as “Glowing with Mrs. Stafford”. Without you there is no discussion, so don’t be shy!