Menopause is a time of transition for women, physically and in other ways. Around age 50, a woman's menstrual cycle ceases. At this age, there may also be life transitions with changes in relationships, work and family structure. Women often gain weight around menopause because they are becoming increasingly sedentary. A healthy low-fat, low-calorie diet along with regular exercise is the most successful weight-loss plan for menopausal women.
You are more likely to gain weight after menopause if you are sedentary, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery Women's Sports Medicine Center. Remaining or becoming physically active helps women maintain or attain a health post-menopausal weight. Include three types of exercise in your weight loss plan: aerobic exercise to burn fat and improve cardiovascular health; strength training to enhance lean body mass and counteract menopausal bone density loss; and stretching to maintain a full comfortable range of motion. Menopause can disturb sleep patterns, which can make you tired and interfere with exercise plans. Exercising in the morning promotes restful sleep best. Get at least 30 minutes of physical exercise each day.
Increase Plant Foods
After menopause, body fat deposits in women shift from the hips and thighs to the belly. Belly fat is associated with dangerous health effects like cardiovascular disease, stroke and breast cancer. A diet rich in plant-based foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, along with regular exercise, can help reduce weight and body fat. Limit calorie-dense fats, meats and dairy products. Opt for olive oil and limit cheeses and spreads to small portions, using low-fat products. Use avocado slices instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches, vegetable salsa or mashed black beans instead of sour cream based dips, and snack on fruit salad rather than baked goods. An emphasis on plant products will supply healthy vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber while keeping calories down to promote weight loss. Phytoestrogens in plants also help bone density loss and counteract menopausal symptoms like night sweats.
A woman over 50 who is not physically active should consume only about 1,600 calories each day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Guide. Menopausal women who are moderately active require only slightly more calories, about 1,800 per day, to maintain a healthy weight. To lose weight, you need to reduce your caloric intake below these amounts while increasing calorie-burning exercise. The USDA Food Guide recommendation for approximately a 1,600 calorie intake is to eat the following foods daily: 1 1/2 cups fruit; 2 cups of vegetables; 5 ounces of whole grains; 5 ounces of meat, fish or beans; and 3 cups of fat-free milk. Avoid adding calories to these foods by breading, frying or pouring on gravy and other high-fat sauces. Track your calorie intake in a food diary to be sure you are accurate about your calorie intake.
Menopausal women require at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Post-menopausal women lose bone mass through calcium excretion, and increased consumption of dietary calcium as well as calcium supplements can help offset this loss. While clinical trials on calcium supplements have not shown an association with weight loss, studies regarding increased calcium intake through consuming more dairy products have demonstrated that calcium promotes lower body weight. Add low-fat or no-fat dairy to your diet by using powdered nonfat milk in liquid skim milk to create a cream-like base for soups and sauces, eating nonfat yogurt with fruit as a snack, and eating leafy green vegetables that are high in calcium.
- Obesity: Sedentary Behavior, Recreational Physical Activity, and 7-Year Weight Gain Among Postmenopausal U.S. Women
- Colorado State University Extension: Women's Health Issues
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Calcium
- National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging: Healthy Eating After 50
- Hospital for Special Surgery Women's Sports Medicine Center: Exercise Your Way Through Menopause
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What To Do About It