The changes that occur during perimenopause can be uncomfortable and frustrating for many women. Heavier periods and more pronounced premenstrual symptoms, night sweats and hot flashes, migraines and mood swings are among the physical and emotional effects of this period before menopause. In addition, you may find that you put on weight more easily during this time. A healthy diet and exercise program can not only help you shed extra pounds, but it can also help you manage some of the other symptoms you're experiencing.
Eat Enough But Not Too Much
Balancing your calorie intake for healthy weight management is important in any stage of your life, and keeping your calorie intake below your calorie needs will encourage weight loss. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, moderately active women in their 40s and 50s need approximately 2,000 calorie per day to maintain their weight. To lose weight at a safe and sustainable rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week, reduce your calorie intake, increase your activity level or do a combination of both to create a daily deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories.
Almost as important as how many calories you eat is what provides those calories. When you reduce your calorie intake, make sure your calories are coming from satisfying foods that supply all the nutrients your body needs -- especially those nutrients that are important for your body during perimenopause. Fresh fruits and vegetables supply vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients. Fiber helps to fill you up and keep you feeling full so you feel satiated with less food. Lean protein sources such as light-meat chicken, fish and beans also help keep your belly full because protein is a more satiating nutrient than either carbohydrates or fats, according to a study published in 2008 by the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." Round out your diet with low-fat dairy, whole grains and nuts and seeds.
While reducing your calorie intake, focusing on certain foods can aid weight loss and reduce perimenopause symptoms. Registered dietitian Kate Geagan recommends consuming omega-3-rich foods such as salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds to support a healthy mood. Geagan also suggests upping your intake of legumes, including beans and lentils, because they offer a one-two punch of fiber and protein. In addition to being low in calories and promoting satiety for weight loss, protein and fiber help regulate blood sugar after meals to avoid mood swings. They're also rich in vitamins B-6 and folate, which Geagan says are cofactors for enzymes needed for estrogen metabolism.
Foods to Avoid and Adding in Exercise
Avoiding certain foods can be just as important for weight loss and reduced perimenopause symptoms as eating other foods. Eschew precessed foods with added sugars, caffeine and alcohol, which can upset your mood, says Geagan. These foods are also full of empty calories that will add inches to your waistline. To further accelerate weight loss and elevate your mood, regular exercise is key. Fitness expert Maria Luque recommends women in perimenopause exercise 60 minutes each day. Perform cardio exercise at a moderate intensity, or 50 percent to 70 percent of your target heart rate, and engage in resistance training or Pilates to support healthy bone density, recommends Luque.
Is This an Emergency?
- Women to Women: Perimenopause
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Estimated Calorie Needs Per Day by Age, Gender, and Physical Activity Level
- ShareCare: How Much Weight Can I Lose in a Week?
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Protein, Weight Management, and Satiety
- The Dr. Oz Show: 4 Ways to Manage Perimenopause Through Diet
- IDEA Health & Fitness Association: The Impact of Exercise on Perimenopause