My recent Master’s dissertation topic was on managing weight gain in menopause. More specifically, it focused on that extra layer of fat around the middle that I hear about from many women. It was an interesting subject and one that I have a personal interest in too. I am 52 at the end of peri-menopause and one of the things that I have noticed is the thickening of my waistline, hmmm, anyone else?! In fact, some research suggests that these changes are rapidly accelerated during peri-menopause.
I spent the best part of a year exploring this topic area, but I will give you a quick summary of my key findings on diet and exercise.
BUT the body is complex and the quality of your sleep, the way you manage stress, exposure to toxins and your genetics are also factors that can play a part on weight management.
You should also bear in mind that current research, is pretty limited in terms of what works for women at this particular life-stage and included studies were conducted in both peri and post menopausal women.
I would also like to make a point of saying that just because there is no scientific research, does not necessarily mean other approaches do not work.
Current research suggests that any “diet” which is restricted in calories can result in weight loss…
From reading this, you may be thinking that you can eat anything you like, as long as you are restricting calories…And in part, you could be right. But, the thing is that although you may lose weight this way, there is so much more to food that just providing energy. Food provides information to every cell in your body, so the quality and the nutrient content of your food matters.
Sustaining weight loss longer term through dieting can also be difficult…The vast majority of women regain weight after a couple of years.
When I am working with clients we are often focusing on the short term goal, which may include weight loss. BUT we are also looking at long term health. What you eat and how you nourish your body can have a huge impact on that.
I know that I want to do as much as I can to avoid chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancers, Alzheimer’s etc as I age…and so what I eat does matter.
It is also important to note, that women with hormone imbalances can experience resistance to weight loss. This is something that I often hear about and know many women struggle with. Managing hormone imbalances can therefore be an important factor when considering losing weight and belly fat.
In terms of exercise, the included studies looking at exercise alone did not result in weight loss. BUT in most cases, exercise did achieve a reduction in overall body fat.
What I found interesting, was the fact that women tend to move less generally as we get into our mid-forties and fifties. Even down to less fidgeting when we sit. Generally speaking, this means that we are using up less energy (calories) on a day to day basis.
Regular exercise is important at any age. For women at mid-life it becomes even more so, in order that we can manage our weight, prevent bone loss, which may lead to osteoporosis, and to maintain muscle mass. In addition to all of those things, exercise and good nutrition can positively impact our mind and mood, our sleep, our energy levels and our overall quality of life.
Resistance or strength training and high intensity interval training (HIIT) were among the preferred methods of exercise.
For best results
The best results for reducing body weight AND belly fat were achieved through a combination of diet and exercise.
So, no great revelations there…
BUT this was especially the case when supported by nutrition counselling. Or, in supervised groups for accountability and motivational support.
The 3 things I would like you to take away from this are:
- The quality and quantity of the food you eat matters more than for just your waistline, it can protect your long-term health
- If you don’t currently exercise, then start now, slowly and preferably with a trainer or in a supervised group
- Consult a qualified nutritionist who can provide you with a personalised plan based on your own unique needs
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