Middle Age Myth-Busting: You Can Lose During Menopause

Is weight gain inevitable during menopause? Not at all! Read on for expert advice about how to keep extra pounds at bay during “the change.”
Menopausal Woman

Cami Bunting, a meetings Leader in New York, clutched a fear common to many as she hit middle age on the program: “Something that used to really frighten me was the inevitability of gaining a lot of weight and not understanding why.”

While we seem to gain weight as our bodies age, biological evidence proves that we don’t have to. Studies have shown that the gain is attributed to loss of muscle mass, lower levels of activity and eating more. Weight gain during and after menopause doesn’t have to happen, but it seems the pervasive thinking out there is that it will. For many, small lifestyle changes can go a long way in battling the middle-age bulge.

Maria Walls, senior manager of product development for Weight Watchers International, says studies have shown that, for the vast majority of women, weight gain during menopause is primarily due to the aging process and not hormone levels. And it’s not just women’s bodies that are affected. “Weight gain at this age occurs in men also,” says Walls. She advises both women and men to, “eat less and become more active.”

Tips from the pros

We talked to Leaders and Success Stories who endured menopause with weight-loss success for their practical tips and advice. Their response repeatedly echoed Walls’ message: Get your head in the right place. Often the greatest barrier to success is an individual’s lack of belief in her ability to lose the weight.

After years of subtle suggestions from friends and family that losing weight during menopause is “impossible,” you may have started to believe it. Challenge those beliefs. Talk to women in your life who have kept the pounds off throughout middle age. In the box at the right, you will find examples of Success Stories who have accomplished this. Joany Marbit, a meetings Leader in New York and Lifetime Member for 23 years, has helped countless members through midlife and is now heeding the same advice as she works through menopause herself. Marbit said that processed foods, like bread, sugar and junk food, seemed to increase her cravings during this time. Now she limits her intake of processed foods and ups her intake of Power Foods. When she sticks to those, she says, “I've found my cravings to be less powerful.”

After being a Leader for three years, Bunting is grateful to Weight Watchers for the information she’s learned about weight loss and weight gain as she enters menopause herself. Her strategy is not to gain a significant amount of weight. “I am concentrating more on strength training than I used to, to reduce the amount of muscle I lose, and really tracking my PointsPlus® [values] to learn exactly how many it's taking to keep me at maintenance or to lose when I need to.

“With a little insight and education, weight maintenance now seems much more reasonable. It makes sense that I may need to cut back my calories gradually over the next few years, but I'm in the driver's seat.”

More Leaders Impart Their Knowledge
Accept that you will need to eat less over the years. That is why you lose PointsPlus values from your daily PointsPlus Target as you age.
Monitor how much you eat so you know what you're taking in. Weigh and measure food for a few weeks to brush up on estimating serving sizes and know that you are being accurate in your tracking.
Try yoga or Pilates, if traditional strength training is not for you. These exercises seem to help reduce anxiety, develop focus, increase stamina and build muscle while keeping your body and mind centered.
Identify and separate exhaustion from hunger. When you are tired, go to bed rather than stay up and eat.
Eating a diet high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can play a role in mental well-being. Include foods like seafood, flax seed, canola oil, soybean oil and walnuts to get more omega-3 fats into your diet.

Learn more about menopause and weight-loss solutions on the site.

Menopause and Weight
Did you know that the average woman tends to gain 5 to 7 pounds during menopause and that most of it settles on her middle? Find out more facts about menopause.

Weight Loss and Menopause
How much do you know about weight management during the mid-life years? Test your knowledge here.

Fitness for the Over 50s
You're never too old to get active. An expert fitness trainer tells you how to get moving and become a fitness role model for younger generations.

Get into the Yoga Zone
Check out our glossary of yoga styles to find the kind that's right for you.

Ask your doctor for more information about how you can keep weight from creeping on.

About the Writer
Elizabeth Josefsberg is a Weight Watchers Leader based in New York. She also works for Weight Watchers producing and managing all of the success stories that appear online and in Weight Watchers Magazine.
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