As women get older, maintaining their desired weight becomes harder. The workouts that worked in their 20s and 30s may no longer give the same results. It’s normal for weight gain to start a few years before menopause, during the time known as perimenopause.
Perimenopause often starts in women ages 40 to 44. Estrogen levels drop which can cause an increase in body fat, often in the midsection. However, exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep can help maintain weight and a healthy “change of life.”
Staying active is very important during perimenopause. You gradually begin to lose muscle mass and strength in your 40s, which is why you should add strength training to your routine. Strength training can include your own body weight, dumbbells, kettlebells, or weight machines. This will help to improve muscle mass, body composition, strengthen bones and boost metabolic rate. Weightlifting workouts can raise your metabolism high enough to burn calories for hours even after your session is completed. But let’s not forget about cardio. The World Health Organization recommends at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week for all adults. A short high intensity interval training (HIIT) session, like Tabata, will burn more calories and provide more health benefits than long steady state cardio sessions on the treadmill. Short intense workouts are ideal for busy perimenopausal women who don’t have a lot of extra time on their hands. Yoga and Pilates will also help to improve muscle mass and strengthen bones.
If you gain weight and are determined to lose it, you might start drastically cutting calories, skipping meals, and doing crash diets. Crash diets will slow down your metabolic rate and once you return to your old eating patterns, you may gain more weight than you lost. There are no quick fixes or fads for weight loss during this time. The way to manage your weight is through a consistent diet and lifestyle change. According to Mayo Clinic, one should increase their lean protein, adopt a high fiber diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and add calcium rich foods, while limiting saturated fats, highly refined carbs, and sugar. Calorie calculators are a great resource for quickly determining a weight loss plan based on calorie expenditure, activity levels, and overall goals. Simply search "calorie calculator" on the web for several options.
Many women experience sleepless nights during perimenopause. Lack of sleep lessens the chances of being active and increases the chances of reaching for comfort food, which could lead to weight gain. The National Institute of Aging suggests that perimenopausal women should exercise around the same times each day, but not close to bedtime. They should avoid eating large meals close to bedtime, and stay away from caffeine (tea, coffee, chocolate) late in the day. Alcohol may help you get to sleep initially, but it can negatively affect sleep quality throughout the night leaving you tired and sluggish.
Body changes due to hormonal imbalances are going to vary from woman to woman and gaining weight during perimenopause is common. However, controlling weight and even losing weight during perimenopause is certainly possible. Eliminating as much processed foods as possible, establishing a consistent exercise routine, and getting quality sleep are main focus points. Try taking measurements and photos over stressing over the numbers on the scale. Commit to lifestyle changes and most importantly, be kind to yourself.