Nutrition Tweaks During and After Menopause
Often women come to see me during menopause years, stating that what they used to do in the past to manage their weight does not work anymore – an understandably frustrating situation.
When working on weight management, calories are usually the most important thing. But during menopause there are also many hormonal changes that take place in the body. Often women become more insulin-resistant during this time, which can further complicate the situation, so in addition to looking at calories, I begin to work with women on also managing their carbohydrate intake.
Whenever we eat carbohydrates, our body needs to produce insulin to keep our blood sugar in check. If a woman has a higher carbohydrate intake throughout the day, her insulin level may stay higher – and, as insulin is a fat-storing hormone, it may make it harder to manage weight.
When a woman who comes to see me is feeling “stuck” in this way, often we will change her breakfast routine from a carbohydrate-heavy one to one focused more on protein. This swap can be as simple as shifting from oatmeal to eggs – one basic change that I have seen result in weight loss.
Another modification in the day may be spacing out carbohydrates as to not have too many in one sitting: saving a piece of fruit for an afternoon snack, instead of having it along with lunch, can be a simple modification that can actually help to keep insulin level down, by not having too many carbohydrates in one sitting.
Keep in mind, though, that what’s healthy is not always helpful for weight loss. If someone drinks a smoothie with multiple pieces of fruit at once, the amount of carbohydrates in one sitting may not be helpful for weight management.
There are other things that also take place during menopause that may make it harder to manage weight, with sleep being one of the most important. If a woman is not getting adequate, quality sleep – the general recommendation is seven to nine hours – it can throw off their hormonal balance.
This is also a time in life when exercise may need to change. Often women spend a lot of time focusing on cardio activity; during menopause, however, it’s a good idea to spend some more time lifting weights, as each year we lose a little bit of lean body mass, which decreases metabolism. Making sure that you’re doing adequate weight training can help to keep your metabolism higher.
Research suggests that non-fat dairy products can help you shed pounds while retaining muscle mass. So pairing weight bearing exercise with an increase in non-fat dairy snack choices, such as 0% greek yogurt and cottage cheese, can help to increase lean body mass, which can have a positive impact on metabolism.
Finding a weight-management regime that is right for you should always be a priority. And while menopause may cause some temporary disorder with what had been your usual routine, a few easy adjustments can keep you on a healthy path during this new stage of life.
For patients with specific weight loss goals, my GPS for Weight Loss Program offers proven strategies, tools and support to help you lose weight and keep it off. For more information, visit gps.mykajabi.com/gps.
Elizabeth DeRobertis is a Registered Dietitian with Scarsdale Medical Group. To make an appointment, call 914-723-8100.