While the idea of bidding adieu to your period and all of the associated symptoms of PMS it causes may sound exciting, the transition to menopause can be a rocky road for many women. It can cause hot flashes, irritability, mood swings, insomnia, fatigue, and weight gain, and if that isn’t bad enough, these symptoms can last for up to 10 years before menopause officially occurs. The good news is that focusing on the right foods – and eliminating the wrong ones – can help balance your blood sugar and hormones, reduce cravings and help you feel satiated for longer periods of time, build lean muscle, and boost your metabolism, all of which are key to weight loss and maintenance. If you’re looking for tips to help with weight loss after menopause, we’re giving you the low down on the best and worst foods for your waistline.
What Is the Difference Between Perimenopause and Menopause?
Perimenopause is the period of time leading up to menopause in which a woman’s ovaries begin making less estrogen. Also know as ‘the menopause transition’, perimenopause usually starts when a woman is in her 40s and lasts about 4 years, but the experience is often very different from one woman to the next. Some begin perimenopause in their 30s, while others begin the transition much later. The number and severity of symptoms varies, and can last from a few months to 10 years.
Menopause occurs when a woman hasn’t menstruated for 12 consecutive months and can no longer become pregnant. The average age in which women enter menopause is said to be 51, but it is impossible to predict when this will actually occur. Some women begin menopause before the age of 40 (known as premature menopause), and others menstruate until their 60s. Genetics, the health of your ovaries, and your ethnicity can all influence when you will enter menopause.
What Are the Signs of Menopause?
When a woman has gone through 12 consecutive months without a period, she has officially entered menopause. Signs and symptoms that a woman is beginning the transition to menopause can start up to 10 years before she experiences her last menstrual cycle. This period is known as perimenopause and can cause one or many of the following symptoms:
- Irregular periods*
- Heavier than normal periods**
- Hot flashes
- Irritability and mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
- Low libido
- Difficulty sleeping
- Urine urgency and incontinence
*It’s important to note that even though your body is producing less estrogen and your periods are irregular, you can still get pregnant if you are strill menstruating, so be sure to continue using birth control to prevent an unwanted pregnancy during this time.
Is Weight Loss After Menopause Possible?
Many women gain weight during the transition to menopause, particularly around their abdomen, hips, and thighs. Falling estrogen levels can cause insulin sensitivity, which can make your blood sugar levels more prone to spiking and crashing, making you crave high carb, sugary snacks. Our metabolism also slows down as we age, and some research suggests that peri- and post-menopausal women burn up to 300 fewer calories per day compared to when they were in their early 20s. Our muscle mass also diminishes as we age, which slows our metabolism and makes it harder to lose weight.
The good news is that weight gain doesn’t need to be an inevitable part of a woman’s peri- and post-menopausal life. We talk more about weight management tips during menopause HERE.
7 Foods to Avoid to Avoid After Menopause
Reducing or removing sugar from your diet is my first recommendation when it comes to weight loss after menopause. When we eat sugar, opioids and dopamine are released, which make us feel really good and crave it even more. It triggers the pleasure center of our brains, as well as the reward center, which makes it a difficult addiction to crack. Sugar consumption can lead to issues like weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and it can also wreak havoc on your hormones, and make you feel tired and sluggish. Beware of ingredients like sucrose, fructose, and pretty much any other words with ‘–ose’ at the end as they contain sugar. Use natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup instead.
2. REFINED CARBS
Cutting back on refined carbs – foods like cookies, cakes, pastries, candies, fast foods, breaded or battered foods, sugary cereals, pastas, bagels, and pizza – can also be beneficial with weight loss after menopause. Refined carbs are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, causing spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, which can perpetuate cravings for high carb, sugary snacks.
3. PROCESSED FOODS
Processed foods such as deli meats, bacon, sausages, potato chips, and microwave meals are definitely convenient, but they tend to be high in sodium and sugar, which can lead to bloating and water retention. Avoid these foods as much as possible if you’re trying to lose weight!
While a glass (or 2) of wine may help you relax at the end of a tough day, alcohol can actually make the symptoms of menopause worse. Alcohol consumption raises your internal body temperature, and can lead to an increase in hot flashes and night sweats. It can also interfere with sleep, and trigger or worsen feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression, all of which can have a negative impact on your waistline. Most alcoholic beverages are high in calories, and many people find it harder to abstain from mindless snacking and eating after a couple of drinks, which can hinder your weight loss goals as well.
If you’re not sleeping at night due to hot flashes, you’re probably relying on your daily cup of jo even more than normal to help you get through the day, but did you know you’re likely just perpetuating the problem? Research shows that sleep deprivation increases our cortisol (stress hormone) and ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels, while also decreasing the amount of leptin in our body, which is the hormone that is responsible for telling us when to stop eating. People who are chronically sleep-deprived tend to eat larger portions and find it harder to stick to their cleaning eating regime. Adequate sleep is essential when it comes to weight loss after menopause, so remove/cut back on your caffeine to ensure you are able to get 7-8 hours of shut eye each night.
CLICK HERE for our best tips to beat insomnia and get a good night of sleep!
It’s no secret that salt causes bloating, water retention, and puffiness, but we often don’t realize just how much sodium is added to the foods we eat. While we may abstain from adding salt when we cook at home, processed and pre-packaged foods tend to be really high in sodium. Restaurants also add a lot of salt for added flavour, so be sure to check your labels and counterbalance your sodium intake with extra water when needed.
7. FATTY FOODS
While nuts and fatty fish are excellent sources of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids and should be eaten on the regular, other fatty foods (think: fatty cuts of beef, fried foods, cakes and pastries, and pretty much anything loaded with butter) should be avoided if you’re striving for weight loss after menopause. Some studies have shown that fatty meats in particular can decrease serotonin levels, which in turn can cause us to feel more irritatable, so indulge with caution!
7 Foods to Help with Weight Loss After Menopause
1. VEGETABLES, ESPECIALLY LEAFY GREENS
We all know that increasing our vegetable intake is important for weight loss after menopause, but did you know leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, arugula, and bok choy can also improve your bone health, boost your energy, and improve your mood? These superfoods are high in fibre, calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins, and should be a staple in your daily eating plan.
2. HIGH FIBER FOODS
Consuming adequate fiber is a great way to speed up weight loss after menopause. You should be eating at least 25 grams of fiber per day to reap the benefits. Fiber helps with your digestive health, disease prevention, weight control, and foods high in fiber help you feel full for longer. To increase your fiber, eat foods such as lentils, black beans, peas, broccoli, raspberries, pears and oatmeal.
Berries are full of fibre and packed with antioxidants, which improve blood flow. Improved blood flow delivers oxygen to the muscles, making it easier for your body to burn fat. Berries also contain less sugar than most fruits, making them a great snack to help curb sugar cravings and aid in weight loss after menopause!
4. FATTY FISH
As mentioned earlier, fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna are rich in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, and they are said to decrease inflammation, reduce night sweats, improve mood, and help with depression, which many women experience in their peri- and post-menopausal years. While fatty fish isn’t necessarily linked to weight loss after menopause, it can help alleviate other symptoms and challenges that may be preventing you from shedding unwanted pounds.
Protein such as eggs, lean meats, and tofu help keep you full for longer so you feel satisfied and are less likely to snack between meals. Protein reduces hunger, helps curb cravings, and also protects muscle mass, which is important if you want to boost your metabolism. If weight loss after menopause is your goal, high-protein foods are a must at every meal!
Legumes, including peas, beans, and lentils, are high in protein and fiber and will help you feel full, which can be very beneficial if you’re finding it hard to lose weight during the transition to menopause (and beyond). Legumes are also high in iron, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and B vitamins, and can stabilize blood sugar levels and decrease mood swings.
We all know H2O does the body good. From keeping us hydrated so we feel energized, to flushing out toxins and improving our complexion, to boosting our immune systems, water is where it’s at, but what few people realize is that it’s a fabulous tool for weight loss as well. And it’s free! Keeping your body hydrated can also help ward off hot flashes, so drink up!
If you’re looking for tips to help with weight loss after menopause, I hope this list of the best and worst foods for your waistline helped! This can be a tricky time for women, and if you’re looking for more tips to help manage the symptoms of menopause, this post discusses lifestyle changes and natural remedies that can help.