Beating the middle – aged spread. Whether you’re approaching it, past it, nowehere near it or not even beginning to think about it…. The menopause is a REAL thing and should be talked, learnt and discussed openly. One of the most difficult things when it comes to the menopause is WEIGHT GAIN… often known as ‘the middle aged spread’. There are many changes that occur during this time in women’s lives that contribute to this weight gain. While some are part of the body’s natural ageing process others are social reasons….
1.Hormonal: As women reach menopause, the cessation of ovulation and menstruation which occurs between the late 40s and early 50s, they experience a drop in the level of hormone oestrogen. This drop is thought to contribute to a redistribution of weight to the stomach area.
2.Loss of lean muscle mass: When we age we naturally lose lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass burns more energy than fat does, even when we are at rest. Therefore, when we experience a decline in lean muscle mass, our body needs less calories. If women are eating and exercising the same as before, they will inevitably put on weight.
3.Reduced metabolism: In addition to the loss of lean muscle mass, women also experience a drop in their metabolic rate as they age. Our metabolic rate is the rate at which our body burns energy to run all the functions necessary to keeping the body alive. If our metabolic rate decreases, it means we do not need as many calories as before.
As many of the contributing factors are part of the natural ageing process, women do need to make lifestyle changes if they are to avoid the middle-aged spread. The best changes to make are:
1.Exercises to build muscle: Maintaining lean muscle mass is an important strategy in combating middle-aged spread. Resistance training or strength training makes the muscles work against a weight, or force. Examples include: using your body’s own weight as in push-ups, squats, lunges; weight machines such as those found at the local gym; and free weights. The lack of any resistance training is one reason women who do participate in some physical exercise might still find it hard to shift the weight around their middle.
2.Rethink your diet: If women require less calories as they age, the food they eat needs to be ‘nutrient dense’. There is, therefore, far less room in one’s diet for nutrient poor foods or empty calorie foods such as biscuits, pastries, cakes, potato chips, deep fried foods, white bread and many take-away foods. To reduce the consumption of these types of foods, women can try swapping them for healthier items such as wholegrain breads and cereals, lean sources of protein, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats/oils (nuts, seeds, avocadoes etc.).
When looking to keep a healthy weight or loose weight, creating an energy (calorie) deficit is essential. The food we consume turns to energy in our bodies and if our output does not use all of these calories, they get stored for later in the form of fat….something we are more than often familiar with!
3.Look at portion sizes: One of the easiest ways of cutting back on calories is to re-evaluate portion sizes. If women are cooking for hungry teenagers they may be used to piling more on their plate. An 18 year old boy, for example, needs almost double the calories of a woman aged 51-70.
4.Watch what you drink: What we drink can easily add to our kJ intake. Women might be avoiding soft drinks but freshly squeezed juices or flavoured coffees might still be contributing extra calories. In addition, women’s alcohol intake can also be a factor. These extra calories tend to be seen around the middle.