Youve passed age 45, and menopause is in your future. Among the myriad of changes about to happen is the midlife bulge. The good news is, the midlife bulge is not a given. With proper nutrition and stepping up your physical activity, you may limit the amount of weight you gain, or just not gain it at all.
What causes the midlife bulge? The list of the usual suspects: loss of muscle mass, a decrease in activity, no decrease in the calories you take in, the foods you eat, hormones, and genetics. How do you get rid of it, or avoid it altogether? Again, the list of usual suspects: eat a healthier diet, start, or increase, an exercise program including both aerobics and strength training, take in fewer calories than you burn.
What is menopause? Menopause is the period in a womans life when her ability to bear children ends. Along with the loss of fertility, menstruation ceases. Menopause is divided into peri-menopause, menopause, and post-menopause. Menopause is associated with some singularly unpleasant symptoms and side effects, most notably mood swings, hot flashes, and insomnia. You cant make menopause go away its gonna happen no matter what your do. You can, however, make it far easier to undergo than it was for your mother or grandmother. One way is to achieve and/or maintain a healthy weight.
One of the effects of menopause is loss of muscle tissue. This is associated more with the aging process itself than menopause, but it begins occurring when peri-menopause begins. Why is loss of muscle mass a concern? Muscle mass burns calories, and when you have less of it, you need to have less calories, or you need to start building back the muscle. One of the reasons for the midlife bulge is not changing your calorie intake at the same time youre losing muscle tissue. You need muscle tissue for more than calorie-burning; muscles and tendons move your bones, and your bones bear the muscle weight. When theres less muscle, you lose bone mass as well, and osteoporosis is right around the corner. You need to use your muscles for better stability, and as a way to prevent bone loss.
To stay healthy during menopause, you need to stay active. Menopausal symptoms may affect your health. Aerobic exercise is beneficial for your cardiovascular system, as well as your muscles. Its not necessary to flashback to the 80s and dig out your Jane Fonda videos. A brisk walk four to five times a week serves the purpose. If you want to dive back into strenuous aerobics, and youve got the time, energy, and stamina, then go for it. Just dont let the thought of vigorous aerobic exercise stop you from doing anything at all. Strength training is also, as Martha would say, a good thing; however, its not necessary to go to the gym and hit the weight rack. Hand weights work just fine, thank you very much. Strength training is necessary to build up muscle mass and keep up the calorie-burning efforts.
When youre young and active, very few of us give thought to how many calories we take in. As we age, unless we keep our activity levels up, we need to pay attention to the calories we take in versus the calories were burning. The muscle loss associated with aging makes the calories you need far fewer than before, so unless youre making an effort to keep your activity level as high as it was when you were in your thirties, some dietary changes are definitely in the cards.
You Are What You Eat
Weve all heard this before, ad nauseum; unfortunately, it happens to be true. If we eat highly processed foods, were starving our bodies of needed nutrients at the same time we load it up on toxins. A toxin is a toxin, but not all of them are immediately fatal; we increase the effects of aging as we add free radicals to our bodies by eating the quick-to-prepare fare we make as we cram meals into our time-starved schedules. A diet of freshly prepared foods is not that time-consuming; once we learn how to prepare healthy meals, we can find ways to work them into the daily routines. Fresh fruits and vegetables, locally raised and prepared lean meats, fish, pork, and poultry make all the difference in your health.
Hormonal changes may lead to weight gain; however, the hormonal changes are not as big a factor in the midlife bulge as folks think. The other suspects have more effect on your weight than hormones. Hormones may make a difference in where you gain weight. Weight gain around the middle is a concern, especially in terms of cardiovascular health, and a moderate weight gain around your abdomen is more of a worry than a larger weight gain over all of your body. The weight is still a problem, but if its spread over your entire body its not as major a concern.
Genetics may play a factor in how much weight you gain, and more importantly, where you gain it. As described above, an apple figure is a problem, and if your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, ate and all had the problem, then you can probably count on having it too. You can fight the tendency by watching your weight from a young age, and being vigilant as you age.
Weight loss is personal. You need to find out what works for you, and not what the latest guru is promoting. You also need to disregard most of what you hear from mainstream physicians and dietitians. The United States began its obesity epidemic when the government got involved with what proper nutrition meant. In the fifty years since the government began its statements on what you should eat, obesity shot up from eight to ten percent of the population to around forty percent. Diabetes is on the rage, and its in direct response to how we as a nation eat. Think about what your grandparents or great-grandparents ate, and then think about how we eat now. Yes, they lived and worked on farms and so consequently got more than enough exercise, but they also ate fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables, and animal protein. They didnt worry about e-coli contamination in their food, because they either grew it themselves or knew the farmer selling it in the market. Their flour was not processed the way ours is now, and the wheat the flour was milled from was not the same either. They ate healthy, and lived healthier lives. Eating in the same manner will give your weight loss program the kickstart it needs to be successful, and give you a better experience during menopause.