Menopausal weight gain is a common complaint many women have. Weight gain is one of the characteristic symptoms of Menopause. I believed that because of my lifestyle, I’d be able to maintain my weight when I hit Menopause. I thought If I remained consistent, I would easily maintain my desired weight range of between 60-65kg. However, this year, in spite of my efforts, my waistline expanded to the point where I couldn’t button up some of my jeans.
Over the years, I’ve kept my weight down by eating sensibly 80% of the time and exercising a minimum of 3 times weekly. That saying, by the time I turned 50 in 2019, I was consistently exercising 5 days a week and was in great shape. Admittedly, my upcoming 50th birthday was motivation to improve my diet to 90% clean eating and increase my workouts.
After I turned 50, I began to think of what was required to keep my body in decent shape from 50yrs onwards. With this in mind, I set a goal of exercising my body 7 days a week. Saturday and Sunday were my rest days so I started doing short (15-30mins) yoga workouts at the weekend. Sessions dedicated specifically to stretching is something I always wanted to add to my schedule. I’m naturally stiff so my body would greatly benefit from the sessions.
Despite all this, I noticed that some of my clothes started getting tight.
“Omigosh! It’s true!” I thought.
“No matter how hard I try, menopausal weight gain is unavoidable.”
Let’s take a look at what science says about menopausal weight gain.
Why do women put on weight at middle age or menopause?
Scientific fact: Lower Oestrogen levels at menopause can cause a fat to shift from being stored in the hips and thighs to the stomach. Research shows that at menopause, fat distribution on the body changes because of reduced Oestrogen levels. Fat shifts from our hips and thighs to our waist. There is however, no research that connects all over body weight gain to menopause, just the abdomen.
In my case, my body scan revealed increased fat percentages in my hips, thighs as well as my abdomen. That’s not what science says should happen. What going on?
Let’s take a look at what happens to our bodies as we grow older.
As we age, our metabolism decreases, this is because we lose muscle mass. We start to lose muscle mass in our 30’s. Muscle is what keeps fat off our body. When I talk about maintaining muscle mass, I don’t mean body builder type muscles. Everyone should prioritise strength training at midlife to keep their body in tip top condition.
You can actually find out the percentages of muscle mass, fat mass, bone density and water your body is composed of by doing a body scan. The scan I did in July revealed that my fat mass had increased by 2.1%. Still within the healthy green range. However, I know if I don’t take a closer look at what caused my weight gain, it could easily creep into the orange zone.
God’s divine laws govern all of life including weight gain.
Let’s take a look at one of the natural laws put in place by God.
The law of Energy Balance – energy in must equal energy out to maintain weight. To maintain my weight, my total energy expenditure must equal my energy intake. Total energy expenditure (TEE) includes my basal metabolic rate, the thermic effect of food, structured and non structured physical activity. To lose weight, my total energy intake must be lower than my energy output. However, only slightly lower. As a weight loss coach, I know I don’t need to starve myself to trim the excess fat off my body. I don’t subscribe to unsustainable extremes.
I took a look at what I was eating and the calories I was expending and I compared it to what I was eating and the calories I was expending in 2019 when I was preparing to turn 50. In addition, I took a look at some 2020 photos and realised, the extra pounds started slowly creeping on me in 2021.
What happened in 2020?
In 2020, a few months after Covid lockdown, I injured my shoulder.
This made it impossible to do all of my favourite “bikini” ready strength exercises. My bikini ready exercises are my go to for shape building. That injury made me realise how important my shoulder is to my mobility. As a result, I couldn’t maintain my muscle mass. As mentioned before, some of the many many benefits of strength training is that it boosts our metabolism, helps us keep fat off our body and maintain our shape. With muscle, our body uses up more energy at rest. It took several months for my shoulder to heal, as a result, my muscle mass declined.
My diet also changed. I had formed the habit of a cosy evening chat with David nibbling away on biscuits or chocolates. He formed the habit of coming home from a trip to the supermarket with chocolates and biscuits. When I’d complain, he’d say something like, “Kine! I want your bum to get bigger.” in Yoruba. So I slowly went from having chocolate as an occasional treat to a little chocolate (2-4 small squares) or a couple of biscuits every night.
I also had a great summer. Hanging out with family and friends eating out a lot. That saying, I ate out no more than once or twice a week. What we do occasionally doesn’t cause damage, it’s what we do daily.
At the end of September, after the last family birthday this year. I decided to do a 5 week in-extreme detox. An in-extreme detox is just that, a detox that’s not extreme. The first thing I did was tell David, “Do not buy or offer me biscuits or chocolates for the next 5 weeks.” He’s offered and I’ve refused. I must say, the first week was bloody hard. However, once I put myself on a programme I can pretty much resist temptation.
So, there you go. I expended less energy, ate more or shall I say formed a bad sugar habit. Therefore, Menopause can’t take blame for my weight gain. It’s all my own doing.
I’m about to start week 4 of my in-extreme detox significantly lighter. David and I still have our daily evening cosy time. He eats his biscuits or chocolate (note, not both) and I either have some fruit or a small packet of salted 44 calorie popcorn.
I’m a healthy lifestyle advocate, educator, weight loss coach and fitness enthusiast. I teach women how to lose weight, sustain a healthy weight range, reverse negative health diagnosis and thrive in optimum health.
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