With menopause, we stop menstruating. Whoopee, no more periods! Instead, we get hot flashes, mood swings, bone loss, lagging libido, sagging skin, loss of sleep and weight gain. What a trade off! At 66, I’ve been there, done that. But the thing that continues to annoy me the most is the loss of a small waistline. I never had a great body, but I did have one thing: a tiny waist. I learned how to dress for it, emphasizing it with waist conscious silhouettes to attract attention away from my hips. The full skirt was my best friend. Now, despite being at a good weight for my petite frame, I am constantly trying to get control of the vast “waistland.” A lot of reading and research has helped me understand…
As we enter menopause, our estrogen, progesterone and testosterone wane while androgen increases. The drop in testosterone lowers fat burning muscle. Without its stores of youthful estrogen, your body works harder to turn calories into fat to make up for estrogen loss. And since fat cells don’t burn calories like muscle cells do, you gain weight. The increase in androgen level causes that weight gain to settle in the mid-section while decreased progesterone increases water retention which bloats the stomach and swells the waistline. Because the metabolism slows by 1% a year after 30, the net result by age 50 is a 20% loss of metabolic rate. And by 60 or 70 –you do the math. We are burning less muscle and storing more fat. So even eating and exercising at a stable rate, we gain weight. Kind of sucks doesn’t it?! Not only is this weight gain unsightly, it’s dangerous, increasing our risk for cardio vascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
What can we do about it??
Dr. Mickey Harpaz, the author of Menopause Reset! has a theory and a program that make sense. There is no magic bullet here. Instead he offers a strategy to increase metabolism thus burning fat through dietary changes and exercise. Drastically restricting calorie intake is banned here. That causes the body to go into starvation mode and decrease metabolism. No, we are encouraged to eat every 2-2 ½ hours to keep the pump primed while exercising daily and at moderate, not high, intensity. This accomplishes 3 things:
- Regulates blood sugar
- Increases fat burning activity
- Increases Daily Metabolic Rate
While his book offers extensive examples of how to eat this way, it basically involves increasing protein and carbs which burn more calories than fat or sugar, eating smaller amounts more frequently to prevent blood sugar spiking, eating only one carb per meal and avoiding the intake of more than 10 grams of sugar at any one sitting. You are encouraged to eat fruit or veggies anytime you are hungry. The major traps, in his opinion, are skipping or delaying meals, increasing simple sugars, double carb intake at one meal, eating large quantities of food at one meal and lack of exercise. When I don’t go off the rails on the weekend, this is essentially how I eat. When you eat is important too: “ What a menopausal woman does from 3 p.m. on every day will determine how big her belly is. That’s when most women tend to overeat and oversnack, and that’s when they get themselves into all kinds of trouble.” (Everyday Health).
The exercise component is significant. And a commitment you make to your metabolism. Even walking briskly for 10 minutes, 3 times a day, will fulfill your bodily obligations. Stand more and sit less whenever possible. If you spend a lot of time at your computer, stand and walk for 5 minutes each hour. Pacing while on the phone helps too. I find having a fitness tracker like FitBit keeps me motivated and on track for my goal of 10,000 daily steps taken and how many calories I’ve burned.
And you will get a lot of bang for your buck if you include weight training (see previous post Pump Me Up) which according to Dr. Jessica Wu,” fires up your metabolism and burns more calories and fat….(which)also makes you stronger and less prone to injury.” She also suggests exercise after eating for greater fat burn, eating protein, taking vitamin D and drinking green tea or taking green tea extract capsules.
If you follow Suzanne Somers, whose premise is being “Sexy Forever”, you might also include some supplements shown to increase metabolism, among them:
Omega 3 (fish or flaxseed oil), CoQ10, Carnitine, Lypoic acid, and again, green tea. I personally drink gallons of the stuff.
When all else fails, invest in Spanx. Even the skinniest celebs wouldn’t be caught dead without them!
Gail Collins’ tribute to 80 year old Gloria Steinem who, with apologies to Bella Abzug, changed the “face” of feminism. Happy Birthday Gloria! Find it at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/opinion/sunday/collins-this-is-what-80-looks-like.html?
Original artwork by Johanna Bohoy