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Menopausal Weight Gain: How to Take Control

Nov. 8, 2019

Many women in their 40s and 50s notice an increase in weight that tends to settle around the waist. But you can get back into the clothes that don’t fit as well as they used to by understanding what’s happening to your body during menopause and making a simple diet and exercise changes.

In the meantime, you’ll also avoid life-threatening or debilitating illnesses associated with excess fat.

What causes menopausal muffin top?

“Hormonal changes during menopause, such as a drop in estrogen and a rise in follicle-stimulating hormone (the hormone that controls egg production), cause women to lose muscle mass and accumulate fat around the waist,” says Dr. Laura Choi, a bariatric surgeon at Houston Methodist.

Age-related muscle-mass loss and the tendency to be less active can cause your metabolism — the rate at which your body uses energy — to slow.

“Excess weight also increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, problems breathing and developing breast, colon and other cancers,” Dr. Choi says.

How to tame your tummy

To lose unwanted pounds and keep them off, Dr. Choi recommends the following tips.

1. Do the math. Portion control is vital. Mentally divide your dinner plate into quarters: One quarter should have a portion of lean meat or fish about the size of your palm, another quarter should have a fist-sized portion of carbohydrates (preferably whole grains like brown rice or whole-grain pilaf), and the remaining two quarters should be filled with colorful vegetables.

2. Get active. Regular physical activity strengthens your heart and bones, reduces your cancer risk and controls weight. It also improves sleep, boosts energy, lessens hot flashes and elevates mood. Most healthy adults benefit from 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking or water aerobics, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as jogging or swimming laps.

3. Build muscle. Strength training at least twice a week will raise your metabolism so you can burn fat more efficiently, as muscle burns more calories than fat. You can build muscle and increase your strength using a weight you can lift comfortably 12 to 15 times.

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