Wearing heels increases the size of your hips

Menopause and Weight: How to Stay Slim

With increasing age, the body's basal metabolic rate, i.e. the amount of energy the body needs to function, decreases: Metabolic processes run more slowly, the calories ingested with food are burned more slowly. One reason for this is the breakdown of muscles with age. Experts estimate that women in their late 30s lose around one percent of muscle mass per year. Until the age of 69, says Detlef Pape, internist and nutritionist from Essen, the basal metabolic rate of the muscles drops by almost a third.

Everyday tips: Healthy through the menopause

Menopausal weight gain: especially on the abdomen

In addition, people move less with age. All of this means that the body uses fewer calories. Anyone who continues to eat as before and does not compensate for the excess energy through exercise will inevitably gain weight. Another counterproductive factor is the fact that the body clings to the existing weight more stubbornly with increasing age. Losing weight becomes more difficult the older you get.

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In women, with the onset of menopause, there is another reason for constant weight gain: the hormonal change. The falling estrogen level leads to an excess of testosterone in women. The male sex hormone is not only responsible for annoying hair growth on the face. It also makes for a more masculine fat distribution. Excess calories are no longer deposited on the buttocks, hips and thighs as fat pads, but preferentially on the stomach and waist. Adipose tissue in this region of the body is particularly dangerous because it can promote the development of cardiovascular diseases.

Belly fat is particularly harmful

Abdominal fat in particular is a risk factor for many diseases. For this reason, in addition to the body mass index (BMI), the waist circumference is now used to assess obesity and the individual risk of certain diseases. According to the German Nutrition Society (DGE), the risk of metabolic, cardiovascular and other diseases increases if the circumference is greater than 80 centimeters in women and greater than 94 centimeters in men. People who measure a higher value are more likely to:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • arteriosclerosis
  • Coronary heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • Sleep apnea disease
  • gout
  • arthrosis
  • Cancer (e.g. colon and breast cancer)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Spinal disorders
  • depression
What helps against menopausal blues

In addition, women who are overweight are likely to have to deal with menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and sweats to a greater extent.

Determine BMI, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio

  • TheBMI is used as a measure for assessing body weight. It is calculated as follows:

BMI = (body weight (kg) ÷ body height (m))2

According to the specifications of the World Health Organization (WHO), a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of more than 30 is called obesity.

  • TheWaist-to-hip ratio (Waist-to-Hip-Ratio, WHR) reflects the distribution of body fat. It is determined in the unclothed state while standing, with the waist circumference measured at the level of the navel and the hip circumference at the widest point:

                WHR = waist circumference (cm) ÷ hip circumference (cm)

For women, the waist-to-hip ratio should not be more than 0.8, as the risk of secondary diseases increases from this value. Post-menopausal women, whose body weight and waist size are increasing significantly, are therefore particularly at risk from metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.

  • Also the Waist circumference itself is a meaningful value that is measured as follows: Place the measuring tape in the middle between the iliac crest and costal arch - this is approximately at the level of the navel - and pull it straight around your stomach. In order to determine the correct value, you should put the measuring tape on in the morning before breakfast and exhale slightly, but not pull in your stomach!

For women, the following applies: a waist circumference of over 80 centimeters is considered to be increased, with over 88 centimeters, doctors speak of a greatly increased risk of disease. For men, the risk increases from a waist circumference of 94 centimeters or is considered very worrying from a value of 102 centimeters.

Between meals: the insulin trap snaps shut

The hormone insulin plays a key role in reducing the calories in the diet and thus also in the development of obesity. It is released from the pancreas with every meal to ensure that the nutrients ingested are distributed to the body's cells. These have special binding sites (receptors) on their surface, to which insulin attaches. As with the "key and lock principle", a closing contact opens and thus triggers a signal chain. As a result, glucose, amino acids and fats get into the cells and can be burned there to generate energy.

If there is more sugar in the blood than the body cells can use, the sensitivity of the cells to insulin decreases. The body reacts to this by increasing the release of the hormone, so that some of the sugar can still be forced into the cells. The rest is stored in adipose tissue.

Be careful during menopause: Don't put on too much weight

At the same time, insulin blocks fat burning. In a way, it provides for bad times: The large reserves of our body, the belly fat, the liver and the muscles, are replenished. However, these reserves can only be reduced if the blood sugar level has fallen over a longer period of time. However, most of us rarely reach this state of hunger thanks to the many small snacks in the form of chocolate bars, snacks, gummy bears or biscuits. Above all, sweet or sweet-fat snacks with quickly available sugar ensure that insulin is released repeatedly.

Natural helpers in menopause

Women can still see a few more pillows during the menopause: After all, at the age of 50 and over, you no longer have to starve yourself back to size 36. However, if the scales show one or two kilos more year after year before and during the menopause, women shouldn't just put up with it.

Keeping weight in menopause: exercise and good nutrition

Regular exercise and a healthy diet are the best ways to prevent weight gain or obesity. One is recommended Combination of endurance sports and muscle strengthening, You should exercise at least three times for 45 minutes a week in order to balance the energy. Regular exercise also increases endurance and keeps the heart and circulation fit, prevents osteoporosis, firms the body and helps to cope better with menopausal symptoms such as depressive moods.

Instead of dieting to combat excess weight, menopausal women should

pay attention to a healthy, balanced diet

. Experts like Detlef Pape recommend three proper meals a day and avoiding snacks in between. Carbohydrates should predominate for breakfast, for example in the form of several slices of bread with jam or honey.

Carbohydrates and fat - the optimal meals

For lunch, Pape recommends healthy mixed foods. In the evening, he advises eating protein and largely avoiding foods rich in carbohydrates. The reason is that fat burning usually takes place mainly at night. For dinner, for example, chicken, grilled meat or an egg pan with some salad or vegetables are recommended.

On the other hand, it is better to use fat and sugar sparingly. Sweets, snacks and alcoholic beverages in particular bring a lot of calories. Unfortunately, they are now noticeable much faster than additional kilos on the scales. But that doesn't mean that women have to practice asceticism during menopause: Enjoyment is still allowed. However, if you consciously adjust your eating behavior during menopause to the reduced energy requirements in old age and to hormonal changes, you can face the issue of weight gain calmly and relaxed.

Hormones are said to relieve menopausal symptoms

Hormone treatment can help women with obesity, hot flashes, depressed moods, sleep disorders and other symptoms that can come with the menopause. However, many affected women fear that they will gain additional weight by taking hormones. However, these fears are unfounded. It is true that women often gain one to two kilograms in weight at the beginning of hormone treatment. However, this is primarily due to water retention.

This is how menopause shows up
Author: Eva Schiwarth, medical writer | Kathrin Sommer, medical writer
Last updated: July 01, 2019
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  • German Nutrition Society: Men of normal weight in the minority, press, DGE aktuell, 2008, accessed at: http://www.dge.de/presse/pm/normalgewichtige-maenner-in-der-minderheit/; Jund R, Birk M and Heufelder A: The basics of prevention. riva Verlag Munich 2007
  • Pape, D .: Full - Slim - Healthy. The practical nutrition book based on the insulin principle. Deutscher Ärzte-Verlag 2003
  • German Nutrition Society
  • National Consumption Study II. Ed. Federal Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection
  • Journal of Applied Physiology, Human Reproduction, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, and Journal für Menopause