When you go through menopause it’s not just a matter of your periods stopping, your body goes through a dramatic change in terms of hormones, how it processes food and stores fat, and you might also find that your attitude to your body changes too. Which is why it’s essential that you change the way you eat and exercise.
If you’re struggling to lose weight or keep weight off, or if you feel you’re not as fit as you were, it’s probably because you’re making one of the following common mistakes. The good news is that they’re easily rectified! You’ll be back on track on time.
Related: Have you hit a weight loss plateau?
Stuck in an exercise rut?
So maybe you’ve been in a walking group for years and love the regular chats and fresh air – you’re getting your 30 minutes of exercise three times a week, so why is it that you’re gaining weight?
“Your body isn’t being pushed,” says Lisa-Jane, of Wildcat Fitness (www.wildcatfitness.co.uk).
“At this age, it’s perhaps even more important to switch up how you exercise. Your body is smart and will very quickly adapt when it is put through the same motions week after week. That means challenging yourself so you’re getting out of breath when doing aerobic exercise (you should be able to respond to a question without trouble, but chatting is an indicator that you’re not working hard enough).
“Getting the heart rate up will fire up your metabolism, encouraging your body to burn fat and use it as fuel - when your body burns fat you should see weight loss results. It's not just about cardio though, it also means doing some form of resistance training - lifting weights ideally or if that’s not possible, using resistance bands or even your own body weight to build more muscle.
“The more muscle you have, the more your body will burn fat, even when resting. This is also really important for helping to increase bone mineral density - building muscle supports the muscular skeletal system which is extremely important in the fight against osteoporosis.”
The fix: Sign up for a new exercise class. One you’ve never tried before. It might be tough at first, but stick with it until you feel you’ve mastered it. By then, you might even like it! By exercising in a group chances are you'll meet other people in the same boat too, and once you feel supported by others in your new regime you'll be much more likely to stick to it.
Related: Are you stuck in an exercise rut?
Eating healthily - but the same amount as always
Okay, so eating healthily isn’t a mistake but if you eat the same healthy foods at the same quantities as you did ten years ago, it’s not going to work.
So maybe you’ve always eaten plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain, healthy fats and lean meat or fish… but here’s the thing – even if your diet was impeccable before, you’ll still need to adjust it. Because your metabolism just isn’t as fast as it used to be, in fact, it slows by around 1% every year after 30.
Related: Eight ways to boost your metabolism
The fix: Eat less and more often. Every three hours eat a small ‘snack’ rather than sticking to the three-meals-a-day routine.
So start with an egg or a slice of wholegrain toast when you wake up at 8am, for example, then at 11am, have a piece of cheese and an apple, or nibble on some raw carrots or other cooked veggies, at 1pm tuck into a starter-sized salad with meat or fish and a half-sized serving of rice, pasta, bread or potatoes, at 4pm, have a yogurt, then at 7pm a cup of soup, some nuts or cheese with fruit. This will keep you from getting too hungry but will reduce your calorie intake.
Sticking to your five-a-day
Five-a-day is the current recommendation for eating fruit and vegetables (although there is discussion of upping it to seven) but right now, if you’ve been through menopause, that five-a-day recommendation just won’t cut it. Your body needs higher levels of vitamins, such as B12, for example, found in animal products and fortified cereals, to help protect you cognitive degeneration, and so you need to adapt.
Fix it: One of the easiest ways to boost your vegetable and fruit intake is to make smoothies.
Pure fruit smoothies (where you put the whole fruit in the blender) will give you fibre, water, and all those healthy vitamins too.
Try raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, melon, banana, oranges (peeled), pears, peaches, plums. Good veggies to add that won’t make the flavour or texture unpleasant include lettuce, spinach and carrots.
You can also make low-fat coleslaw for a healthy raw vegetable snack - simply grate carrot, cabbage (you can also add apple or onion if you like), and add a dollop of low-fat yogurt.
Related: Try these delicious smoothie recipes
Using your discount travel card
It’s one of the bonuses of getting older – travel on trains, buses and the underground is free! But beware sitting for long periods, whether it’s in a car, the train or a bus. Sitting for long periods of time, even if you do exercise regularly too, switches off enzymes that would usually release fat.
So every minute you sit makes you more prone to a wider waistline. Your body’s metabolism is slowing down with each year, so you need to increase the amount of time you stand or walk if possible.
Fix it: Pace while you check your phone for messages, get on the stationary bicycle while you watch TV or even do simple lower-leg raises (lifting your foot off the floor), or similar. And if you do have to sit for a period of time, break it up with vigorous exercise to get your blood circulating so that your body will continue to burn calories for a few minutes more after you sit back down. Try star-jumps for five minutes for example.
Related: How to do more exercise without even noticing
Overdoing your Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is fantastic – lots of healthy fresh fruit and veg. But there’s also an emphasis on olive oil and other healthy fatty foods such as oily fish and nuts.
These types of healthy-fat foods are healthy but once you’ve gone through menopause you need to keep a tighter control of how much fat of any kind goes inside you, even good fat.
Fix it: If you’re eating unhealthy fats such as hydrogenated oils or palm oil, for example, which are often found in things like pastries, biscuits or crisps, stop. But don’t overdo the amount of healthy fats you eat either.
While eating fat hits our taste pleasure sensors if more than 11% of your daily food is fat, you’re at the upper limit for what’s healthy, according to government recommendations. Too much and will end up showing on your waistline. But like reducing your salt or sugar intake, you can train your body to enjoy less fat. Over time, on a reduced-fat diet, you will start to need less of it in order to enjoy food.