Unfortunately, perimenopause is a time when many women gain extra pounds. Most women start going through perimenopause beginning at around age 45–though some may start at age 35 and some as late as 50. Shifting hormone levels are mostly to blame for perimenopause weight gain. Other perimenopause symptoms include night sweats, hot flashes, headaches and dry skin.
Rising and falling estrogen levels make perimenopausal women susceptible to fluid retention because when estrogen levels rise, women can easily gain about five pounds of water weight. In addition, the stress of hormonal fluctuations usually cause a woman’s body to secrete more cortisol, and higher cortisol levels stimulate the production of the fat-storing hormone insulin, which increases fat around the abdomen.
Here are a few things health experts say women can do to fight perimenopause weight gain:
Consuming more dairy may help reduce extra pounds during perimenopause. Even though overall dieters still have to consume fewer calories than they burn each day to drop pounds, research shows that people who eat three to five servings a day of low-fat and non-fat dairy lose more weight and more fat than those who don’t eat as many dairy products.
According to Hallie Levine in the Prevention article “Dropping the Most Stubborn Pounds,” A University of Tennessee research study revealed that women who ate three servings of low-fat yogurt every day lost sixty-one percent more body fat and a whopping eighty-one percent more abdominal fat compared to a control group of women who didn’t consume yogurt. Health experts say the calcium appears to tell the body to burn fat more quickly, says the study’s author Michael Zemel, PhD.
Be sure to purchase non-sweetened yogurt, and if you don’t think you can stomach that much yogurt each day, switch out some of the servings of yogurt with some low-fat cheese.
Many studies have been done that prove dairy products are fat burning foods. Another study from the University of Technology supports increasing dairy intake to five servings a day because study participants lost more pounds and more fat than a control group that didn’t consume as much dairy. The study lasted 12 weeks, and in addition to the pounds and fat lost, dairy-eating participants also saw a greater drop in systolic blood pressure (Dunn).
Eat Good Carbs
Because you’re usually becoming more insulin resistant–which increases stomach fat–when you hit perimenopause, it’s also important to pay attention to the glycemic index of foods a little more closely says Levine to avoid gaining fat.
The glycemic index measures how quickly food affects your blood sugar levels. According to a University of Massachusetts Medical School study, participants who followed a low glycemic index diet weighed about ten pounds less compared to a control group that ate foods with a higher glycemic index (Levine).
To choose foods low on the glycemic index, eat a diet high in protein, whole grains, non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats. Avoid foods that contain refined sugars, grains and flour. Foods high on the glycemic (70 and up) include most rice, white bread, potatoes and watermelon. Foods in the medium range (56-69) include corn, bananas, raisins and pineapple. Foods in the low range (55 and under) include peanuts, raw carrots, raw apples, peas, kidney beans, lentils, grapefruit and skim milk.
The same exercise routine that worked in your thirties may not work as well when you enter your forties; however, you can push yourself to reduce perimenopause weight gain by adding interval training to your workouts, says Levine. Simply increase the intensity of your exercise routine every few minutes for 30 to 60 seconds.
You should also start lifting weights three times a week for 30 minutes. You’ll feel stronger in just two weeks and notice a firmer body in only six to eight weeks, says Chester Zelasko, Phd, and chair of the Health and Wellness Department at Buffalo State College in New York according to the Prevention article “Firm Up, Slim Down” by Nancy Stedman. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will burn calories.
Lifting weights is important because everyone’s metabolism declines about .5 percent each year after age 25, which is one reason it’s so challenging for people to lose extra pounds when they get older, but says Wayne Westcott, Prevention‘s strength training advisor, building muscle can reverse the decline in metabolism.
Wescott also says weight training pays off beyond aesthetics. It can prevent osteoporosis, lower risks of adult-onset diabetes, lower blood pressure, help lower back problems and reduce the pain associated with arthritis.
Hypothyroidism and Perimenopause
Another thing women can do to lose extra pounds during perimenopause is see their doctors about thyroid weight gain. Many women suffer from hypothyroidism, especially as they get older. Hypothyroidism often goes undetected because the symptoms usually increase gradually over time. The thyroid gland is the gas pedal for the whole body, and an underactive thyroid can cause weight gain and prevent women from losing extra pounds.
If you have some or all of the following symptoms, you may suffer from hypothyroidism:
- Brittle nails
- Dry, pale skin
- Sensitivity to cold
- Puffy face
- High cholesterol
Perimenopause Weight Gain
With a little extra change to your diet and exercise plan, it is possible to prevent or even drop those extra pounds as you enter perimenopuase.
As always, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any workout program or changing your diet in any way.
Dunn, Josette. Weight Loss Expert Supports Diary in Diets. Nutridate. March 2010, Vol. 21 Issue 1, p8.
“Glycemic Index Diet: Losing Weight with Blood Sugar Control.” MayoClinic.
Levine, Hallie. “Dropping the Most Stubborn Pounds.” Prevention. June 2005, Vol. 57 Issue 6, p186-248.
Stedman, Nancy. “Firm Up, Slim Down.” Prevention. February 1998, Vol. 50 Issue 2, p114.