Ladies, this one is for you.  Aging is not fun. As you hit 40, things change.  The most noticeable, is an increase in weight.  You might not have changed the way you eat, or the foods you eat, and you may be just as active as you were in your 20s and 30s but suddenly you are gaining weight.  There is a reason for this.  As women age, their metabolism begins to decrease.  This means that if you do not change things you will likely gain weight.

This change becomes more dramatic during perimenopause, which takes place usually in your mid 40s.  As your estrogen level decreases with perimenopause, you will start to lose muscle mass.  Muscle has a much higher metabolism rate than fat. As menopause begins, weight gain will most likely happen in the belly.  Unfortunately, hormonal replacement treatment will not prevent the weight gain. It might decrease the amount of belly fat but that fat will just find another place to settle.  Hormonal replacement treatment may also have other risks so it is really not the best option for many women.

Thankfully, there are things that you can do to help offset this weight gain.

See your doctor and get a physical:

Check for conditions that are linked to high cholesterol, heart disease as well as diabetes and thyroid issues.

Cardio and strength training:

Everyone should be doing at least 30 minutes of activity a day be it walking, running, Zumba, or a spin class.  Cardio exercise will help your heart, mood, sex drive, and prevent osteoporosis but chances are you will still lose muscle mass. Adding weight training is key to maintaining/building muscle and improve metabolism.  You have various options including High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that combines cardio with strength as well as more traditional weight lifting, yoga, Pilates, or other body weight strength exercises that can be done virtually, in a gym, group class, or via Youtube.

Check your eating habits:

Exercise will improve your metabolism and help maintain your weight but you cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet. Look at cutting back alcohol and foods with added sugar. Save the wine and desert for special occasions. Next increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat each day aiming for 5 – 7 servings.  Also, look to limit fried and processed foods as well as red meat.

Accept the situation and be patient:

There are no quick fixes to the effects of perimenopause and menopause.  Understanding the changes your body is going through and adapt your activity level and diet accordingly to maintain your health is key.  That will require an acceptance of the situation, patience as you sort out what is right for you, and you implement your plan.