Weight gain during the menopause is not uncommon. With the disruption to the hormonal balance of the body, and particularly the reduction in Oestrogen, the bodies metabolism can slow down. The consequence being that the daily diet consumed earlier in life now provides a calorific surplus and the inevitable consequence of that is weight gain.
Worse, all of your tried and tested “fixes” that have served you well in the past to lose those unwanted pounds no longer work. The day to day energy requirements of your body have changed, so yesterdays solution simply won’t work today.
What is to be done? You have many options, but perhaps the following five ideas will set you off in the right direction.
1 Start A Diary
Tracking your current diet will give you the best picture of what you actually eat and where you could potentially make small refinements that would be easily sustainable. There are many apps and websites these days that help you do this but ultimately pen and paper can work if that is your preference.
You need to record what you eat, how much of it you eat (in weight!) and approximately when in the day it was.
We all know that our mind can play tricks on us, and during the course of a busy day we are prone to misremember what we actually eat. Therefore write it down “live”!
2 Don’t make weight loss a punishment
When we hear the word ‘diet’, too often what we actually hear is ‘restricted something for a shortish period of time’. In fact all diet actually means is the foods we consume. With this definition in mind, what we need to concern ourselves with is the diet that we consume most of the time. The occasional dinner out, the one off bar of chocolate or that piece of cake is not going to derail your weight loss… As long as it does not become part of your “dietary habit”.
The second idea to examine is the idea that nice food is a reward (“I have earned this cake”, “After all that exercise I deserve this beer”). The issue here is that by defining some foods as being a reward they are more desirable and somehow better than your normal diet. Reality is that you can eat (and drink) whatever you like! But you need to do it within the calories that your metabolism needs AND the nutrients that your body needs in order to live.
Avoid the idea that food is a reward, or that food is something to be earned or that you have to deprive yourself of certain foods. The old saying “everything in moderation” works perfectly here. But we might need to define “moderation”.
3 Stay Balanced
Building on the idea of not being restrictive, we do not need to restrict particular food groups either (low carb anyone??). We may need to rethink what we perceive to be a portion, but the Human body works very well when provided with a balanced and varied diet that includes ALL food groups.
You may make dietary choices such as being Vegan, but that simply (for instance) drives WHERE you will get your Protein from, not IF you will be eating Protein.
A balanced varied diet is generally more enjoyable and certainly a significant part of making weight loss permanent.
4 Weigh & Measure
Weighing out everything can be frustrating, but it will help you learn about portion size. As you start to develop your new regular diet, having a grip on how much of different foods you eat is essential. Don’t trust your best guess – it will completely undermine your weigh loss plan. But it doesn’t need to be forever, once you understand portion sizes you can stop tracking.
In the future, should you find that your weight strays a little further than you want, then the one reliable tool that will always work for you is food tracking.
5 The Scales Don’t Lie
And that is both the scales in your kitchen and in your bathroom!
I often hear people say that there is no point weighing yourself because it is all about “body composition” and “muscle weighs more than fat”. Oh and lets not forget “I have heavy bones”, I particularly love that one! Whilst it is true that body composition is incredibly important, the hard reality is that you are not likely to develop additional muscle mass “by accident”! It takes a ridiculously hard amount of work (both in the gym and the kitchen) to start developing muscle mass on a scale where the net result of losing fat / gaining muscle will equate to a net gain in weight…
More realistic for most of us is that we will lose body fat, that will cause us to (pleasingly) change shape and also weigh less. Therefore a regular weekly weighing (in the privacy and solitude of your bathroom) is essential. You need to know where you are at, not just a subjective look in a mirror or the “perception” of how we think our clothes fit on a particular day.
Having said that, there are some very good reasons why our weight might temporarily go up. Particularly in response to running, but other forms of exercise or potentially dietary change. But consider it another part of your new diary… and look at the trend rather than a specific data point.
The ‘take away’!
In summary then;
- Sustainable weight loss is about forming different habits regarding what we chose to eat most of the time. Not restricting or punishing yourself for “30 days” or other arbitrary timescale. You can actually enjoy losing weight – it’s allowed!
- It really is a numbers game. Create a calorific deficit. Weigh yourself weekly. Weigh what you eat when you eat it. Start being specific. What gets measured gets managed has never been truer.
- Find solutions that work for you and that you can live with in the long term. How you choose to loose weight is specific to you. Certainly there is much to be learned from others, but see that as ideas to inspire you and to learn from rather than a detailed roadmap to follow religiously for thirty days.