Doomed to Get Old and Fat?
Exercise Plus Fewer Carbs - That's What Works After Menopause
Sad to say, we all put on weight more easily as we get older.
Women are especially prone to get a bigger waist. But it's not inevitable.
Exercise and estrogen seem especially key in winning the war
against late-life obesity, says Lila E. Nachtigall, MD, a reproductive
endocrinologist and director of the Women's Wellness program at New York
University School of Medicine in New York.
Studies have shown that in their reproductive years, women put
on weight in their hips and thighs, which helps keep their cardiovascular
system healthy, Nachtigall tells WebMD.
Whether menopause causes weight gain or not or if it's merely a
factor of aging is a hotly debated issue among medical experts. But what's not
debated is that menopause changes where you put on the fat and can make it more
difficult for you to lose it.
"At menopause, women begin to put it on in the abdomen, the
waist, and that's not good for cardiovascular health," she says. "That
leads to [high blood sugar or] insulin resistance [a sign of diabetes], and
that leads to more of that type of weight gain." Weight gain after
menopause is also associated with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and
What women don't realize is just how poor our body's ability to
burn fat becomes as we age. We tend to have less muscle that burns fat less
efficiently for energy. Research suggests that some of the fat-consuming
efficiency of muscle tissue further declines with the decrease in estrogen
production following menopause.
So What's a Woman to Do?
Pump iron. Beyond HRT, exercise is the best way to keep weight
under control. In fact, experts believe it's probably more important than diet
in curbing weight gain, Nachtigall tells WebMD. "The more the better,"
Experts recommend regular aerobic exercise such as walking
briskly 30 minutes a day, five days a week. And, just as important, add weight
training to increase muscle mass. The more muscle you have the more calories
your body can consume.
Eat ... and drink right. "I think [a diet of] low-fat,
low-process carbs -- what I call the white carbs -- a little higher in protein,
fruits and vegetable kind of carbs [is best,]" says Natchigall.
She advises against soy supplements advertised as weight-loss
aides. "They're very high in fat. You can't get the fat out of the soy.
You'll faint if you read about their fat content. Soy is an oil, and extracting
it takes an oil." Soy milk is also very high in calories, she says.
And, cut back on the alcohol. Drinking is more closely
associated with weight gain than menopause itself.
Open the lines of communication. Talk to your doctor. He or she
may be able to advise you on a weight loss/nutritional plan and evaluate you
for other medical conditions such as a thyroid problem that may be leading to
your weight gain.
Hormones may provide another option. Some studies show HRT can
help you lose weight, but most experts don't recommend taking HRT just to
promote a healthy weight.
Most importantly, be yourself. Recognize that you are no longer
20 or 30. Focus on maintaining a healthy weight rather than fitting into those