To add insult to injury, it’s often harder to shed these new pounds than it was in previous years. “All weight is harder to lose with aging, because the metabolic rate is slower and, with aging, people tend to get less active or more injury prone,” says Dr. Santoro.
Although there’s no magic formula to avoid weight gain as you age, these strategies can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight:
- Be proactive. “Anticipate that weight gain is in the cards,” says Cynthia A. Stuenkel, MD, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego. Don’t wait for the weight to add up before switching to a healthier lifestyle.
- Increase your physical activity. “Find an activity, preferably aerobic, that you enjoy, and do it regularly for at least 45 to 60 minutes, four to five days a week,” says Hulem. Aerobic exercise, such as jogging and dancing, boosts your metabolism and helps burn fat.
- Do strength training. Exercises such as weight lifting can boost your metabolism, as well as increase muscle mass and strengthen bones. Building muscle mass is also more likely to protect against future weight gain, says Santoro.
- Watch your diet. “Take a good look at your diet, and see what you can do to improve it. Cut refined carbohydrates, and limit alcohol ingestion,” says Dr. Stuenkel. Also be aware of portion sizes, and try to consume fewer calories each day, particularly fat calories. Women need about 200 fewer calories a day to maintain their weight as they enter their mid- to late 40s, according to the Mayo Clinic. One word of caution though: Because menopausal women are at increased risk of bone density loss, it’s especially important to keep up with daily calcium requirements if you’re simultaneously trying to lose weight.
- Rule out a thyroid problem. Hypothyroidism, which often develops in women at midlife, can also contribute to weight gain, so have a thorough checkup if you are rapidly gaining weight.
These lifestyle changes can have other benefits too, says Stuenkel, such as improving your state of mind and lowering your risk of serious health conditions such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and more. “All that leads to enhanced self-esteem and what [world-renowned anthropologist] Margaret Mead called PMZ — postmenopausal zest.”