The onset of menopause, the point when a woman hasn’t had a period for the past 12 months, and the bodily changes that occur in the years leading up to it can trigger a number of symptoms, including weight gain. During perimenopause or the menopausal transition, production of the female hormones — estrogen and progesterone — shift, which causes a redistribution of fat to your belly. Weight gain and an expanding waistline are common complaints during this period, according to Elizabeth Ward, a registered dietitian and co-author with Hillary Wright of “The Menopause Diet Plan, A Natural Guide to Managing Hormones, Health, and Happiness.”
“Aging reduces your calorie-burning capacity and a reduction in estrogen often results in extra belly fat,” Ward told TODAY. She also cautioned that the shift in estrogen levels can also have consequences for bone and heart health. So, even if your main goal in dieting during menopause or perimenopause is to lose weight, there are other factors to consider.
A health-minded menopause diet can help you manage these issues and lose weight — or prevent weight gain in the first place.
What is a menopause diet?
There’s no singular menopause diet, however, Ward pointed out that the menopause diet plan in her book with Wright grew out of decades of working with women, personal experiences and a deep dive into the scientific literature. The research resulted in an eating plan that works well both before and after menopause. Here are the basic principles of the book’s menopause diet:
- Eat a plant-based diet. “A balanced eating plan rich in plant foods supplies the right mix of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, therefore promoting better health in women, particularly those ages 45 and older who may be going through the menopause transition,” said Ward.
- Eat according to your body clock. Ward explained that we are ruled by natural body rhythms that affect our health. “Meal timing is one of the most important principles of a menopause diet,” she said, adding that meal timing is involved in weight control, regulating blood glucose levels, better sleep and possibly lowering cancer risk.
- Know your calorie limit. It’s an inconvenient truth, but trial and error is an unavoidable part of the weight-control process, and women over age 40 will need to adjust their food intake to avoid menopausal weight gain. “We hate the thought of counting every calorie, and we realize that the thought of doing that can trigger bad memories of dieting. However, everyone has a calorie ‘budget,’ and simply eating a plant-based diet may not be enough if you aren’t aware of your limits,” Ward said.
Science-backed benefits of a menopause…
Read More: The best way to lose weight during menopause