Healthy Eating for Your Active Lifestyle

Nourish Move Thrive

A couple of months ago, a woman in her 50s came up to me after my fitness class, confused. She asked: “What is going on? I'm exercising and eating healthily, doing everything right (like I did when I was younger), and I can’t seem to lose weight, especially around my waist.”

And then just the other day, a good friend of mine was frustrated, wondering: “Why is it that

since I hit my 40s, the more I exercise and the less I eat, the more weight I gain?”

These women are not alone. Many feel discouraged with the body changes that happen as they age and enter menopause. In searching the internet, I found many articles about how to “fight” the changes of menopause, many focussing only on weight and weight loss. But two fellow dietitians gave me a different perspective, a view that veers away from an emphasis on weight. If you are in a body struggle during menopause, this advice may be of value. 

Body changes to expect during menopause

As you age, your body composition changes naturally. These transformations happen no matter how much you weigh or what your eating and exercise habits are. Low levels of estrogen during menopause cause a redistribution of body fat from the hips to the abdomen (which serves the purpose of regulating estrogen levels, which is a good thing). And, as part of natural aging, there is a gradual loss of muscle mass, which slows metabolism.

Why the struggle?

Women of all ages are constantly exposed to beauty standard images and ideals of being thin. It is easy to become obsessed about weight and shape, especially during menopause when natural body changes seem to oppose societal standards. It is also easy to become frustrated when social media have us convinced that if we just follow a certain exercise plan or a diet, we will look and feel a certain way. And when this doesn’t happen, women may feel disappointed and defeated.

What to do?

Embrace your body and aging. The body changes that occur during aging are not something to be feared, fought or struggled with. A fellow dietitian shared this about the uncertain and sometimes surprising changes during menopause: “Here’s the thing – aging is completely normal and natural. It is something we all experience, and for many, it’s something to be fortunate to experience.”

Be kind to yourself.  Care for yourself and your body in healthy ways; and, if you slip up, don’t beat yourself up! Learn from the experience and find a way to make healthy habits work for you. Forgive yourself and move on.

Develop apositive relationship with food. Enjoy a wide variety of whole foods that help you feel nourished and energized most of the time. Listen to yourhunger and fullness cues. Ask yourself questions: How will I feel after I eat this? Am I hungry?

Let go of restrictions. If you dieted in your 20s and 30s, now is a great time for you to stop. And if you've never been on a weight loss diet, this isn’t the time to start. These diets don’t work. Restricting food can cause you to feel deprived and may slow your metabolism.

Exercise to feel healthy and strong

Appreciate what your body can do and how good you feel when you move it. Exercise offers a host of health benefits, such as reducing risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Find and participate in aerobic and strength exercises that you enjoy.

Take care of yourself

Get a good night's sleep, aiming for seven to nine hours.  Sleep is closely related to good health. If you find you have trouble sleeping due to insomnia or night sweats, try creating a regular routine: go to bed at the same time every night, reduce the use of electronics before you turn in and minimize the intake of caffeine and alcohol during the day or close to bedtime.

De-stress

At a time of life when you may still be dealing with a young family, career, the care of aging parents and menopause, it is important to recognize andmanage stress. Easier said than done, right? But even little things can make a difference. Take a walk, practise mindfulness, talk to friends and family about what you are going through and take time to rest if you need it.

Let go of the struggle! Try to embrace the normal and natural body changes during menopause. Focus on healthy behaviours that help you feel your best.

Want some more perspective? Read these blogs written by dietitians.

Life is Too Short to Worry About a Muffin Top

My Post 40 Weight Gain Frustrations

8 Tips on How to Deal with Weight Gain in a Healthy Way


AFLCA members

Are you looking for practical nutrition tools for your clients? Log in to the AFLCA Members section of the website and order free resources today! Great options to compliment this blog include Eat Right for Your 40s and 50s. 



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Jennifer Michaelchuk, RD.

Registered Dietitian

Jennifer (BSc, RD) is a registered dietitian from Edmonton. She enjoys inspiring others to achieve their healthy living goals and make healthy food choices.

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