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Stopping Mid-life Weight gain

We don't know when it will happen. But, if you're a woman, menopause will almost surely happen to you - if it hasn't happened already. That means your body will change – and in some ways that you might not be expecting.

Michelle Syslo is 45 years old and is in perimenopause - the five to ten years period prior to menopause - the time when her monthly cycles will stop altogether. Her symptoms are what most women can expect to experience during this stage of life.

“Your body is going through changes, it's like reverse puberty,” says Michelle. “You're getting pimples on your face. I haven't had pimples in years - all kinds of things. hot flashes, insomnia, sometimes I lose focus.”

Michelle combats her symptoms by eating a healthful diet, getting plenty of rest and exercising almost every day.

feet walking on treadmill

“I keep up with stretching, weight resistance, using the machines, bands, whatever I can. Exercise is huge part of my life but it keeps me in shape so that I can do the activities that I enjoy doing, like skiing, mountain biking, hiking, snowshoeing, fly fishing.”

Despite all her good habits, Michelle struggled in the beginning with keeping weight off, and with the way her body was changing.

“I did gain weight at one point - like 10 pounds. And, I noticed that the center of my body, my torso, is softer than it used to be. I don't have the definition.”

But Michelle was able to drop the extra weight by cutting out sweets - and despite a recent skiing injury, working hard at keeping up her daily exercise routine - a practice recommended by Dr. Susan Steffen, Medical Director at the Utah Valley Women's Center in Provo. She, too, fell victim to the so-called "middle age spread" and took steps to get her health on the right track by watching her portion sizes and increasing her exercise. Many of Dr. Steffen's patients also struggle with preimenopausal weight gain.

“They begin depositing weight around the mid line,” says Dr. Steffen. “This is because estrogen drops and estrogen and metabolic rate are linked. So, as your estrogen level drops you burn fewer calories”

Dr. Steffen says that a woman's metabolism decreases during this period at the rate of about 55 calories a day!  So, even if you are exercising, your current routine may not be enough to stop weight gain.

“Most women, when I ask them if they exercise they say yes, and when I query them carefully its maybe 20 minutes, 2 or three times a week. Well, that is not enough. Unfortunately we need to do between 30 and 40 minutes almost every day.”

And, women need to include some sort of resistance training like weight training, yoga or pilates because they naturally lose muscle mass as they age.

If you believe you are experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, talk to your doctor.

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