A lot of “bad” can happen during menopause. Between the hot flashes, fatigue, and weight fluctuations, the lack of stability can be challenging to digest. And although these symptoms are natural and potentially unavoidable, there are things you can do to get through it a little easier.
Diet and fitness can make your transition through menopause a little bit easier. Eating the right things and staying active can help manage and control symptoms, and keep you feeling good through this major transition. Here are a few tips that can help you navigate this transition a little more gracefully.
- Assess appetite and portion sizes: One of the biggest changes women experience during menopause is weight gain. You seem to be doing nothing different than you were before, but the pounds can creep up. The reason for this is likely a slowed metabolism, meaning your body is not burning as many calories—about 500 per day less than you had been. A few ways to compensate for a slower metabolism are to reduce portion sizes, assess fullness midway through meals, and do weight training.
- Eat more protein: Because you may find your appetite decreasing or are looking for ways to limit weight loss, you may cut protein intake—this is a bad idea. Protein is high satiating (filling) and contributes to the maintenance of lean mass—something that diminishes during menopause. Include protein with every meal to keep muscle, limit snacking, and boost metabolism. Weight training helps put the protein you eat to good use, helping to create more lean mass and increase metabolism.
- Manage hormonal changes: Although a drop in estrogen is the name of the game during menopause, you may be able to limit its impact by eating foods rich in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that mimic human estrogen and bind to estrogen receptors in the body. Soy, edamame, and flax seeds are all good sources. In addition to eating these foods, you can manage the psychological challenges of menopause through meditation, yoga, and weight training.
- Eat dairy and fish: Calcium and vitamin D (along with activity) can help keep your bones strong. If you’re not lactose intolerant, eat calcium-rich dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese to maintain healthy calcium levels. Eating eggs and fish can also help to serve up vitamin D.
Menopause is going to be a challenge no matter what, but eating right, exercising, and making a few lifestyle adjustments can make the transition easier.