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Every woman must face the end of menstruation and fertility, but with it comes something no woman need to resign herself to: weight gain. Why does this occur and what can be done about it? To understand the changes that you need to make to your eating plan to help prevent weight gain during menopause, it is helpful to know about some of the other changes that are happening in your body at this time.

Many women will find that their weight increases at the time that they undergo menopause. This weight is likely to be distributed centrally (ie: around the abdomen). This means that you may experience a change in body shape.

Another change happening in your body at the same time is one that is associated with aging. This is a decrease in the amount of muscle in the body. Muscle uses more energy than fat does. So, as the amount of muscle in your body decreases the amount of energy that you need also decreases.

Your skeleton may also undergo some changes at this time, the density of bones decreases. If this change is marked you will be at risk of developing osteoporosis. The composition of your blood can also change, with the amount of fats in the blood increasing, thus increasing your risk of heart disease. The amount of glucose in your blood can rise as a result of increasing insulin resistance. This is worse if you have a large weight gain and may result in the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

Scientists have not decided if the weight gain that often occurs at the time of menopause is as a result of the hormonal changes of menopause, or if it is just due to aging. As far as managing and preventing the weight gain, the good news is that the eating plan can be adapted to cope with these changes, and to optimise your overall health. From a dietary perspective it does not matter if the cause has not yet been determined.

MAKING CHOICES FROM EACH FOOD GROUP

  • Complex carbohydrates: Choose carbohydrates with a satiety smart symbol for at least one meal a day. These are absorbed slowly into the blood stream to help keep blood sugar levels constant.
  • Vegetables and fruit: Divide your serves evenly throughout the day. This helps to spread the intake of nutrients and fibre. Use fresh fruit most of the time, and choose a wide variety of vegetables.
  • Low and medium fat proteins: Choose those with the heart symbol most often. These are lower in saturated fat and lower in total fat content. Use dry beans, peas, lentils and soya regularly.
  • Milk: Use skim milk and fat-free yoghurt most of the time, rather than 2% or full cream.
  • Fat: Only use fat serves that have the heart symbol. Do not exceed the number of serves given in your formula.
  • Supplements: A multivitamin and a calcium supplement are recommended.

EXERCISE
If you are not already exercising, then now is the time to start. Choose different types of exercise, some to burn extra energy and some to build muscle. The researchers agree that postmenopausal women who achieve and maintain a healthy body weight all have one thing in common: they are physically active. Are you?

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