By Rachel Lankester, Mutton Club Editor

Me talking about losing weight? Surely not! I’m all for embracing ourselves as we naturally are, right?

Well, yes and no. I’ve learned, as I’ve gone through midlife, that weight becomes much more difficult to shift. But more importantly, our weight becomes about what is healthy for us and no longer predominantly about how we look.

If we’re carrying too much weight, especially around our middle, that’s not a healthy way to be aging. If it doesn’t cause issues now, it will do further down the line. So we need to tackle it, regardless of whether or not we actually care about the way we look with a few extra pounds.

Sadly we know from research that being obese can also make menopause symptoms worse. It can impact levels of activity, which then has a knock-on effect, hot flushes (flashes), urinary issues, mood swings, sleep etc. – you get the picture! So if you’re carrying too much weight, midlife is as good a time as any to reassess and get yourself in better shape, to age as healthily as you can.

You may only want to lose a few pounds. The information here is going to help however much you want to lose. But let’s focus in on losing a large amount, like 20 pounds, because sometimes, that’s how much has crept up over the years, and if we want to have the best chance of good health long term, we may need to do something drastic. At the same time it’s important to set realistic expectations about how much weight loss you can achieve and over what time period.

The time it takes to lose 20 pounds can vary depending on several factors, including your current weight, body composition, metabolism, activity level, and overall lifestyle. It’s important to approach weight loss in a healthy and sustainable manner, as rapid or extreme weight loss can have very negative effects on your health. I don’t want you losing weight to become disordered eating.

If you’re currently menopausal, losing weight  can also be extra challenging due to hormonal changes that can affect metabolism and body composition. Our menopausal body likes to hang on to fat, partly because we make estrogen in our adipose tissue. However, with the right approach, it’s still possible to achieve weight loss. The time it takes to lose 20 pounds can vary depending on individual factors, but aiming for a safe and sustainable rate of 1-2 pounds per week is generally recommended.

Here are strategies to help you lose weight:

1. Focus on a balanced diet: Eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Incorporate foods that are rich in nutrients while being mindful of portion sizes. When you feel you want to eat, consider why. Are you really hungry? Or stressed, thirsty or bored?! Consider working with a registered dietitian who can provide personalized guidance.

2. Control portion sizes: Menopause often comes with changes in appetite and metabolism, so paying attention to portion sizes is crucial. Use smaller plates and bowls to help control portions, and practice mindful eating by savoring each bite and eating slowly. Bizarrely if we use a smaller plate, we can trick ourselves into believing the portion size hasn’t changed!

3. Choose nutrient-dense foods: Opt for nutrient-dense foods that are lower in calories but high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These include fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats like avocados and nuts. Don’t waste those precious calories on rubbish food and drink.

4. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and help control appetite. Sometimes, thirst can be mistaken for hunger, leading to unnecessary snacking or overeating.

5. Get enough regular physical activity: Engage in regular exercise to boost your metabolism, burn calories, and maintain muscle mass. Incorporate a combination of cardiovascular exercises (such as walking, cycling, or swimming) and strength training activities (using weights or resistance bands) to help maintain muscle mass and bone density. Check out our post on the best fitness equipment to invest in for a home workout. Go out for a walk at lunchtime. Get off one stop early on the way to or from work and walk the rest of the way.

6. Prioritize strength training: As we age, we lose muscle mass, which can contribute to a slower metabolism. Incorporating strength training exercises at least twice a week can help preserve and build muscle, leading to increased calorie burn and improved body composition. If we eat the same as we’ve always eaten and do the same level of exercise, without building back our muscle mass, our slower metabolism will lead to us definitely putting on weight. And that can easily creep up over a few years.

7. Manage your stress: Stress is a huge factor in modern life and increased stress levels can impact weight loss efforts. If we’re highly stressed, our body won’t allow us to lose weight, as it will try to protect us (from potential famine!) by holding on to weight. Find stress management techniques that work for you, such as practicing mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, yoga, journaling or engaging in hobbies you enjoy.

8. Get enough sleep: Prioritize quality sleep as it plays a crucial role in hormone regulation, metabolism, and overall well-being. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and establish a consistent sleep routine.

9. Get support and accountability from family and friends: It’s often easier to achieve our goals when someone is holding us accountable. And when we have somewhere to go for support when things don’t go according to plan. So put in place a support network and maybe consider joining a weight loss support group.

10. Track your progress and adjust goals if necessary: It can be all too easy to give up on a goal because we fail early on. There’s a reason gyms are full at the beginning of January each year, but then they’re back to usual occupancy in February. Tracking your progress can keep you motivated. But also go easy enough on yourself to enable your to stick to the long-term plan. If you have a bad week, don’t let that scupper your whole plan. Just try to get back on track and stay the course. Remember that weight loss may not always be linear, and there may be fluctuations due to factors like water retention. Instead of fixating solely on the scale, focus on non-scale victories such as increased energy levels, improved mood, or better sleep. It all counts towards better health. Progress not perfection!

How long should it take to lose 20 pounds is a difficult question to answer. It depends on what you put in place, your level of commitment, what else is going on in your life right now and your age and level of stress – amongst other things! But because there’s no fixed answer, doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. If you can manage 2 pounds each week, in 10 weeks you’ll be there! Any faster and it’s unlikely you’ll sustain the weight loss to be honest. So go easy on yourself but also invest in your future health.

Also be aware that weight loss during and after menopause may be slower than before, due to hormonal changes (as well as just ageing), but with consistency, patience, and a balanced approach, you can still achieve your weight loss goals. It may also be worth consulting a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian who can provide personalized advice based on your particular health and weight profile. Good luck!

You may also like: Work Out At Home: Best Fitness Equipment and Best Health And Wellness Podcasts

Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife, author, host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast, a midlife mentor and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. After an initially devastating early menopause at 41, she dedicated herself to helping women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, helping them cope better with menopause and ageing in general, and create magnificent next chapters. She’s been featured in/on BBC Woman’s Hour, The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, The Age Buster, Woman’s Weekly, Prima Magazine, eShe, Tatler HK and Woman’s Own amongst others. She believes we just get better with age. Get her book Magnificent Midlife: Transform Your Middle Years, Menopause and Beyond which was recommended in the New York Times.

Last Updated on May 18, 2023 by Editorial Staff

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