Shape Up for ladies going through the menopause

Sharing menopause moans and exercise helps women in Shape Up group.

by Rachel Coombs, Community Nutrition Team Leader

We launched our first Shape Up dedicated to women going through the menopause or who are premenopausal in October last year. The programme focused on losing weight through sensible healthy eating and physical activity.

Many women suffer in silence during the menopause, but this group of wonderfully chatty ladies said they felt a release to openly share their experience and symptoms of irritability, severe mood swings, difficulty sleeping, weight gain, feeling fed up and hot flushes… and their shared love of cheese (more on that to follow).

During the menopause and as women get older, their muscle mass decreases, so most women need less calories. Some women can become less active and declining levels of oestrogen all contribute to weight gain particularly around the middle. So this is a time when eating well and staying active is particularly important for women.

Staying physically active not only benefits physical health but emotional health too. With a mixture of willingness and trepidation, the group took part in circuit based activity which included steps, weights, running/brisk walking, sit ups and skipping.  Thanks to our wonderfully lively activity leader Caroline, the ladies felt like they were not exercising at all but having a great time while singing along to the music and chatting. A combination of strength training (carrying heavy bags, using tins of food as weights, resistant bands, gardening, yoga) to increase muscle mass and weight bearing exercise such as brisk walking, running, taking the stairs, dancing for bone health are simple exercises that can be done at home or incorporated into everyday lives.

We explored healthy eating by looking at portion sizes and the balance of foods and really got to grips with our relationship with food and the specific nutrients they contain.  This was a bit of an eye opener and a revelation for some. Why we make certain food choices and why we turn to food in times of stress, upset, celebration, boredom as our psychological state really does influence our food choice.

The British Dietetic Association advises that changing lifestyle may help women to reduce symptoms, keep bone density and reduce risk of heart disease by maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. Here are the top tips:

–       At least five portions of different coloured fruit and vegetables everyday

–       Aim for three portions of calcium-rich foods every day including milk, cheese & yoghurt (hooray for the cheese – but just a small matchbox size)

–       A good mixture of foods containing fibre (oats, wholegrain cereals and breads, pulses such as lentils, chickpeas and beans are all excellent sources)

–       Moderate intakes of caffeine from drinks like coffee, tea or choose decaffeinated drinks if you are sensitive to its stimulatory effects

–       Keep to sensible alcohol limits (up to 14 units per week) or avoid altogether if you feel it makes symptoms worse

–       Looking after your heart by eating at least two portions of fish a week, one which should be oily and limiting salt and saturated fats.

–       Take regular moderate exercise

Our 10 week Shape Up programmes run across the city throughout the year so if you want to lose weight through a healthy lifestyle, please call our friendly Healthy Weight Referral Service on 01273 431703 find out more about our service by watching this short video.

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