This week we will be discussing body image and menopause. Menopause can be a time when women experience weight gain and low mood. However, this does not have to be the case with help from nutrition. Choosing the right nutritious foods can help to manage weight gain. In turn, this may have a positive impact on your own body image.
Body image can be a problem for many women during menopause. One study found that women going through menopause scored significantly higher for the importance of body appearance than postmenopausal women .
The reasons for this could be due to several factors, including body changes and mood changes during the menopausal period.
Gaining weight is a common occurrence during menopause. On average women gain 1-2kg during the peri-menopausal period, or more than this if a woman is overweight or obese before menopause. You can learn more about this, here).
In the early stages of peri-menopause, women may experience high oestrogen levels before they begin to drop. High oestrogen levels can promote weight gain and fat to be stored in the hips and thighs, leading to a pear-shaped body type. This fat is additionally stored as subcutaneous fat which can be hard to lose .
Using other measures such as waist and hip circumference, alongside weight, can also be useful to track beneficial changes.
Trying to lose weight gained in menopause can be hard. Coupled with changes in mood, this may provide another barrier (read more about symptoms of menopause, here).
One study identified that peri-menopause is a period in which women may experience a greater risk for low mood and depressive symptoms . This may contribute to a decreased motivation to try to lose weight gained throughout menopause.
Furthermore, another study found that women who were experiencing low mood were more likely to have concerns over body image and shape . This may explain why body changes could worsen mood and vice versa.
Nutrition for Body Image
There are a number of nutrition solutions which may aid in promoting positive body image in menopausal women. The following tips can help with weight gain and low mood symptoms:
- Plan meals – this can help you to make healthy decisions when preparing meals.
- Eat well – all adults should aim to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Control portion sizes – try measuring out your snacks, check the recommended serving sizes on everyday foods, and practice mindful eating to ensure you are eating when you are hungry, not because you are bored or for comfort.
- B vitamins – a lack of B vitamins can cause irritability, low mood, and tiredness, so ensure you are meeting recommendations.
- Folate – a lack of folate can cause increased feelings of depression, especially in older individuals, so ensure you are meeting recommendations.
- Selenium – a lack of selenium can increase the incidence of negative moods, so ensure you are meeting recommendations.
- Vitamin D – a symptom of vitamin D deficiency is depression, so ensure you are meeting recommendations, a supplement of 10 micrograms may be taken if you are at particular risk of deficiency. For more information on Vitamin D, read this blog post.
- Don’t do too much at once – make small, sustainable lifestyle changes, instead of drastic ones, to make it more likely for you to stick to the changes you have made.
Body image can be a big area of concern for women throughout menopause. However, changes to diet may assist in promoting positive body image. For example, meeting recommendations for vitamin D and folate, as well as eating a healthy balanced diet. If you would like support from a dietitian to help manage your weight and changes to your body as a result of menopause, book a FREE 15-minute introductory call so we can discuss how we can help you.
Caroline Hill is a specialist menopause dietitian supporting women making dietary change. Caroline uses her extensive knowledge, skills and expertise of food and nutrition to help women manage their symptoms and weight during menopause. Caroline believes in providing sustainable, individualised, evidence-based advice to women making dietary change.