A group of three woman walk with dumbbells in their hands outside.
“The good news is that it is possible to age with better health.” (For Spectrum Health Beat)

During your late teens and 20s, late-night pizza, cookie dough ice cream and fast food runs rarely even hit the scale.

For both women and men, however, that all changes at some point.

For women, childbirth often triggers the challenge, while men often find that desk jobs rob them of hours that used to be spent more actively. Life happens and the number on the scale slowly creeps up.

The battle can become even more complicated in the years ahead.

Spectrum Health Medical Group gynecologist Diana Bitner, MD, said that menopause can take another hit on the best of intentions.

“As women lose their natural estrogen, either from natural or surgical menopause, their bodies become much more sensitive to sugar and simple carbohydrate cravings,” Dr. Bitner said. “Any carbs in their diet get stored right at the waistline.”

Estrogen replacement can, however, cause many women to become frustrated because they start gaining weight, even though they are doing what they have always done–eating right, exercising.

“The answer is that the body needs variation, to be challenged to fight against a slowing metabolism,” she explained.

Dr. Bitner suggests we all should:

  • Maintain strength. Make the effort to maintain muscle mass with strength or resistance training, walking or taking high-energy classes like Zumba or spinning.
  • Take a look at our diet. It may be time to try a Mediterranean-style diet. Even just eating more whole grains, fresh vegetables, healthy protein and fewer processed foods can have an impact.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Too many of us are sleep-deprived, staying up too late or getting up too early to accommodate a busy schedule. Adding more sleep to our routine can help support weight loss or maintenance.

“The good news is that it is possible to age with better health,” she said. “You just need to understand what is going on with your body so you can make good decisions.”