This is the most common complaint I hear regardless of the gender and age. Unfortunately, menopause studies show that women gain more body fat around the waist, independently of their weight. This means that fat shifts from the hips to the abdominal. This is not just esthetic issue, but also a health issue—the fat located in this area is related to other health conditions.
As we age, we lose muscle mass, thus decreasing metabolism. Even though walking is an excellent cardiovascular exercise, it may not be enough to preserve the body tissue that consume the most calories even at rest: your muscles! Likewise, there is something called the general adaptation syndrome, which means the body adapts to the same stimuli over time, so don't expect different results while doing the same activity.
If you walk, raise the intensity by either increasing the time some days while on other days stay with your usual 30-minute routine, but instead do intervals—alternating periods of high intensity with low intensity for recovery. Add a couple of sessions of strength training for 25 minutes to fully activate your metabolism.
As for the diet, this is tricky. Many people underestimate the calories they consume and also overestimate how "healthy" they eat. So make sure you don't get caught in these common health traps:
- Portion savvy: Even if it's a healthy all-bran cereal, if you serve twice the portion size, you're adding too many calories regardless of its excellent nutrient content
- Beverage checking: From vitamin waters to teas to juices, you may not realize how easily you can add 200 calories from beverages to your daily intake.
- Salad fad: If your salad has a lot of cheese, croutons, creamy dressings and few colors, you’re looking at a Big Mac in a bowl. The wrong salads can be a diet disaster.
- Protein turn: You may have plenty of whole grain carbohydrates in your diet—oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, and other grains and fruits—but are you eating protein at each meal?
- Fat detach: The one ingredient people avoid when eating healthy is fat. You should avoid saturated and trans fat, but if you want to lose weight and keep it up, studies show that people who have more mono-saturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids in their diets do the best. Include in your diet nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios), seeds (flaxseeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds), olive oil, avocado, and salmon.
- Nutritional content review: Studies show people eat more when they see a package stamped "natural" and/or "organic." They may be healthy, but that does not mean they are calorie free. Read the labels and check the first ingredient, which should be whole grain and/all whole wheat. Also, understand serving sizes—for instance, a product may have 200 calories per serving, but offer three servings.
- Zzzz: Studies confirm that people who sleep less than 6-7 hours a night, put their appetite hormones out of whack. You can expect to be hunger by the end of the day and eat around 300 extra calories from snacking or overeating at dinner.
- Stress Less: Chronic stress alters many metabolic functions, especially cortisol (the stress hormone), which stimulates fat production around the waist, while ripping out the muscles. Practice meditation or body-mind exercises, such as yoga or tai chi. Or just go for a 5-minute walk and focus on your breathing. This will reset your body and mind.