How many of us look at ourselves in the mirror and wonder how our body has changed over time?
Ever felt bad for the flattened curves, the stubborn belly pooch, flabby arms, or double chin and sighed thinking of your body in your teens and 20s?
Has there been (several) frustrating moment(s) in your weight loss journey when the number on your scale just wouldn’t budge despite all your efforts?
We are all critical of our looks, and weight, right? Adding fuel to the fire are those unwarranted comments from people you meet after years (to think
of it, it is mostly women!).
But, is body weight the true indicator of our health? What defines a healthy body in midlife?
Weight gain during the menopausal transition
Perimenopause is a life stage involving major metabolic changes as a cascading consequence of declining reproductive hormones.
Some of the major changes that occur with aging women approaching menopause include fat metabolism and insulin/ energy metabolism due to the dip/fluctuations in estrogen production. Menopausal symptoms, especially sleep disturbances, mood changes and night sweats, put the body under additional stress due to inadequate rest, increasing the secretion of the stress hormone, cortisol.
These lead to disproportionate fat deposition in the midsection and excessive hunger, eventually pushing the person into a vicious cycle of overeating yet fatigued. The outcomes of these changes like high blood pressure and insulin resistance also elevate the risk of metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes and hypertension in the post-menopausal population.
Awareness in this regard is critical for one to be more accepting of this bodily change and focus on the other aspects of wellness (not just the number on the weighing scale), i.e. toning the muscles, improving energy levels and mood, getting rid of aches/pains and switching to healthy eating.
If you are someone struggling with sudden weight gain or body image issues in midlife, you probably need to rethink your priorities for healthy aging.
Know your health metrics
Body mass index (BMI; kg/sq.m)
Hip-to-height or waist-to-height ratio
Body composition analysis
Absolute weight is definitely not a great metric to be concerned about since there is no evident correlation between weight loss and health outcomes. BMI is also only just a substitute parameter for body weight as it measures the weight adjusted to a person's height. While it can serve as an initial indicator of obesity, it is only a measure of body weight and not really a measure of body fat, as it is popularly thought of.
However, the ratios of the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) and waist- or hip-to-height ratios are considered more meaningful measures in recent times. Research has shown that the waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) is a better indicator of cardiometabolic risk than BMI or WHR. Similarly, WHR is believed to be a significant predictor of mortality in women with heart failure.
Body composition analysis is a comprehensive test to evaluate the water content, fat mass, body mass and bone density in the body. The weighing scales (bioimpedance) with electric plates send short electric pulses and measure their time of return, eventually measuring the bone and fat content as they are poor conductors (provide resistance) of electricity. Dual-energy X-ray absorption (DEXA) is primarily prescribed for bone density measurements, but can also read lean muscle mass and fat mass.
Body fat composition is what one should be really concerned about, in terms of healthy aging.
Fat content can be measured in a few different ways. The simplest of these is the skinfold measurement by using body fat calipers. However, ultrasound, bioimpedance scales, underwater weighing and DEXA scan are more reliable, while the last two methods are considered the gold standards.
We hope we have convinced you that the number on your weighing scale is not your ultimate goal.
Multiple research studies have iterated that some individuals who are categorized as obese based on body weight (and associated metrics) have lower cardiovascular risk and an improved metabolic profile, while a subset of “normal-BMI” people are metabolically unhealthy and have increased mortality risk.
Our customized wellness programs focus on holistic wellness and address the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of the menopausal transition. You can reach out to us for a FREE health assessment.
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