As if the hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats and the decrease in libido aren’t bad enough, in most cases you can also add menopausal weight gain to the list. Women tend to gain anywhere from 2-10kgs during and after menopause.Interestingly scientific studies don’t show a definite or statistically significant link between the menopause itself and weight gain, but we know that this struggle is real!!
Our shift in hormones around the menopause as we have said earlier affect the way we store fat around the middle rather than on the hips. This makes us more of an apple than a pear shape. The problem with this shift in fat distribution is that fat around the middle is associated with an increased risk in developing serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease. The good news is that it IS POSSIBLE to lose this weight and keep it off.
What causes Menopausal Weight Gain
As we age our energy requirements naturally change. Our body needs less energy than when we were kids or teenagers, pregnant, breast-feeding or running around after young children. Studies show that we should consume about 200kcals less a day. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it all adds up, hence why menopausal weight gain tends to be slow and steady!
As we get older, our joints become a bit stiffer and what’s worse is that our muscle mass decreases at approximately 8% to 10% per decade after we hit 40 years old. Muscle is more metabolically active, meaning it burns more energy so naturally the less muscle we have, the less energy we will be burning.
One area that is being researched at the moment is that lower levels of brown fat, which is known as the ‘fat burning’ fat, may contribute to our middle-age spread.
Our body gradually decreases production of our reproductive hormonesnamely oestrogen, progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone.When the ovaries start to slow down and finally stop producing oestrogen, our main source is via our fat cells.Our ovaries produce oestradiol, a stronger oestrogen, whereas fat cells produce estrone, which is a weak and not as efficient in comparison. This hormonal change increases the body's efficiency at depositing fat, especially, we find, around the abdomen.The gradual reduction of oestrogen leads to a shift of fat to our midsection.
Night sweats and palpitation due to the hormonal shift also affect our sleep. When you don’t sleep well our levels of ghrelin, known as the "hunger hormone," rise and levels of the "fullness hormone" leptin drop. When you are tired and low in energy you are less likely to make the best food choices or exercise.
We are all permanently stressed whether it be about work, kids, health, or relationships. When we are stressed, we aren’t going to lose weight. Stress primes our body to store fat around our middle so that the energy can be utilised as fuel by the liver to deal with the stress whether it be emotional, mental or physical.
How you can beat the menopause weight gain
Get portion size savvy. Most of us are eating more than we need. Check out our handy portion guide HERE
Stabilise your blood sugar levels by eating regular meals and no snacks. If your blood sugar is constantly fluctuating this will make this job much harder for your adrenal glands placing more stress on the body. Include complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, brown rice, quinoa, oats, whole meal bread teamed with some protein.Reduce the intake of sugar and processed foods which are the biggest enemies of weight-loss and more likely to increase abdominal fat.
Boost essential fats. These are precursors to natural hormones but are also beneficial for the menopausal transition such as painful joints, sluggish metabolism, vaginal dryness and high cholesterol. The best sources are oily fish and nuts and seeds.
Regularly eat phytoestrogens. These not reduce menopausal symptoms but balance hormones by stimulating certain oestrogen receptors in our body and blocking others. The most researched sources are soya (go for miso and tofu). Legumes are also a good source that are easy to incorporate are chickpeas (hummus), lentils, kidney beans. Flaxseeds are also useful phytoestrogen whilst also containing essential fatty
Boost natural fibre. This will help with satiety and cravings. It is particularly important as a detoxifier, helping you to eliminate old oestrogen and other waste products. The easiest way to do this is to increase your consumption of vegetables, fruit and wholegrains.
Keep Hydrated. Water helps to regulate your body temperature so is important in hot flushes and night sweats. It also plays a crucial role in delivering key nutrients and eliminating waste products.
Keep active. The more we exercise the more we strengthen our muscles, bones and increase our proprioception –nerve-related protection around our joints which protect us from the risk of hip and other fractures. These are common in older women due to bone-thinning, muscle weakening, and joint instability and we need to do all we can to reduce that risk.
Stress Away. Address those areas that are causing you anxiety and stress, as cortisol, the stress hormone, encourages abdominal fat deposition.
Seek expert advice. The Nourished Tribe specialise in weight loss. We can give you personalised and tailored support and guidance so you can sail through the menopause and beyond. Contact us HERE.