Menopause weight gain.
Damn menopause!!! If you’ve entered this stage in your life, you’ve probably wondered why it doesn’t seem all that simple any more.
If you have never had an issue with your weight before and now all of a sudden you seem to be packing on the pounds…………..well welcome to MENOPAUSE!!!
The female hormones estrogen and progesterone have a major impact on keeping women lean, healthy and fit. They greatly impact menopause weight gain.
But don’t get discouraged! There are reasons for this!!!
During the menopausal transition, estrogen and progesterone dramatically fluctuate before finally dropping to lower levels. For many women, this causes weight gain and a shift in fat storage to the middle of the body. Thus, the menopause belly.
So before we can get to how we can lose weight during this time of life, we need to first understand why we gain weight during menopause.
Hormones are partly to blame
Prior to menopause, women have protection from their hormones when it comes to belly fat, but after menopause you don’t.
Hormone replacements, could likely help. But, physicians are unlikely to give you a prescription for hormone replacement just for weight loss.
Lower activity levels
if you are like me. Your activity levels are likely to go down as you reach menopause. I am not playing ball any more. We are busy at work. We are just not as active.
Lower activity means you are burning fewer calories and not maintaining muscle so body fat levels are likely to change.
It is important to get out there and do something!!!! Join a walking group. Take golf lessons. Take tennis lessons. Walk the dog. Start taking the stairs at work. Anything to get you up and moving more. i bought a fitness tracker and really try to get my 10000 steps a day. Sometimes it means running up and down the stairs a few times a day if I am busy in front o f the computer for most of it.
Stress levels can be high during menopause. Aside from the changes that menopause brings, we often have other changes in our lives at this time. Kids are leaving. Our marriages might be changing with the empty nest syndrome. We are also more likely to suffer from anxiety during this time with the way our bodies are changing. This compounds the problem.
With stress comes elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. With elevated cortisol levels the body tends to maintain a higher level of belly fat. This does seem to be dependent on how you deal with stress. If you don’t deal with stress well it can lead to poorer eating habits, which leads to more belly fat.
Try to keep stress levels in check with daily physical activity. Try meditation. There are several free pas you can download on your smart phone. I know it helps me!!
Eating too much sugar has been shown to increase belly fat. Too much sugar increases insulin levels which can cause any excess calories to be stored as fat. Sugar also increases inflammation which can lead to excess belly fat.
Foods that are high in sugar may not be as satisfying as healthier foods so may eat more and eat more quickly.
Try to eat more whole and unprocessed foods to limit the amount of sugar in your diet. Keep an eye on your use of sauces, ketchup, breads. Sugar can be found in many things we wouldn’t normally think.
Bloating can be caused by a multitude of things. Eating meals that are high in salt or simple carbohydrates can you to retain water and feel bloated.
Food sensitivities to dairy, gluten or some vegetables can make you feel bloated.
It helps to write things down. I know I harp on this a lot throughout my blog. Here it is important to track what you are eating. This makes it easier to determine what foods are causing you to bloat.
Lack of sleep
Here we go!!! Night sweats, anxiety and the ever present menopausal mood swings can all contribute to sleepless nights during menopause. Unfortunately lack of sleep is also associated with more belly fat. The fat cells in your body do not respond properly to insulin when we don’t get enough sleep. We also tend to eat more when we don’t get enough sleep. It is a vicious cycle.
Try melatonin, sleeping in a cooler room, watch how late in the day you drink your coffee. I like Deepak Chopra’s meditation before bed. It calms and soothes me.
So Let’s Break It Down More
Menopause is characterized by a slow decline of progesterone first and then estrogen.
As progesterone and estrogen continue to decline throughout menopause, these changes create three major factors that cause women to gain weight.
Increased stress hormones.
So here it is. When our estrogen and progesterone levels dwindle, our bodies become more reactive to stress. Both progesterone and estrogen are hormones that have a role in slowing the negative effects of cortisol (a stress hormone). When they begin to decline, the body stores more mid-section fat. Additionally, studies show that cortisol hormones also rise during menopause. Which can contribute further to weight gain around the middle. WE just can’t win!!!
Decreased carbohydrate tolerance.
As estrogen production decreases, women’s bodies naturally become more sensitive to the fat-storing impact of carbohydrates. This is so true for me!! Lack of estrogen helps along some of the fat-storing properties of the hormone insulin. More insulin is released in response to higher carb meals. I have taken on a low carb nutrition outlook and it has helped immensely. Carbs are just not my friend right now.
The combination of the increased stress hormones, decreased carbohydrate tolerance and increased cravings means that women in menopause often gain more weight. Even if they have never had a problem with their weight before menopause.
SO WHAT THE HELL CAN I DO?
First: We need to balance stress hormones.
Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep signals your body to release cortisol. The first and most important thing to help balance cortisol is to get enough sleep. Make rest and recovery a priority.
Exercise. Get moving!! Daily walks. Join a gym. For optimal hormonal balance, your workouts should be short-duration, high-intensity workouts. Seriously. Run up and down the stairs a few times a day. It helps.
Stress-reducing activities. When possible, lower cortisol levels by doing restorative activities like leisurely walking. Meditate.
There are a ton of herbal remedies out there proven to help with stress. Talk with your pharmacist. They can suggest what herbs might be of help to you.
Watch your caffeine. If you believe you have issues with high cortisol levels, pay close attention to your caffeine intake. Even 200 mg of caffeine (one 12 oz cup of coffee) can increase blood cortisol levels by 30% in one hour. Remember, the problem is not the initial spike in cortisol, rather elevated levels over time. Consider limiting caffeine to the morning hours. You may need to cut out caffeine completely for a few weeks to monitor your body’s response.
Cut Back On Your Carbohydrate Intake. Start with your nutrition!!!
Keep the majority of your eating to vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein.
These will keep you feeling fuller longer and help to balance blood sugar. The worst thing a menopausal woman can do is to fill up on starch and fat.
Protein helps speed up your metabolism and balances your blood sugar levels. Thus preventing insulin spikes which can cause weight gain around the middle. Protein is made up of amino acids that your body needs. It is the key to burning belly fat and increasing your metabolism. Aim to get 0.8 to 1g of protein per pound of lean body weight.
Soluble fiber helps to slow your body’s breakdown of carbohydrates and the absorption of sugar. This helps with blood sugar control by balancing insulin levels. In turn, fiber reduces cravings and also aids in balancing hunger and energy. Menopausal women should focus on a fiber-rich diet and aim for a minimum of 25g of fiber daily. (Read more about the benefits of fiber here.)
Branched chain amino acids supplements also help to balance brain chemistry. BCAAs are precursors to our brain’s stimulating chemical, glutamate, as well as our brain’s primary relaxing chemical. Taking these daily can help to balance out the brain chemistry and keep off the cravings.
Serotonin. The “happy hormone.” It’s a relaxing chemical in the brain that impacts mood as well as cravings. There are plenty of ways to raise serotonin naturally through a healthy diet, plenty of sleep and the right types of exercise. Cocoa powder also boosts serotonin levels substantially, so that;’s where our need and desire for chocolate comes in!!!
As you journey through this tumultuous time in your life, know that menopause weight loss is possible! With focus and determination, you can get it done!!!
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