Updated: Aug 14, 2019
Peri Menopause (not to be confused with Peri-Peri Menopause - Hormonal changes in chickens) and Menopause can be a time of real anxiety for women. Whilst it's a completely natural transition signalling the end of one era and the beginning of another exciting one, this time (which can often last a decade), can lead to many symptoms which have a major impact women and their daily lives.
Weight gain in particular is a common concern and with an increase in hormone imbalance, maintaining a healthy weight can become increasingly difficult.
Frequently my clients come to me confused as to why they have started to gain weight without changing their diet. They express frustration, especially when the weight loss tricks they used to use to get themselves beach body ready or drop a dress size for Christmas, don't seem to work anymore as they struggle to shift the unwelcome pounds that are slowing creeping on.
Meno-PAUSE doesn't mean you can't press PLAY on this new chapter of your life. There are genuine reasons as to why women gain unwanted belly fat. It’s not entirely your fault!
Your hormones are literally fighting you on this and it's an ongoing battle to stay on the winning side. Firstly, your body is under pressure to achieve hormonal balance with changing oestrogen, testosterone (yes women have this too) and progesterone levels. This can impact where your body stores fat. Low oestrogen levels tells your body to store fat on your belly rather than other areas. Secondly, during all these hormonal changes, your emotions are heavily affected. Stress, anxiety and worry are all common place during this time and with this, your stress hormone Cortisol will shoot through the roof. This again increases your chances of storing further fat.
To compound matters even further, it's highly likely that you will feel exhausted due to restless nights caused by hot flushes and night sweats which again are all natural symptoms of the massive hormonal change. This in turn leads to poor nutrition choices as your body will be craving sugary foods due to your feelings of exhaustion and metabolic changes.
Aside from cosmetic reasons for wanting to stay in shape and weight loss, excess weight gain increases your risk of developing certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. It’s therefore important to try to manage your weight to ensure optimal health and encourage disease prevention. Nutrition to help you with this challenging time.
In most cases for healthy, sustainable weight loss, you need to create a healthy deficit between calories ingested and calories burned. The most effective way is to ingest your BMR amount of calories and cause a deficit via exercise. Regardless of whether weight loss is your aim, during the menopause, natural, nutrient-dense foods should be the basis for all meals and snacks which will help manage your weight and also help manage the challenging symptoms that many women experience.
Reduce sugar and refined carb intake - the more sugar you eat, the more insulin your body will produce knocking your hormones off balance and making your symptoms more intense.
Introduce Phytoestrogens - These are compounds that naturally occur in plants such as oats, barleys, beans, lentils and rice. Broccoli is a powerhouse so learn to love it!
Reduce your alcohol intake - Your liver metabolises excess oestrogen and needs to be working optimally to ensure waste is removed and that unwanted extra hormones are not freely circulating in the body wreaking havoc. Also many women find that alcohol makes their symptoms, particular night sweats and hot flushes worse. It will also help reduce adding extra weight during this time.
Embrace good fats - they are your friends not the enemy! Omega 3’s are found in all oily fish. Good plant options include; some oils including flax, walnut, soya, pumpkin - nuts, especially walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts - seeds, especially flax (linseed), pumpkin, chia and hemp seeds and soya beans and soya products such as tofu. Leafy greens - we all know we should eat more of these as nutrient superheroes but they are also ideal for balancing hormones as they contain many antioxidants, which also prevent inflammation and lower stress which can help improve cortisol levels
Flaxseeds - a powerful omega three plant based fatty acid - add into cereals, oats, salads, smoothies for an extra fibre bonus .
There are additional aspects of the diet that are especially important, in order to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis and to help with day-to-day menopausal symptoms associated with lower levels of oestrogen.
Vitamin D - Research is discovering its role in the prevention of many diseases and conditions that are more common as you age. It’s well known that Vitamin D as a helper for absorbing calcium and building bones so helping in the prevention of osteoporosis, but it is involved in many other processes that protect women from disease and other health problems It’s hard to obtain the recommended amounts of Vitamin D from your diet and deficiency is common place in the UK. Talk to your GP about getting your levels tested and ask for information about supplements particularly in the Winter months when our levels our naturally lower.
Calcium - From the age of about 35, there is a slow loss of calcium from the bone in women (and men). During the menopause, this calcium loss increases because of the loss of oestrogen. In time, the bones can become weak and break easily.
Working synergistically with Vitamin D, Calcium is another essential nutrient for bone health. Try to aim for 3 portions of calcium-rich foods every day which can include: a third of a pint/ 200ml semi skimmed milk, a matchbox sized slice of cheese or a yoghurt. Don’t go for low fat options!
Best Exercise Activities for the Menopause
Many people experience decreases in muscle mass and tone as they become more mature, and a loss of muscle tone can cause an increase in body fat. Exercise is a key way to build muscle and prevent age-related muscle-dystrophy.
sWeight bearing exercises, such as brisk walking, tennis, running, dancing or climbing stairs, and resistant exercises, such as press-ups and using weights, are particularly good for your bones and the prevention of osteoporosis.
HiiT that ShiiT - cardio is important for heart health and great for women in menopause. Studies have shown that it can reduce belly fat while preserving muscle during weight loss
Although the thought of menopause and this phase of your life may be very scary and the cause of a lot of sleepless nights before you experience any of the symptoms, remember that this is completely natural and nothing to be ashamed about. If you're worried about this, talk to your friends, family or GP. Remember, you are never alone and if you need help, just ask.
For your free Happy Hormone Training consultation or free 30min Happy Hormone Nutrition consultation, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will happily book you in.