As I have said many times in my posts "losing menopause weight is different now your in your 40's and 50's. It's no longer about eating lettuce and cottage cheese after sweating your body weight at the local gym like you did in your 20's and 30's. So what are the reasons why you can't lose menopause weight when you're in midlife?
Why Can't I Lose My Menopause Belly Fat? I've Tried Everything.
You're in perimenopause or you're out the other side and in post menopause and you tell anyone who'll listen that you're still eating all the same healthy food as you always have. You exercise, you're active and don't drink much but try as you might you just can't shift those menopause kilos that cling on around your belly.
After reading this blog post you'll know 5 lesser known reasons why weight can be difficult to shift after menopause and more importantly what you can do to counteract them.
An Estrogen Imbalance
Whether it be too much estrogen or too little, both conditions can lead to weight gain for differing reasons.
Estrogen dominance and estrogen deficiency are two issues that many women deal with. If you struggle with weight around your middle either one of these conditions could be at fault.
Estrogen dominance happens when there is excess estrogen in the body in relation to progesterone. Some of the symptoms include:
- breast tenderness
- breast cancer,
- thyroid dysfunction
- weight gain
Reasons for estrogen dominance can be high-stress, poor diet and constipation. Studies show that 50% of women over 35 are estrogen dominant.
Estrogen deficiency on the other hand, is more likely to occur in menopause and perimenopause. Symptoms include:
- hot flashes
- night sweats
- mood swings
- weight gain
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Most women will suffer from one or more of these symptoms in their life time.
To bring about the best conditions for weight loss it is important to bring your hormones back into balance.
What to do:
- Include flax meal in your diet - I add flax meal to my muesli and often use it to thicken stews.
- Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables - these include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts. These are such versatile vegetables. Cauliflower steak parmigiana is delicious as are roasted brussel sprouts.
- Eat a nutritious whole foods diet full of fresh vegetables with plenty of fibre a moderate amount of good protein and good fats.
- Exercise regularly especially resistance training.
- Be kind to your liver which is the body's filter of harmful toxins. Too much caffeine, alcohol and environmental toxins can overload it and detract from its efficiency.
- Keep stress to a minimum. Practice forms of mindfulness to help with this.
Poor Gut Health
Estrogen is a potent anti-inflammatory hormone and its decline through perimenopause and menopause starts the process of inflammation within your body.
That inflammation can upset your metabolism and digestion and so increase the likelihood of weight gain especially around your belly.
To help counteract this undesirable outcome it is important to make sure your gut has exactly what it needs to keep its biome healthy, so your digestion and metabolism can work at optimum level.
What to do:
- Eat gut loving foods like fresh veg, healthy oils, nuts and seeds
- Avoid inflammatory foods such as processed foods and vegetable oils and trans fats
- Avoid added sugar in all forms
- Limit alcohol
- Avoid wheat and wheat products
- Avoid high carbohydrate foods including white rice and potatoes
- Take a Turmeric(Curcumin) supplement. A powerful nutritional supplement that can help with joint pain. This one is particularly good.
- Drink plenty of water
Poor Sleep Can Cause Weight Gain
When estrogen levels are normal you can enjoy good moods, good skin, a clear mind and good sleep.
When they are low you can suffer from anxiety, depression, fatigue, fogginess, headaches and poor sleep. In menopause hot flushes and night sweats can make it even harder for you to sleep.
Anxiety can contribute to having difficulty falling asleep and depression can lead to a restless night.
The sleep deprivation you may experience in menopause can cause lowered insulin sensitivity which highly increases the risk of weight gain. It can also affect the balance of your hunger and satiety hormones.
When Ghrelin (hunger hormone) goes up and Leptin (satiety hormone) goes down you're on a one way train to cravingsville and the only things that will satisfy your needs are so, so bad for you. Fatty, stodgy or sugary foods which only serve to make your issues worse. I'm looking at you, 'hot chips covered in gravy' and 'Snickers bar'!
What to do:
High stress restricts the ability to lose weight in menopause
It may seem that from the outside looking in what on earth do people, especially women have to worry about once they hit 50. Generally they may have: the kids off their hands, a good job, a decent roof over their heads and their financial standing is sorted.
In reality, that is not the case for many. Women over 50 are more likely to:
- have ageing parents to worry about
- have teenagers still at home and all the worry that can go with that
- struggle with being heard or seen
- lack confidence due to aging and weight gain
- and they may have money issues
Continual high stress raises the levels of the stress hormone cortisol which quickens your heart rate and breathing. This also sends glucose and protein stores from your liver into the blood to make energy immediately available to your muscles in case you need to make a run for it.
Cortisol also causes fat to move from various deposits around the body to your belly, also known as visceral fat cells. The more stress you're under the more cortisol you have running around your body and the more abdominal fat your likely to accumulate.
Cortisol also makes the production of insulin by the pancreas more difficult. The pancreas responds to high blood sugar levels by stepping up the production of insulin eventually struggling to keep up.
When this happens the insulin response becomes weaker and blood sugar rises unchecked with the very real likelyhood of issues like diabetes occuring.
What to do:
- Learn to say "no" a little more. You don't have to do ALL the things.
- Practice mindfulness in all its forms: meditation, journaling, breathing techniques, more you time, stepping away from social media, yoga and massages. Even just a pedicure can lower your stress levels.
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A slower metabolism
As mentioned already, lower estrogen levels in menopause can lower your metabolic rate which means that your body is a little slower at converting stored energy into usable energy for your muscles.
Reducing muscle mass which is a factor of age can also slow down your metabolism making you more susceptible to weight gain.
During exercise the rate at which your body uses energy declines with age.
What to do:
- Strength training builds muscle mass and improves metabolism. There is also the added benefit of maintaining bone mass. Try for two or three times a week. Strength training includes using weights, dumbbells, resistance bands, and body weight as in yoga,
- Low-impact aerobics such as walking, especially uphill, is such an easy way to work your muscles and increase your heart rate. Other examples of aerobic exercise include swimming, cycling, and dance. Try for at least 30 minutes a day for at least 5 days a week.
- Whenever you can move. Walk, run on the spot while the jug is boiling, do a couple of downward dogs whatever you can fit in whenever you can fit it in.
If you need to shed some weight around your belly consider that it is not necessarily dieting that will help you lose it. It is a holistic approach to losing the weight that will work.
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