Menopause Weight Gain and Hormones

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Menopause Weight Gain and Hormones

How menopause hormones contribute towards the seemingly inevitable menopausal weight gain

One of the most common questions I get asked as a nutritionist specialising in menopause hormones, is “Why am I gaining weight during menopause that I can’t lose whatever I seem to do”?

This weight gain is evident especially around the stomach area, and many women will add an extra ten to fifteen pounds as they go through the menopause years even if there has been no change to either their diet or exercise regime. It can be so very frustrating!

And with metabolism decreasing by 5% per decade during menopause, so it’s no surprise that so many women find it so easy to put on the weight, yet so much harder to lose.

You don’t have to let that happen of course, a simple menopause nutrition plan and lifestyle changes  can break the trend and will help you achieve an appropriate amount of weight loss that won’t cause stress and distress to your body. You’ll then gain a healthy, lean and strong vibrant body and mind from peri-menopause through to post-menopause.

How Hormonal Imbalance Contributes Towards Weight Gain Through The Menopause Years.

Blame the hormones! We’ve blamed the hormones for many ills over the years, and it’s totally justified to continue doing so. The hormones oestrogen, insulin and leptin are the main culprits, this is how they contribute towards the menopause weight gain.

Oestrogen: Oestrogen is the name of a group of hormones that we produce in the ovaries. These hormones are oestrodial which are the strongest and the main source of oestrogen until the menopause years; oestrone which is less potent and finally oestriol which is weak and you have in abundance particularly in pregnancy.

So you now know oestradiol is the primary source of oestrogen until menopause, then what happens?

The body switches to oestrone as its source and oestrone is produced in the adrenal glands and your FAT cells.

Here’s what happens:

  1. As oestradiol levels fall and your body continues to require oestrogen, it will produce additional fat cells to produce more oestrone to supply the oestrogen.
  2. Excess oestrogen increases body fat.
  3. Fat tissue produces and stores more oestrogen.
  4. The oestrogen in turn, causes the body to increase fat tissue, fat tissue produces more oestrogen, oestrogen continues to produce fat tissue, and on and on the cycle goes! This can create oestrogen dominance.
  5. To add further insult to injury, oestrogen dominance also renders your body unable to use fat stores for energy. So, no matter how much you exercise, or how little you eat, the fat will not go away. Furthermore, unmitigated oestrogen also impacts how your body distributes the fat. For women, it stores around the abdomen, hips, waist, and thighs.
  6. Your body is so desperate to hang on to this fat it will even break down protein tissue i.e.muscle rather than use its fat for energy! Have you noticed your muscle tone decreasing? Are you becoming weaker as you get older?

So when you hit menopause there’s almost an inevitability that you’ll gain fat. Sadly you are fighting against your body’s own physiology when you try to lose this fat

Insulin: The hormone insulin also rises when oestrone rises. Too much insulin in the system leads to insulin sensitivity and potentially type 2 diabetes and all the associated health risks. Insulin resistance means your body cannot deal with excess sugars in your blood (carbohydrates) and the body will store these excess sugars as fat. The more fat you have, the more oestrone you produce, and so the vicious fat/weight gain cycle continues.

Leptin: Ever wondered why going on a diet, reducing calories, can lead to weight gain? Blame Leptin! Leptin is a powerful hormone released from your fat cells. It communicates directly with the hypothalamus gland in the brain and its purpose is to let the brain know if it needs to ‘rev’ the body up or turn it down. The brain responds to a strong leptin message at times of feast and abundance, by turning down your appetite and turning up your thyroid function. This results in a reduced drive to eat and a feeling of satisfaction following a meal, plus higher energy levels so you can go out and hunt hairy mammoth. Dieting weakens the leptin message and your brain down regulates thyroid function and increases your appetite so you feel like eating more while feeling less inclined to exercise.

Plus food actually tastes more appealing, rendering willpower useless!

Stress: To add further to the problem you need to consider what causes stress to the body. Your body perceives any stress on the body as a stressor, not just the ‘I feel stressed at work’ stress. For example, your body sees the reaction caused by irritants to the body, like processed food, cosmetics, toiletries, as a stress. Any stress causes cortisol (a stress hormone) to rise and high cortisol levels will also add to the fat bank, not helped by the fact that raised cortisol has an effect on appetite and cravings for high calorie foods.

Cortisol also increases the activity of an enzyme called aromatase causing the body to convert male hormones into oestrogen, which further encourages fat gain around the middle. (Have you noticed how men hold their fat out front?)

All in all it can feel like fighting a losing battle. Very frustrating and stressful!

(A definite argument to justify a visit to a spa or a retreat and have some ‘me time’ luxuriating in beautiful natural products).

How To Re-balance Hormones To Lose Weight Through Menopause.

All is not lost!

  • Support your body by making positive change to lifestyle, nutrition and exercise. It doesn’t have to be complicated, even the simplest of changes can have a big impact.
  • Initially aim to remove all processed foods, dairy, alcohol, sugar and wheat. This may sound extreme but you need to ‘re-boot’ your system. All these banned foods play havoc with your hormonal system and need to be eliminated for 30 days before you can systematically re-introduce some foods.
  • Ensure that pre and probiotics are included in the diet. They both help you maintain optimal digestive health, and along with fibre, should help to lower the amount of oestrogen reabsorbed back into your bloodstream, which may to help regulate oestrogen levels. Sources of prebiotics: asparagus, jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, dried beans and peas. Sources of probiotics: yogurt and kefir.
  • Reduce exposure to xenoestrogens. (foreign oestrogens which pass into our environment through pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, plastics, fuels, car exhausts, dry cleaning chemicals, industrial waste, meat from animals which have been fattened with oestrogenic drugs, and countless other household and personal products which many of us use every day.
    • Thoroughly peel and wash all fruit and vegetables to remove at least some of the pesticides. Eat organic if possible.
    • Eat only lean organic or grass-fed meat and dairy products, non-farmed fish.
    • Drink filtered water
    • Drink from glass or non-BPA containers only. Never plastic bottles!
    • Avoid heating plastic containers in the microwave. In fact, throw out the microwave!
    • Wear plastic gloves when using household chemicals
  • Identify and where possible address issues that are causing you stress. Take time out for yourself to relax body and mind.
  • Get moving and exercise, this will help lift your mood and make you feel so much better. What worked for you in the past is probably not working for you now, so review what you are doing and make sure you enjoy your exercise.
  • Weight bearing exercise is important for bone strength and aerobic exercise will keep you cardiovascular system healthy. Add some resistance type training to your exercise plan. This will stop any muscle from being lost and will help keep your figure toned. The more toned muscle mass you have the higher your metabolism will run.

Achieving & Maintaining Your Ideal Weight And Maximum Health Through Menopause

In addition to the above, you should always:

  1. Set yourself realistic goals
  2. Create a wellness vision
  3. Be mindful of your feelings of hunger and fullness to ensure you only eat the amount the body requires
  4. View food as food that nurtures every one of your 75 trillions cells, not ‘good’ or ‘bad’
  5. Eat a simple, healthy breakfast to jump start your metabolism
  6. Continually remind yourself of your goals
  7. Stay on track by monitoring your progress
  8. Ask for help if you need it
  9. Experiment! There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer for all post menopause weight and health issues. Remember, you are unique!
  10. Prepare yourself to succeed by looking to the future, planning healthy meals, scheduling exercise
  11. Accept this journey is a marathon, not a sprint
  12. Make your health your number one priority. This is your time to maximise your health potential for the next 30 years or more of your life!

So much information! So much to do!

I know! Just do your best to find what works for you.

Living in a modern society is a double-edged sword. You have all of the comfort and convenience of technology and advancements. But the downside is that you are also exposed to contaminants and invisible poisons, which not only make you sick, but can make you fat as well. It can be incredibly overwhelming and confusing trying to do all of the things you are told to do to stay healthy.

Sometimes, “one small step for (wo)man” is the best you can do, and those steps may never rise to the level of “one giant leap for (wo)mankind.” And that’s absolutely fine.

At YourNewLifePlan I provide the strategies and tools to help you on your personal journey, I know and love the fact that you are unique!

A full hysterectomy in her 30’s led nutritional therapist and health coach Clare on an amazing adventure exploring the many opportunities available to manage her enforced menopause and create long-term health.

Clare prefers the natural approach, and qualifying in nutritional therapy gave her the confidence to come off HRT, take back control of her life and health, and look forward to living the best half of her life free of prescription drugs. Understanding the importance of creating harmony of health of both body and mind through menopause and beyond, she’s now on a mission to inspire, educate and empower other women, too.

Click HERE to find out more about how Clare shares her years of exploring, experience and knowledge through 1:1 consultations and online programmes, and where you can request a FREE 30 minute consultation with Clare to discuss any personal menopause/health concerns you may have.

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