You have likely been told that weight gain around menopause is because your metabolism is slowing down. Research shows your basal metabolic rate decreases about one to two percent per decade after your twenties. So permanent weight gain can begin early and continue beyond midlife – if you don’t know how to prevent it. Additionally, menopause is associated with body composition changes, including less muscle mass and more abdominal fat. Muscle burns more energy than fat, so this is also a set-up for weight gain.
Perimenopausal or menopausal women often feel unhappy and frustrated that they can’t lose weight in the ways they used to. Switching to a clean, anti-inflammatory diet is helpful, yet it may not be enough to get them to their weight loss goal. Frustrating! But I firmly believe that no woman should be told “that’s just the way it is” or, “you’re older; that’s what happens.” NO. I reject that. While there is nothing one can do to avoid getting older, there is a lot of evidence-based science that shows you can do a lot to keep your metabolism humming at any age.
While your metabolism does slow as you grow older, it’s usually your daily habits that drain your metabolism to the point that you gain weight.
Here are the major areas to concentrate on to see results:
Changes in progesterone and testosterone contribute to both peri and post-menopausal weight gain.
Estrogen is crucial for day-to-day functioning. The problem is when we make too much or too little, or it fluctuates. Perimenopausal women will most likely be estrogen dominant before they hit menopause and estrogen plummets. Estrogen dominance is essentially too much estrogen. No set number indicates estrogen dominance. It’s the amount of estrogen you have relative to your other sex hormones. A side effect can be weight gain, especially in hips, thighs, and breasts.
Studies show that women in menopause who take estrogen therapy tend to have less abdominal fat than women who do not. For some women, supplementing with bioidentical progesterone and/or testosterone is enough to avoid midlife weight gain and even lose weight after menopause. For others, just using natural supplements containing plant hormones (phytoestrogens) will do the trick.
Work with a hormone specialist. Discuss your options for bringing those beautiful sex hormones back in sync. If that isn’t the route you want to take, you can search for my blogs on #estrogendominance and #lowestrogen and #progesterone for nutritional hormone tips. Cruciferous veggies (kale, cabbage, broccoli) are lovely for your estrogen health, as is taking a DIM supplement. Progesterone can be increased with vitamin C and certain herbs. Diet goes a long way toward improving hormone balance.
Thyroid disorders are often diagnosed around the time of menopause or between the ages of 45 and 55. Many women pass off their thyroid issues for menopause because the symptoms are similar, and it seems like they’re at the right age. Do not assume this. Wonky thyroids are very common. Your thyroid is the master of your metabolism, producing T4 and T3 hormones to increase metabolism. When your thyroid underperforms, that can slow your metabolism. Getting a full thyroid panel done can give a good overall picture of your total thyroid health. The labs I advise people to ask for to help pinpoint thyroid issues are thyroid peroxidase antibodies, thyroglobulin antibodies, TSH, free T4, free T3, and reverse T3.
Women naturally start to lose muscle mass after menopause unless they take steps to reverse it. If you decrease muscle mass, you burn fewer calories at rest. Building muscle will increase your basal metabolic rate. Building muscle can help you burn more calories, which can help with weight control. Women need to use weights. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective for burning fat and building muscle than low-intensity, steady-state (LISS) cardio. An easy way to incorporate both strength-building exercises and cardiovascular exercises is to perform a circuit-style workout that includes both.
Are you doing Coach Michelle’s workouts consistently? She knows precisely what to do!
Eat more protein
Getting sufficient protein (and fiber!) helps you feel fuller longer, warding off cravings. Protein also helps preserve that precious muscle mass we start to lose with age. I recommend consuming a moderate 20 and 25 grams of protein per meal. That is, of course, a general recommendation. Protein requires more energy to break down than carbohydrates or fat, so your body will use more energy during digestion, increasing your metabolism. This is called thermogenesis or the thermic effect of food (TEF). And, studies show an added benefit of getting enough protein is that it can help maintain bone mass. We will be talking more about macros and how to fine-tune yours in the next month.
Prioritize high-quality food sources rather than focus on smaller portions; incorporate moderate amounts of anti-inflammatory fats into a typical day, including salmon, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, and coconut oil. The main component of every meal should include a heavy hand of non-starchy vegetables, protein, and some good fats.
Track Your Food
Calories aren’t everything, but they do matter. You may have no idea that you are eating too many calories or not enough calories. You may be eating too many carbs for your biochemistry or not enough fat. It’s hard to see the result of changes if you don’t have a baseline. If you are annoyed or triggered by numbers, just do it for a few days. And yes, you have to take into account binge days, don’t beat yourself up, it’s all part of the picture.
The best way to protect yourself against metabolism-slowing factors is to avoid quick weight loss and extended fasting or very-low-calorie diets. Losing and regaining weight (yo yo dieting) impairs your metabolism.
The primary reason intermittent fasting works to control weight gain and help with weight loss is that it helps to lower insulin levels and thus keeps your metabolism working optimally. IF can also help lower inflammation, which is another key contributor to weight gain. Do a search for my #intermittentfasting blog for specifics.
Drink that H20.
Every single one of your cells needs water to regulate temperature and function correctly and efficiently.
Heal your gut.
An unfavorable balance of gut bacteria can lead to slowed metabolism and increased weight gain, which is why I am always yakking about fermented food and probiotics.
Go to sleep!
Poor sleep quality becomes common before and during menopause, and this can compound problems with weight gain. Check out last week’s blog #circadianrythmns.
Check your medications
If you are taking a new prescription and have noticed weight gain, it may be worth a conversation with your doctor.
Reduce your stress levels
Stress, like poor sleep, can lead to weight gain. High cortisol can lead to belly fat.
Are you doing all of these lifestyle suggestions? If it’s overwhelming just concentrate on one at a time.
Follow the honor of your hunger while avoiding the mindset of “I need to lose weight. It is vital to make sure you are listening to your body and respecting the signals sent from the body. As with everything in life, everyone needs to tap into their inner wisdom to figure out what weight loss path is best for your biochemistry. I am here to help!