21 Nov How To Lose Weight During The Menopause
Hormonal changes during the menopause can make losing weight, or maintaining a weight you’re happy at, even harder. But there’s a lot you can do to support your health and and manage your weight during this time. As a team of nutritionists who specialise in weight loss, we work with many women to support them in losing weight during the perimenopause and menopause. If you’re looking for menopause weight loss advice, the information in this article is a good starting point. If you’d like expert advice, tailored to your needs, we can help. Book your complimentary call with us today.
MENOPAUSE WEIGHT LOSS: THE FACTS
WHAT IS THE MENOPAUSE?
The menopause is when your periods stop due to a decline in reproductive hormone levels. You are considered menopausal when you have not had a period for 12 months, which typically happens between 45 and 55. It can happen earlier, either due to medical reasons or naturally lower hormonal levels. Perimenopause is when you have symptoms before your periods have stopped. Menopause and perimenopause can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms, which can last for years. Therefore finding ways to address and live with these symptoms is absolutely essential.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF PERIMENOPAUSE & MENOPAUSE?
The most common symptoms of the period before and during menopause include, but are not limited to:
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness / pain / discomfort
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Reduced sex drive
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism
These symptoms can start years before your last period and even carry on afterwards. Menopause and perimenopause symptoms can have a big impact on many aspects of your life, including relationships and work.
THE MENOPAUSE AND WEIGHT GAIN
Hormonal changes during the menopause can contribute to weight gain. Low levels of oestrogen have been associated with metabolic dysfunction, increasing the risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Changes in hormone levels can also impact fat distribution (where on the body we store fat can change). The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), a large observational study that followed women throughout perimenopause, found that women gained abdominal fat and lost muscle mass. Various studies have shown a link between abdominal weight gain and the menopause. This is a concern for many of our menopausal clients. Reducing abdmonial ‘belly’ fat often becomes an increasing priority for women at this time in their life. A reduction in muscle mass also has the potential to promote weight gain. Muscle is very metabolically active, so the more muscle we have, the more calories we burn even at rest. A reduction in muscle can therefore lead to a reduction in our metabolic rate.
And it’s not just changes in levels of oestrogen. One study found that levels of ghrelin, known as the ‘hunger hormone’, were significantly higher among perimenopausal women, compared to premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Increased levels of hunger can result in an increased consumption of calories and resulting weight gain.
How our body responds to food can change around the menopause too. We can become more sensitive to certain food groups, particularly carbohydrates. A study of over 1000 women found that post-menopausal women experienced a bigger increase in blood sugar levels after eating a carbohydrate-rich meal which increases risk of weight gain, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Despite the challenges of perimenopause and menopause, it is possible to adapt your lifestyle and diet to ensure that you have a healthy menopause and prevent excessive weight gain. There are several things to keep in mind in order to achieve this.
BLOOD SUGAR BALANCE
As we mentioned earlier, the menopause can increase your sensitivity to carbohydrates and promote fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
Carbohydrate foods break down into simple sugars and are absorbed into the bloodstream. The type of carbohydrates you eat and the amount you consume has a significant impact on how stable, or unstable, your blood sugar levels are. (Read more in our article about the Glycemic Index).
Fluctuating blood sugar levels can cause a rollercoaster effect of sugar highs and crashes, causing weight gain, energy dips, poor concentration and can lead to disease or health conditions. For example, type two diabetes is an issue of blood sugar dysregulation and often results from a poor diet.
On the other hand, stabilised blood sugar levels ensure consistent energy and concentration and help manage our weight and stay healthy. If you want to target menopause weight loss and optimise health at this time, we find that a nutrient dense, low carbohydrate diet is effective for many women.
If you are looking to achieve menopause weight loss, stabilising your blood sugar levels is vital. Reducing your carbohydrate intake and focussing on moderate amounts of whole food carbohydrate sources is key. Working with a nutritionist to ensure that you optimise your diet based on your own unique needs and challenges is advisable.
OPTIMISE YOUR DIET AND LIFESTYLE
Nutrient status: It’s well worth taking a look at your diet to ensure it contains all the nutrients that your body needs. Nutrient deficiencies can exacerbate symptoms of the menopause. For example, low vitamin D can lead to joint aches and low mood which are also menopausal symptoms. At our clinic we regularly check our client’s nutrient levels to ensure that deficiencies aren’t worsening symptoms of the menopause.
Reduce stress: Stress can have a particularly negative impact on your weight as and overall health, especially during menopause. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been found to rise with age and they can impact levels of other hormones. Stress is linked to weight gain, with elevated levels of cortisol strongly correlated with abdominal weight gain. Walks in nature, deep breathing and meditation exercises, and talking things through with a good therapist can help reduce stress. Regulating your blood sugar levels with a nutritionally optimised diet is also key.
Regular exercise: Exercise can help balance blood sugar, alleviate stress and reduce aches, so if you’re not currently active, now is a great time to start moving. You don’t have to go to extremes. Many of our menopausal clients find that moderate amounts of regular physical activity really supports mental health as well as their physical health.
MENOPAUSE, SLEEP AND WEIGHT
The symptoms of menopause such as night sweats and changes in mood can negatively impact sleep. The lack of sleep can drive up the hunger hormone (ghrelin) and reduce the satiety hormone (leptin), therefore leading to weight gain. It is therefore important to prioritise sleep health at this time in life. When we work with clients, we are always looking to build good sleep habits in order to support weight loss. You can read our article about sleep and weight loss for some tips on how to do this. Reducing alcohol and caffeine intake and keeping a regular bedtime routine is a great place to start.
You may also want to consider some supplements to support your health during this time. The following supplements can be helpful during perimenopause and menopause:
- Magnesium: promotes muscle relaxation and can help promote sleep.
- Vitamin D: important for bone health. Low levels can exacerbate menopausal symptoms such as low mood and joint aches.
- Omega 3 fish oil: supports skin and joint health.
- Black Cohosh: can help with hot flushes.
Many women put off speaking with their doctor about hormone replacement therapy. They suffer in silence and believe that the menopause is something that they just have to endure. It’s a personal choice, but HRT can be life changing for some women.
There are pros and cons from a health perspective so it’s worth having an in-depth discussion with a doctor who specialises in the field to ensure you make the decision that’s right for you.
Hormone replacement therapy comes in different forms including tablets, pessaries, patches, gels and more. There are different types of hormones including bio identical and body identical. Different practitioners prefer different forms.
It’s important to find a qualified, experienced medical professional who can guide you around a protocol tailored to your unique needs. Private specialists are often able to provide more in-depth testing and a more comprehensive treatment plan, compared with what GPs are able to access on the NHS.
WORK WITH US
Successful weight loss during the menopause (and beyond) is about so much more than ‘calories in vs calories out’. A more comprehensive and sophisticate approach is required to ensure long term success. Our team of qualified and experiences nutritionists have helped many women successfully lose weight despite the challenges of the menopause. Our Intelligent Weight Loss Method can help you overcome your weight challenges, reach your ideal weight and maintain it long term. Book your complimentary call today to find out how we can help you.