That whisper of weight around the middle
I'm pretty lucky that I come from a line of slim builds so I haven't really had to think about my weight...but then I hit 40 and got a whisper of slight changes around the middle. In the past year, I have been as slim as I was in my 30's (pre kids) and that is 100% down to exercise (Marathon training...it doesn't have to be this so don't worry !) and nutrition. Without the exercise, it would certainly be a different story and I know I would find this hard given I haven't really had to think about my weight before. On average women at midlife gain 1.5 pounds per year - this may not sound like much but over time it adds up and its weight that is much harder to get rid of - the reasons are numerous and not totally menopause-related but simply age related too.
Reducing oestrogen at menopauseReduced oestrogen may be the reason that body fat is redistributed which causes these unexpected changes in body shape - in our 40's & 50's the body weight goes to the middle first before anywhere else and is harder to shift than it was in our 20's. In your 20's you might have tried the infamous cabbage soup diet ( I did this once...it was a week of smelling of cabbage after I spent a month in Vietnam eating way too many delicious spring rolls !) or whatever diet was the fad of the day, to get into a dress and presto a week later all was resolved...this doesn't work in later years.
The reduced oestrogen can also cause your energy to work less efficiently so your metabolic rate is not quite as good as it used to be - we aren't turning around the food as quickly as we used too...in essence, it's on a slow burner. That lean body mass of your 20's and 30's decreases as we age (men too), this is because of hormone changes and also lifestyle changes...sitting more, commuting further, less movement daily etc. Losing this muscle mass causing us to burn fewer calories when we are sitting and also when we are moving...add this to all the other factors and the result is weight gain. Many women I talk to can't understand why they are heavier when they are doing the same exercise and same diet as always - but what worked in the past won't work when you hit your 40's. You need to tweak your habits and your approach. This means to achieve weight loss as we did in the past needs much more exercise time than it did before.
Balancing blood sugar at menopause
We also hit the issue of blood sugar levels and often forget how important it is to keep these balanced. Think about a young child - God forbid we would let them miss a lunch...we would pay dearly for it!!! We need to think the same about ourselves and realize that we need to keep a closer watch on our blood sugar levels which in turn will stop us reaching for the quick pick me up snack aka chocolate etc which creates a catch 22 with weight gain. I find like the liver women don't look after themselves enough when it comes to monitoring and maintaining balanced blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Get more sleep
On top of all this there are the sleep issues that many women face and when you don't get a good nights sleep this can increase your craving for sugary foods and again the circle continues.
The key message here is how important it is to understand that the rules change as we get older - what worked in the past for you won't work as you get older. The rules changes not only in how to avoid gaining weight but also in how to lose weight and it's really important to try to keep on top of your weight in your 40's/50's - it only becomes harder to lose as you get older.
If you'd like to get our top tips on how to avoid weight gain at menopause read more here.
Consult Catherine one-to-one
If you need help with perimenopause or menopause symptoms, Catherine provides a full coaching service (Wellnesswarrior.ie) to help women who are finding hormonal change challenging. It includes a lifestyle audit, a practical plan for movement/exercise, sleep, meditation and relaxation that works with your life. It includes nutrition for weight management and energy and recommendations for supplements.
My Second Spring E-book
NEW TO MENOPAUSE? Try our e-book - The Best Friend’s Guide to the Menopause - €8
"So glad you have an ebook. Love the friendly approach & top tips. Highly recommend!" B