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What Is Up with Weight Gain During Menopause

Ladies between the ages of 40-55, this blog is for you!   Can you relate to any of these symptoms?

  • Pants are more snug than usual, or don’t fit at all anymore!
  • Changes in body weight distribution.
  • Energy level has plummeted.
  • Post-workout recovery takes much longer.

If these sound familiar, you are not alone!  Approximately one year after menstrual periods end, a women reaches menopause.  On average this occurs close to age 50. This is a time of major hormonal and physical changes for women that can include:   Irregular periods, Vaginal dryness, Hot flashes, Chills, Night sweats, Sleep problems, Mood changes, slowed metabolism, Thinning hair and dry skin, and weight gain!   Many of these symptoms can start occurring during the perimenopausal stage in a women’s 40s. This blog article will be mainly focusing on weight gain due to menopause and what to do about it!

What’s up with my hormones?

Fluctuating levels of hormones (mainly estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) cause many of these menopausal symptoms.   Women typically begin to notice these symptoms around ages 45-50. When hormone levels start to drop, our bodies try to compensate for this loss.  Since fat cells (especially abdominal fat cells) produce estrogen, our bodies start to accumulate more of these cells in an effort to increase estrogen.  This helps to explain part of the mid-life weight gain. Unfortunately, these newly formed fat cells are not very efficient at producing estrogen, so fat begins to accumulate without estrogen levels increasing.  

What about metabolism?

Slowed metabolism is another factor in menopausal weight gain.  It is natural and expected to experience a slowed metabolism as we get older.  Muscle mass begins to decrease after the age of 30! Since muscle takes more calories to maintain than fat, as we lose muscle, our body’s ability to burn calories slows down.   On top of this, our bodies burn less calories and fat doing the same type of exercise it used to! Therefore, if the intensity of exercise is not increased, pounds can silently creep on.

Why can’t I sleep?

A common symptom of perimenopause and menopause is nighttime hot flashes.  Believe it or not, this can affect both nutrition and weight. There are two hormones that are affected from lack of sleep: Leptin and Ghrelin.  A decrease in leptin and an increase in ghrelin can increase hunger and make it more difficult to make healthy food choices. Cortisol and blood sugar levels are also negatively affected when there is lack of sleep.   This can lead to fluctuations in insulin and blood sugar, and increase fat storage.

Yes, your body might be changing, but please keep in mind that this is a normal stage in life.  It is important to keep in mind that some of these issues could lead to more series health concerns over time (heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity).   However, staying on top of these things and learning how to cope with them will help to ward off or reverse chronic health conditions. Check out these suggestions to help maintain overall good health as we embrace the aging process:

 

  1. Get regular check ups.  Get an annual physical to stay on top of things like cholesterol, blood sugar, hormone levels, blood pressure, vitamin D and iron levels.  
  2. Eat your fruits and veggies.  Aim for 6-7 servings daily.  This is not only good for getting in essential vitamins, but it also helps to meet the 25-30 grams of fiber we need each day.
  3. Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks.   Keeping blood sugar levels consistent throughout the day prevents excessive hunger and cravings for high carb and fatty foods.  
  4. Think about low carbs.  No need to cut out all carbs and becoming keto, but research indicates that lower carb diets can help to lower blood sugar and regulate hormone levels.   30 g of carbs per meal and 15 g per snack is a good guideline. However, if exercising more than 30 minutes daily, you will need more. Go for the complex carbs (fruits, veggies, whole grains), verses the simple carbs (white breads and rice, cookies, cakes).  
  5. Get active.  Aim for at least 150 minutes of cardio activity and 2-4 days of strength exercises weekly.  Switch things up and continue to challenge yourself. Exercise within your limits. Working out too hard can increase stress and lead to high cortisol levels, which can trigger fat accumulation.
  6. Get your ZZZ’s. One of the biggest risk factors for weight gain is poor sleep.  Sleep duration affects hormones regulating hunger. Lack of sleep also leads to daytime fatigue, which can result in less physical activity. Aim for 7-9 hours each night.
  7. Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).  It’s not for everyone, so be sure to  consult with your physician. HRT can make a big difference in terms of energy and weight management. There are many different methods of HRT offered but one of the main methods we offer is the bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) via pellets. For more information on BHRT pellet therapy, download our comprehensive brochure: Blue Sky MD Pellets FAQ

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