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Why the menopause is making you gain weight – and how to lose it again!



Now a disclaimer if you don’t know already, I am not about to become a coach entirely focussed on weight loss and all about aesthetic goals, you know I’m not about that here but what I do know is that the weight gain that often comes with menopause is something that women come to see me about all of the time as it is affecting the way that they FEEL. If we can go some way to helping all ladies FEEL fabulous then I’m all about that, and this one today might just help that for you.

 

If you have put some weight on in your menopausal years and you feel great, energised and the rest then you own that, as long as you’re healthy and happy then I’m happy too; your goals, needs and preferences are completely your own and don’t let any other coach, friend or family member tell you otherwise or insinuate that as we move through our menopausal years we should be fighting to ‘keep weight off’ if that isn’t a goal for you.

 

Beyond there it doesn’t have to be a fight, and that’s what we’ll address today because putting unwanted weight on when your habits haven’t changed is frustrating, right? We’re going to chat myths and some long-term, evidence-based and sustainable habits and strategies to help and none of that should EVER feel miserable.

 

Let’s get this first one out of the way – your weight gain is NOT due to your ‘metabolism slowing down’ for the most part. Our metabolic rates generally (the rate at which we, as individuals, expend energy), without all of the external factors such as our daily movement etc. actually stays pretty similar throughout most of our adult lives. What does change though is our habits in response to hunger, cravings, energy levels, sleeping patterns and where our body fat might place itself on our wonderful bodies.

 

When our oestrogen levels drop as we move through the menopause it can send other hormones pretty haywire. This is a demonstration of what we spoke about yesterday – the menopause impacting just about all of our bodily systems! Our hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin generally have the biggest impact on how hungry we feel from day to day. Ghrelin increases our hunger and leptin supresses it. Unfortunately, as our oestrogen decreases, ghrelin goes the other way causing us to feel more and more peckish when we don’t necessarily need to eat more. We also become less sensitive to the signals of leptin adding to those feelings of hunger.

 

This may be enough to become problematic in itself but alongside that we have other hormones increasing our cravings – increased cravings alongside an increased appetite are a troublesome combination when we are trying to avoid weight gain. Where is the justice, hey?

 

Alongside all of the hormonal changes, not just those reproductive hormones, happening in our bodies we have external factors that often affect our abilities to remain as active as we once were. Children hanging off us, parents ageing and needing additional support, maintaining a clean and tidy home, having to cook the moment you step through the door from work, trying to maintain some sort of social life amongst it all – how on earth are we supposed to remain active?! And when we do, it takes so much longer to recover these days, right? Those joints feeling achy doesn’t help either.

 

All of this combined means that we might not be as active as we once were or be able to put the same intensity in as we used to. That’s okay, there are ways to manage it including working together on what works best for you and how we can learn to meet ourselves where we are at on any given day, finding exercise methods most appropriate for your individual goals, needs and preferences so the diminishing muscle mass and increasing body fat levels are contributing less to the problem of you feeling flat in yourself. To maintain as much muscle mass as we can for our health as women at this time is super important so its pivotal that we work to get this right.

 

The list goes on unfortunately ladies but there is some reprieve and some tactics coming!

 

You may have noticed a change in your body shape with all of these nutrition and physical activity changes. Again, those pesky hormonal changes mean that what tends to happen is our body fat starts to conveniently place itself around our ‘belly fat’ region, or our middle if you like.

 

Lastly today, your sleep is horrible these days too, I know. This is a huge factor impacting our hunger hormones that we spoke about earlier leaving us feeling hungry, craving quick ‘pick me ups’ and we are almost never full. This isn’t exclusive to the menopause either, poor sleep can often result in gaining weight for those exact reasons. One of the biggest reasons I work with people on what we chatted about yesterday, finding what works for them and helps them to feel great nutrition wise, is that a quick ‘pick me up’ will just about never work, which is why it’s so important that, together, we can tune into what works for you to keep you energised for longer but also work on those all-important basics, like maximising our sleep quality (more on that in the next blog).

 

All in all it can feel pretty overwhelming and isn’t surprising that some weight gain might result at this time in our lives. Menopause, as you can see, doesn’t cause you to gain weight directly, but all of these compounding factors certainly don’t help! I hope that now you can be a little kinder to yourself when you think about beating yourself up for having ‘no willpower’ and eating more and recognising that this is the body doing its thing but also knowing that there are ways in which we can work to optimise our health and combat these behaviours. Your old habits not cutting it? Strict diets will simply NOT work. That’s okay, we will work to find new ways for you.

 

Now let’s remind ourselves of something that we addressed yesterday – there is no magic food, way of exercising or supplement that will do the trick, no matter what the media will try and make you believe. If you take nothing else from the blog today let it be this. Long-term, sustainable habit change and skills and strategies that work for you and your lifestyle are the ONLY way to combat this over years to come – it doesn’t have to be boring, tedious or unenjoyable, we can and should certainly still enjoy our lives!

 

One thing that we need to tune into to begin with is that buzz phrase we hear so much of these days – ‘listening to our bodies’. Learning the difference between needing and wanting to eat is a skill that needs practice, it isn’t easy, but once we know when our body is truly hungry, or we simply have a craving is game changing. As individuals, our hunger cues might be different so your journey won’t be the same as Jane’s on the next desk at work, but tuning into our physiological hunger cues over our psychological ones and empowering ourselves to work with that is huge.

 

Similar to yesterday I simply want you to just stop and notice what you are feeling before you eat, or in any given moment. Am I hungry right now? Or do I just really want to eat that biscuit? Either is okay, I’m not saying you can’t have the biscuit just now, all I’m asking you to do is to notice. Another good one if you are reaching for a snack that might be less than optimal for your goals let’s say, is to ask yourself – would I eat a piece of fruit or a bland bowl of veggies right now to satisfy what I’m feeling or would that not do? That’s a pretty good indication that your body isn’t ACTUALLY hungry if the answer is no.

 

When you do get to sit down and enjoy a meal (a time that is hard to come by I know!) I want you to try to do it ‘mindfully’ – another buzzword at the moment but hear me out. Do you remember the last time you actually noticed the taste of your dinner?! The research shows us that slowing down, with no distractions like the TV or phones during meal times helps us to feel more satisfied and enjoy our food more and therefore potentially eat less in turn – we all know how easy it is to eat WAY past fullness. That time that you take to slow down might just lower our body’s feelings of stress too which is going to have a huge impact on our physical and mental wellbeing, including our hunger in time too. We also know how stress and the digestive system are super closely related, if we slow down a little, we calm that digestive system letting it do its thing properly, rather than leaving you in a cycle of feeling bloated and nasty which never feels good in our clothes, right?

 

The next one is a little more nuanced and again, very individual so if you need a hand finding an appropriate level for you then I am more than happy to help. We are talking PROTEIN.

 

Protein is super important for our health but can also be used to our advantage when we are hoping to lose weight or prevent weight gain. It helps to keep us fuller for longer while also using more energy to digest. Alongside that, it helps to negate that muscle loss that we spoke about earlier being all important to hold onto as we age for our health and functionality. Also – the more muscle we have, the more energy our clever bodies expend! It's important at just about any stage of our lives but most especially as we reach our menopausal years as our bodies become less efficient at digesting and utilising the protein that we consume.

 

I don’t want you to dive into eating 4 chicken breasts at each meal – little and often, progress not perfection here. Small changes leading to big results over time. We can work to get to an optimal level for you over time if you feel a world away but just break it down into manageable changes just now.

 

One last thing today that can help you, again, feel fuller for longer, helping to combat those hunger and appetite changes – more WHOLEFOODS! This is a big one and one that almost all of the population should have a huge focus on for their health more than anything. Let’s have a think about what you can ADD to your plate to make it more healthful, more colourful and a feast for the eyes! Filling that plate with gorgeous colours giving us lots of food volume for less energy is a cracking health but also, weight management strategy.

 

We don’t need to overhaul your nutrition; we simply need to make some small changes over time. It also doesn’t have to be boring and miserable – you will notice we framed it as to what we can ADD to your nutrition, not what we ‘can’t’ have or what we need to restrict.

 

I hope that today has given you some practical takeaways to work on. Next I want to talk about one that I harp on about SO much with my clients – let’s talk sleep.

 

If there’s anything here you want to chat about, ask, or simply comment on I just LOVE hearing from you all. Email or on social, fire away.

 

Peace and love for now, A x

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