One of our Ladies was asking questions this morning about weight gain and the menopause. There are many menopause symptoms, including:
• Anxiety • Bladder Infections • Bloating • Breast Pain • Brittle Nails • Depression • Difficulty Concentrating • Digestive Problems • Dizziness • Dry Mouth • Eye Health • Fatigue • Hair Loss • Headaches • Heavy Periods • High Blood Pressure • Hot Flushes • Irregular Heart Beat • Irregular Periods • Itchy Skin • Joint Pain • Loss of Libido • Memory Lapses • Mood Swings • Nausea • Night Sweats • Panic Attacks • Sleep Problems • Stress • Vaginal Dryness • Weak Bladder • Weight Gain
Before the menopause (and after puberty), a woman typically releases an egg each month. This process is controlled by a small gland in the brain, called the pituitary gland. The older we become, the less fit we are and bearing a child later in life has higher risks for both mother and child. Nature recognises this and our genes are programmed in such a way that, when a woman reaches a certain point in her life, her body says that it is not wise to produce any more eggs.
When this happens, the hormones produced by the pituitary gland decline. This signals to the ovaries that eggs are no longer required and ovulation stops. The previously regular cycle of thickening and shedding of the lining of the womb is no longer required and periods stop. Levels of progesterone and oestrogen fall.
So biologically, menopause marks the end of the fertile period in a woman’s life and helps serve the purpose of ensuring that a woman bearing a child is fit to do so. Changes in hormone levels during the menopause lead directly and indirectly to a wide variety of symptoms. The most common are hot flushes and night sweats, caused by hormonal changes altering the way the body perceives heat.
Here’s a link to AVogel Menopause Health Hub which has a wealth of information around menopause and all the symptoms, but for this blog we are concentrating on weight gain.
Hormonal and physical changes during the menopause make many women more likely to gain weight. This can often be a demoralising experience that leads to many encounters with fad diets and other quick fixes. However, drastic dieting is not always the answer.
After the age of 40, the human body is susceptible to gaining, on average, one pound a year. When women reach the menopause, this average weight gain is likely to increase because of hormonal and physical changes which take place at this time. Many women feel self-conscious about this and attempt to crash diet to counteract the effect. However, these actions do not tend to be effective as eating too much is not usually the cause of weight gain during the menopause.
Many people feel that the weight they gain during the menopause is more noticeable because it tends to accumulate in one area of the body rather than be distributed evenly across the body. The most common place for weight to accumulate is around the tummy and this can be difficult to shift once there.
The hormonal fluctuations you encounter as you enter the menopause means that your body deals with the food you consume in a different way, all too often resulting in weight gain. Your metabolism (the rate at which you burn off calories) reduces, which means that you store more calories than you will burn. This is only made worse if you are spending less and less time on the go or exercising.
When you go through the menopause, particularly if you are feeling somewhat stressed, the production of the hormone cortisol will increase. When your cortisol levels are high you are more likely to develop fat around the middle.
Most women try to counteract the weight gain at home, and if this is done correctly can be the most effective means of preventing the weight from building up.
- Be careful with your diet – what you eat is going to have a significant impact on your weight. Eat a healthy balanced diet containing plenty of protein, low starch vegetables and fruit which don’t have a high quantity of sugar, such as pears and berries. Drastic dieting is unlikely to get you anywhere, as the chances of putting the weight you lost and more back on are fairly high. It is not good for your body. Maintaining a healthy diet is a more effective and healthier option
- Keep your muscles toned – muscle is more effective at burning calories than fat. When you go through the menopause, your muscle mass naturally decreases, causing you to gain weight. Keeping your muscles toned is more effective at keeping the weight off than crash dieting
- Exercise – be honest with yourself about how much exercise you are really doing each day, especially in comparison with when you were 20 or 30 years younger. Exercise is the most effective way of burning calories.
There are many things you can do for your health to ensure that the menopause is embraced rather than dreaded. Why not try a few of the health tips below to help you through the menopause and into the next phase of your life.
Food & Drink
There are some dietary changes you can make to help you through the menopause:
- Drink at least 1.5 litres of still plain water daily
- Cut out coffee and take a maximum of 2 cups of tea daily
- Make sure your bowels move regularly
- Eat regularly as skipping meals will not help with trying to maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce refined carbohydrates – white sugar, white bread, white pasta, white rice and things covered in heaps of syrup
- Eat more phyto-oestrogenic foods such as broccoli, oats & soya
- Eat more non-dairy, calcium containing foods such as brown rice, salmon and pumpkin seeds.
Exercise helps trigger the production of happy chemicals called endorphins in your body
- Ensure you get 30-45 minutes exercise 3-5 days a week.
- On the days you don’t get to the gym or class, include a walk for at least 20 minutes
- Being able to sleep well is easier if your digestion is working properly, so observe the suggestions for eating and drinking above
- Spend some time relaxing before you go to bed so that your mind stops buzzing
- Write down things that are on your mind and a list of things you need to do the next day before you go to bed so that you do not have everything revolving round in your mind as you try to go to sleep
- Take time out for yourself
- Eat regularly, as skipping meals or eating on the run creates more stress
- Avoid caffeine
- Practice breathing techniques, or take up yoga or another gentle, meditative exercise that promotes deep relaxation
Whilst this is a long blog, I hope it’s of help and again, AVogel Menopause Health Hub has a wealth of information around menopause and all the symptoms.
Have a great day 🙂