Gaining weight during menopause is undeniably awful. Not only does it affect your confidence, but it can have very negative effects on your health as well. Today, we will talk about the best ways to deal with menopausal weight gain.
Between perimenopause and the postmenopause phase, women gain an average of fifteen pounds of body fat.
Despite the fact that you’re eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly– all the things that may have helped you maintain your weight earlier in life– you’re still gaining weight.
Menopause weight can be all over your body, but it tends to appear primarily in your torso, from your armpits down to your hips. Some women notice some fat increase in their buttocks and thighs, but mainly they see a thickening of their waist. This change is not only unsightly, but it also increases your risk of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Part of the reason women gain midline weight in menopause is the same reason men tend to gain belly fat– unbound testosterone. When your estrogen levels fall in menopause, your testosterone becomes unbound and more active. This leads to higher cholesterol levels, whiskers, and belly fat.
Once you run out of eggs, you produce less progesterone and estrogen, which drastically affects your metabolism. This means that you don’t produce the same amount of energy as you did when you were younger. You then tend to store the extra calories you consume as fat, especially around your middle.
You also gain weight in menopause because you have less lean body muscle, causing your bones to become thin.
The loss of muscle mass especially decreases your metabolic activity, making you more prone to putting on body fat.
Menopause affects your adrenal glands because starting in perimenopause, you’re producing less progesterone. Your adrenals need to make adequate cortisol. Because your hypothalamus is so dysregulated by your falling sex hormones, your HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) is highly activated. Because of this, you’re responding to stress in an exaggerated way, producing a lot more cortisol than you really need. Cortisol’s job is to release stored sugar to fuel your fight or flight response. But if you don’t use that stored sugar to actually get away from danger, you’re going to store it around your waist.
So how do you treat menopausal weight gain?
Getting your hormones back into balance can really help. This can be a bit controversial because some women will find that actually taking hormone replacement therapy can cause weight gain. That’s because most of the time, it’s not prescribed in the correct doses for your body. Hormone Replacement Therapy is often underdosed so you don’t get enough. It’s also overdosed so you get such high levels of estrogen and not enough progesterone that you end up having estrogen-related weight gain.
It’s really important that your hormones are balanced. It’s also really important to remember that everybody is different. Endomorphs are naturally thin, while ectomorphs tend to put on weight. Mesomorphs are more muscular and may put on weight at menopause if they don’t stay active.
What one woman needs in terms of hormones can be vastly different than what another woman needs.
The best way to tell if you’re getting enough estrogen is if your symptoms are improving.
Personally, I prefer to prescribe BHRT (bioidentical hormone replacement therapy), because I believe it’s safer. Using BHRT that is correctly dosed for you can actually help get your weight under control.
And of course, exercise is key to controlling menopause weight gain.
The best exercise for you is anything you enjoy that gets your heart rate up. This can be cycling, swimming, rowing, dancing, power walking, running, or really anything that gets you moving.
Now, the problem here is that really intense exercise will raise your cortisol levels, which will increase your weight gain. So your menopausal exercise routine needs to be moderate. Personally, my favorite aerobic exercise to lose body fat and keep in shape is a HIT (high-intensity training) routine. This consists of a 5-7 minute warm-up, then three 20 second bursts of speed. With 1-2 minutes in between each speed interval, followed by a 5-7 minute cool down.
Now that I’m menopausal, I like to do power walking using a hill as my sprint and just going as fast as I can for 20 seconds up the hill. Studies show that HIT can improve cardiovascular health. and pulmonary health. It can also decrease insulin resistance, increase insulin sensitivity, and help you lose weight.
Now, if you’re already exercising adequately, and you’re still not losing that menopause weight, you have to look at your diet.
Each body responds to different diets, and you probably know the diet your body responds to best. If you’re like most women, you’ve got to limit your sugars and starches in order to burn body fat. Sugars and starches have a high glycemic index, meaning that they raise your blood sugar quickly. I created an insulin resistance diet for my menopausal patients to lose body fat. This diet focuses on adequate protein, healthy fats, lots of vegetables and low glycemic carbohydrates.
If you’re still struggling with weight gain during menopause, you may need to practice some stress-reduction techniques.
This is important because if you get stressed out, you’re going to make more cortisol, which will cause your body to store more fat. I have a meditation that works really well to train your body to produce GABA, so that you can naturally calm down and reduce your cortisol production.
All of this is included — my insulin-resistant diet, my exercise routine, and my calm meditation — in my Hormone Reboot Training.
However, the most successful way that my menopausal patients have been able to lose weight and keep it off is by balancing their hypothalamus.
Honestly, the hypothalamus is the most important organ in your body. It controls everything, including your weight set point and your metabolism. It controls your hunger and satiety, meaning when you feel full, when you’re hungry, and how much you actually eat. Your hypothalamus controls your ideal weight set point, so if you try to lose weight too fast, you actually mess up your hypothalamus and it’ll bring you right back to your original weight.
It’s extremely important that you work with your hypothalamus while you lose weight. My most successful patients have gotten hypothalamic support by using Genesis Gold® and sometimes extra Sacred Seven®. When you use these in addition to following the insulin-resistant diet, you get proper exercise, and practice stress reduction techniques, you’re going to be able to lose that extra body fat and keep it off.
It takes at least three months to reset your hypothalamus, and at least 40 days to set new habits. So be patient with yourself. You’re not going to see dramatic weight loss right away.
But by supporting your hypothalamus, you’ll increase your energy expenditure and burn that extra body fat by reducing the amount of high glycemic index carbohydrates that you’re eating.
With the right hypothalamic support, you can take control of your menopausal weight gain. Why don’t you join us in our Hormone Support Group, which you can get access to through our Free Hormone Reboot Training. I hope you’ll join us.
Research Reference: Menopause weight gain, Menopause and the Human Hypothalamus: Evidence for the Role of Kisspeptin/Neurokinin B Neurons in the Regulation of Estrogen Negative Feedback, Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in glucolipid metabolic disorders.
*Statements not reviewed by the FDA.