Are you struggling to lose or maintain weight during peri menopause or the menopause. Rest assured you are not alone. Weight gain is a common symptom of the menopause primarily due to the drop in estrogen levels women experience during this phase of their lives.
But do not despair. Weight gain does not have to be an inevitable side effect of the menopause and there are plenty of ways you can keep your weight under control, even if it does require a little more effort than it might have before.
Approaching the menopause does not have to be a negative change. Instead use this stage in your life as an opportunity to reset and refresh your mindset towards weight control. First things first let’s explore why women gain weight during this stage of our lives and what practices we can put in place to prevent this.
What causes weight gain during the menopause?
As we reach the peri-menopause and beyond the shift in hormone levels can cause our body to change shape. For example as our estrogen levels decrease this can cause fat to be stored in our mid-section (hence where the menopausal middle term came from). However, this potential change in our bodies shape does not necessarily mean you will see the numbers creep up the scale. In fact research suggests that there is no scientific evidence aligning menopause with weight gain, consequently while our body shape may change the number on the scales does not necessarily need to. This can be an incredibly frustrating concept to get our heads around, so what can we do and what changes can we make to best deal with menopausal weight gain?
Lifestyle changes that occur when we reach the peri-menopause and menopause
The key to understanding why you are gaining weight is to go back to basics and assess what is happening to your body. During this stage, there is a shift to your hormonal balance as well as many other lifestyle factors that occur. Have a read below on what changes to expect from your body and how you can go about addressing them.
This is one symptom that often catches women unaware. Lack of sleep sets a negative tone for the day ahead. You feel flat, tired, lack energy to work out or do much, your hunger hormones are completely out of sync leaving you feeling lethargic, hungry and craving sugary, quick fix snacks. We all know that sleep is incredibly important to living a healthy and happy life. You can find out more about the benefits of sleep on your lifestyle and exercise routine here: https://www.niix.fit/blogs/why-sleep-is-so-important-for-recovery/. In order to overcome these sleep issues there are some changes you can make:
- Start by reducing your screen time and keeping electronics out of the bedroom. Winding down with no electrical devices or ‘blue lights’ one hour before bedtime can be a great help when it comes to getting some good quality shut eye.
- Create a bedtime routine. https://www.niix.fit/blogs/lifestyle/3-easy-ways-to-create-and-stick-to-a-consistent-routine/ Routines are a brilliant way to help prepare yourself and your body for bed in the best way. Incorporate some time to wrap up the day with your closing thoughts, some time to plan the day ahead, some ‘me time’, your skincare routine, relaxation activities and whatever else lets your body and mind wind down.
- Avoid refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine. This should be a relatively obvious one before bed. These will only keep you awake or wake you later in the night and prevent you from getting back to sleep.
Decrease in muscle and bone mass
As we reach our 30’s we begin to slowly lose muscle mass as each year goes by. Muscle is essential for burning calories; the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn. If we do not maintain or build this muscle we will find it difficult to burn excess fat and this consequently is when weight gain begins to occur. This is where strength, bodyweight and resistance training comes into play. Bodyweight, resistance and strength training are vital for protecting our joints, muscles and bones. Read more about getting into shape through your 40s, 50s and beyond here: https://www.niix.fit/blogs/getting-in-shape-through-your-40s-50s-and-beyond/ If you are looking for some strength training ideas and videos be sure to head to my Instagram every Monday at 10.30am for a #MOVEMONDAY class dedicated to building strength, speeding up metabolism and strengthening connective tissues https://www.instagram.com/niix.fit/?hl=en
There is no denying that this time in our lives can bring about new challenges, struggles, stresses and pressures in more ways than we are used to. This excess stress often has a negative impact on our weight and lifestyle causing us to reach for the sugar and quick, simple fixes. This is where the power of a positive mindset really comes into play https://www.niix.fit/blogs/mental-health-and-the-menopause-the-power-of-a-positive-mindset/. Yes this may be a new and uncertain time but there is no need to feel as though it is a negative experience. Really this should be a time to take back all that lost time for yourself and your needs. Think about the years you have spent caring for others, it is time to take care of you! With the right guidance and support, the menopause can actually be a seriously liberating, positive time for rebirth and a new sense of purpose. Be sure to regularly check in with yourself, make time for friends, schedule in healthy eating and exercise, aim for good quality sleep and practice regular self-care.
The reality is as we reach a certain age we probably start to move less. With the stress and chaos of the school run removed, running the kids to clubs and so on our daily steps will probably start to decrease. Take an honest assessment of how much activity you do (not just exercise) but walking, stretching – all movement counts. Put simply when we move less we lose muscle and gain weight. There is a simple solution to this though. Be sure to keep moving as much as possible. Stand over sitting, pace when you are on the phone, take the stairs over the lift, a daily walk are all examples of how to improve and increase your NEAT (non-exercise activity). As well as this regular movement, be sure to schedule in your daily workout and keep it varied between strength, resistance, cardiovascular, HIIT and LIIT workouts. On days off try to keep moving with stretches or a gentle walk.
With the menopause comes new, and exciting changes however as we all know it certainly brings some challenges. That being said, with the right planning, effort and routine, weight – gain need not be one of your struggles. Keep a positive mind and approach this new time of your life with excitement knowing you are capable of whatever you want to do. Take a healthy, holistic and personal approach to ensure you are fueling your body with nutritious, healthy foods and a lot of water, getting an adequate amount of sleep and moving your body consistently and daily.
Remember, you need not go through this alone. We are passionate about helping women feel fitter, stronger and confident in their bodies through ALL stages of their lives. To join our community and never feel like you are going through it all alone again, head here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1967372916810927