There’s a lot of mystery and confusion surrounding menopause and weight loss. But whatever horror stories you’ve heard, you’ll realize there’s nothing to fear after this short read.
Menopause is not an automatic sentence for weight gain. With a little knowledge, you’ll get through this stage with ease!
Here’s how to navigate the hormonal changes of menopause without packing on pounds. Better yet, I’ll show you how to thrive during this new season of life.
Menopause occurs in three stages: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
Perimenopause is when the majority of hormone fluctuations occur. Just like puberty, the process happens over many years. Surprisingly, this stage of life can start as early as our mid to late 30s, though most women’s cycles start to get erratic in their mid-forties.
At this point, we don’t have as many eggs. The ones we have aren’t as healthy. Estrogen can be lower in some cycles and higher during others. This is perimenopause. It’s that same old hormonal chaos like puberty. But this time, when estrogen levels stabilize, they’ll be much lower than they were before.
Once you haven’t had a cycle for one year, you’ve reached menopause—the one-day anniversary of your last period. Every day after this is considered postmenopause. That said, when people say “menopause” they usually are referring to the whole gamut of hormonal changes.
The stats on menopause are surprising. 20% of women sail through it. 20% have their worlds rocked upside down. The remaining 60% experience things that are both annoying and disruptive, like:
During menopause, many women experience weight gain, particularly around the abdomen. Contributors to weight gain during menopause include hormonal changes, like declining estrogen levels.
But while menopause shifts our hormones, it’s not the only thing to blame for the extra pounds. General aging brings many factors, like age-related loss of muscle tissue and reduction in protein utilization, that play into weight gain at this stage of life. Lifestyle factors like diet changes, less activity, and changes in sleep patterns also have a huge impact on our weight.
Looking at the whole story is crucial to maintaining a healthy weight or losing that extra belly fat after menopause.
It’s normal and natural for our bodies to change as we age.
But if weight gain is making you self-conscious and keeping you from doing what you love, it’s holding you back. Additionally, too much weight gain, especially abdominal weight gain that’s common during menopause, can bring on some negative side effects. It can put you at a higher risk of diabetes, heart issues, and even some cancers.
Reaching or maintaining a healthy weight during menopause requires working on the foundational factors of our health.
The quality of your sleep matters! Sleep is intricately related to your hormones and your weight and body composition.
But night sweats, frequent urination, restless leg, and anxiety can really take their toll on your sleep. Many women even experience insomnia during menopause. Prioritizing that deep, healing sleep can do wonders for your waistline!
Try this: This week, buy and install blackout curtains. Drop the thermostat down to 69 at night. Take a hot shower before bed. Turn off screens and dim the lights one hour before you sleep. Read a soothing book or journal to wind down (this habit can help with anxiety too)!
2. Increase Your Protein
Did you know that you need to eat more protein as you age? That’s because, over time, our bodies process the protein we eat less efficiently. Plus, we need more of it to maintain muscle mass and strength, bone health, and other essential functions.
Eating enough protein is absolutely necessary for this stage of life if you want to lose weight, keep it off, and feel healthy doing it.
Try this: Calculate how much protein you need (it’ll be about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of your goal weight). Then, try my healthy, high-protein 5-day menu.
3. Balance Your Blood Sugar
Glucose is the fuel that the human body runs on. But as estrogen and progesterone go up and down during menopause, blood sugar levels also sway.
Additionally, during and after menopause, weight gain tends to be focused around the abdominal region. This fat, known as visceral fat, secretes a protein called retinol-binding protein 4, which is associated with insulin resistance. High amounts of visceral fat can also lead to type 2 diabetes.
Balancing your blood sugar will help you stay healthy and drop excess weight.
Try this: Move before and after you sit down for a meal (something as simple as 40 squats or a 10-minute walk will do!). Boost your fiber with a small side salad. Reduce the simple carbs and sugar in your diet, and try intermittent fasting!
4. Lower Inflammation
Inflammation is our body’s natural response to injury or illness. However, sometimes, inflammation occurs chronically and can cause problems. When inflammation is present, even those with the most disciplined eating and exercise habits may have little progress in losing weight.
Reducing inflammation is as integral to weight loss as diet and exercise. It’s worth the effort—anti-inflammatory foods can help balance your hormones, lessen menopause symptoms, and increase fat loss all at once.
Try this: Fill your plate with grass-fed animal protein, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats. Go light on refined sugar, gluten, and dairy.
5. Limit Alcohol
Alcohol, which raises your internal body temperature, can trigger menopause symptoms, like hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia. It can also make your weight gain worse.
Alcohol can cause weight gain in four ways: it stops your body from burning fat, it’s high in calories, it can make you feel hungry, and it can lead to cravings for salty and greasy foods.
Try this: Save alcohol for the weekend, and keep it to one or two servings (try one of my five favorite low-cal drinks). During the rest of the week, swap alcohol out for water, tea, sparkling water, kombucha, or a mocktail.
6. Strength Train
Menopause is a common time for women to experience a loss of bone density or osteoporosis. We have to keep our bones strong and muscles strong during this season to set ourselves up for future health, and the best solution is strength training.
Body weight exercises and lifting weights are also powerful fat burners. Strength training increases your metabolism, improves your figure, and boosts confidence!
Try this: Complete this workout 3 times this week!
7. Open Detox Pathways
Detoxing helps eliminate chemicals, hormones, environmental compounds, and other substances that no longer serve the body or aren’t meant to be there. Getting rid of these substances can help you feel better during menopause and lose weight more easily.
Your body already has a built-in detoxification system to eliminate waste, i.e. the liver. So all you have to do is show it some love and support in doing what it naturally does.
Try this: Try to have a daily bowel movement, sit in the sauna, dry brush, and practice low-impact exercises like rebounder workouts.
Menopause is important. It affects 100% of women! But, most women say they don’t have anyone or are too embarrassed to talk to anyone about this inevitable stage of life.
As women, we can remind each other that midlife is shining with hope! This time gives us a chance to look at what we want in the second half of our lives, our relationships, and our careers.
Menopause encourages us to make self-care a priority. It marks the moment when we can look back, learn from the past, and move ahead with fresh wisdom and confidence.
Find support. Join your tribe. The menopause conversation should not be one of embarrassment or shame. Join LEAN to mark this important stage of life and feel better than you have in decades!