To embrace the hormonal changes that happen during menopause, women can help ease the transition by working on three areas that are within your control:
- How much you move;
- What you eat;
- How you handle stress.
Going through menopause doesn’t have to mean automatic weight gain, nor does it mean your body won’t go through some changes no matter what you do.
Managing what you can and allowing your body to respond to your efforts will help you maintain a healthy, positive attitude about the changes you’re going through.
So here is the deal about menopause: Estrogen is a hormone that works against insulin and cortisol. Progesterone has little impact on insulin but does fight against cortisol. These two hormones are the reason women have an easier time staying leaner when they are young and are more prone to weight gain and midsection fat accumulation during menopause.
As the production of these two hormones is reduced during menopause, the female metabolism:
- Slows down;
- Is more carb sensitive due to insulin;
- Is more stress reactive.
Many women run into problems because they are:
- Consuming too much fat, making it difficult to achieve calorie deficits;
- Eating too much fruit and refined carbohydrates, increasing insulin levels;
- Working out too often and too hard, thereby throwing off cortisol levels.
In order to lose weight, you need to lower calorie intake and balance hormones.
Insulin is a fat-storing and muscle-building hormone. If you achieve a calorie deficit but have too much insulin around, you may lose weight, but that weight is far less likely to be fat.
Cortisol is a stress hormone and along with insulin, it causes fat storage around the mid section. If you are menopausal or even a younger women undergoing stress, you will have the same issues. First, stress hormones go up (cortisol). If the stress persists, progesterone drops. If it continues, estrogen falls next and insulin issues begin to surface causing fat gain right around the middle just like in menopause.
If you are premenopausal, menopausal or postmenopausal and have not been able to lose weight try making the following changes:
- Focus on protein over fat (it is more satiating and contains fewer calories);
- Eat more vegetables than fruit. Fruits are fine on occasion, but are much higher in sugar, making them better suited for an occasional dessert treat;
- Don’t exercise too intensely or too often.
Limit the hardcore exercise to 3-4 times per week and focus on relaxing walks, restorative yoga, tai chi or other relaxing activities instead.
Not all menopausal women are the same. It takes time to understand your own unique metabolism and decipher what lifestyle adjustments are needed to see and feel amazing results!
By watching what you eat and maintaining a regular but less intense work out regimen, you will be taking steps towards managing stress and the other adjustments we go through during menopause.
Melissa Blair, a training coach and one of Canada’s foremost global fitness competitors, is a member of our team of Purica Ambassadors committed to providing you with healthy eating and training tips. For more information, check out her website or email her. And for regular healthy eating and training tips, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook
*A note on vegan and vegetarian options: At Purica, we’re committed to empowering you with the best in whole foods, supplements and positive lifestyle solutions. We support all athletes and active living people whatever your dietary preferences, although we will always do our part to raise awareness about the benefits of vegetarian or vegan options.