This is the finale episode in my menopause series and what better way to approach the subject of weight gain during perimenopause.
It's definitely a thing but is it directly to blame for our clothes getting tighter?
Yes and no- I'll explain why.
During perimenopuse our BMR (basal metabolic rate, the amount of energy we need per day just to function without movement) reduces by up to 15% so say for instance your BMR was 1200 kcals a day that would reduce by 180 kcals . That could be enough to put on a pound or three however it's everything else that affects our energy levels, craving and movement that play a bigger role.
We've already discussed sleep and how our fluctuating Estrogen and dipping Progesterone can effect your quality of sleep. A lack of sleep increases a hormone called Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) it's a driver to eat when we are low on energy and is a survival mechanism but not really needed so much in our modern world. Ghrelin will have you reaching for the highly pallatable quick release carbohydrate, sugar laden snacks that we all crave from time to time as it's an easy and quick energy provider. However your blood sugar goes on a rollercoaster ride and you end up craving the same foods within a short period of time.
Taking the steps to get your sleep in check is a huge win to keeping your healthy food choices on track and hunger at bay (see episode 4 for some sleep tips)
A lack of energy will almost certainly reduce your activity in the day. NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenisis) is how we move in the day apart from deliberate exercise. Cleaning the house, walking around even fidgetting all add up and is a large proportion of your calorie burn throughout the day and a much larger percentage than exercise. Exercise is obviously amazing for body and mind and I would reccomend 30 minutes of exercise a day. I'm not talking cross fit here although fill your boots if you enjoy it. But something you really like, be it dance, strength training (I'll come to that in a bit) cycling. It has to be something you'll enjoy and stick to. (take a look at episode 3 lifestyle)
Strength Training or resistance training has it's own unique benefits. As we mature and especially through menopause and after we lose muscle. This in turn reduces your calorie burn throughout the day as muscle uses more energy than fat. Estrogen is anabolic (a muscle builder) so it becomes more difficult to maintain precious muscle but you can help avoid this by resistance training and eating a protein rich diet. I would aim for 1.4-1.6g of protein per kg of bodyweight consumed every 3-4 hours in 20-45g servings to promote muscle protein synthesis.
Stress- another belly fat issue. Stress can play a huge role in your body composition. A rise in cortisol can cause you to hold onto fat around your mid section. Implement de-stressing strayegies into your life regularly. I for one have noticed a change in my mid section after greatly increasing yoga and meditation into my life. It not only helps my mindset but I have noticed a reduction in waist measurement with no other changes to diet or exercise.
Another reason for belly fat is the dip in progesterone and fluctuating estrogen meaning that when estrogen dips really low it can actually make is testosterone dominant for a time meaning we can have male pattern body fat storage (i.e. the belly)
Hormone therapy may help but speak to your Dr regarding this.
As always stick to a healthy balanced diet- That doesn't mean cutting out the carbs. The last thing you need is brain fog (see episode 7) from going to low with carbohydrates. Aim for a small calorie deficit around 10% of your total daily energy expenditure and a good amount of protein as mentioned earlier. Fill your plate with veggies, some healthy fats and a starchy carb source (around a cupped handful)
Tracking is a really good way to keep a check of this. You don't need to do it forever but it's a real eye opener and educational tool.
Alcohol- Try not to consume too many empty calories. Alcohol is very calories dense and can also be a contributor to hot flashes and night sweats (see episode 5 hot flashes) as well as anxiety and mood swings. It may be beneficial to cut it out for a time or just have a couple of glasses at the weekend. Alcohol is also a driver to eat so be mindful of your consumption.
For more advice around food choices take a look at episode 2 diet.
Mindset- This one is a biggie!!
By now we all know that menopause can be a challenge. However I truly believe that how we approach it can make a huge difference.
It's happening whether we like it or not and although we can implement strategies to make the transition a little easier you can't stop it and in my opinion I don't think I would even if I had the choice. We are transitioning to a different stage of life where we can start to focus on ourselves a little more. I definitely don't put up with much BS these days, I feel more grounded, full of knowledge and wisdom that only a more mature woman would have.
Infact we are the only species that go through menopause except a few whale species and I find that fascinating. Who knows the real reason for that? I have my theories but thats for another time.
I hope you've enjoyed this series. If you'd like help with perimenopause or minset, fat loss overcomming barriers in general do reach out I'd love to help.
Coach Tula xxx