Weight gain is an often talked about symptom of the menopause and I’m always surprised to hear women say “it’s just one of those things” or “I just have to put up with it”. I am pleased to say that neither of these are true. With a little knowledge and planning, the dreaded spare tire around the middle doesn’t have to be your new normal.
- Blood Sugar balancing
During the menopause we are producing less oestrogen. One of the jobs of oestrogen is to keep insulin (our blood sugar hormone) in check. As we produce less oestrogen, we become more sensitive to insulin.
When we eat sugary foods and simple carbohydrates, we experience a spike in blood sugar levels and the pancreas releases insulin to clear the sugar away. However, as we are producing less oestrogen and are more sensitive to insulin, the insulin isn’t able to do its job and remains in the bloodstream. Yet we feel tired and hungry for sugar.
This excess insulin shows up as fat around the middle and makes weight loss really difficult. The key is to eat to balance your blood sugar levels.
If you have high levels of stress you are going to have imbalanced insulin and if you have imbalanced insulin you are going to have high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And like insulin, excess cortisol shows up as weight around the middle.
The two hormones interact with each other in that when you have imbalanced blood sugar levels, the body thinks you are under attack and so alerts the stress response. During the stress response, a load of stored sugar is dumped into the bloodstream to give you the energy to ‘fight or flight’. More sugar in the bloodstream, that is not being burnt off running for your life, creates a further imbalance in blood sugar levels.
Inadequate sleep leads to the body becoming temporarily resistant to insulin – more insulin in the bloodstream = more fat storage. Inadequate sleep also lowers leptin (our satiety hormone) and increases ghrelin (our hunger hormone) so we end up feeling hungrier throughout the day. And it will be hunger for sugary, refined carbohydrates because of the effects on insulin.
Sleep can often become compromised during the menopause but there are lots you can easily do to help. Including taking a Magnesium supplement (Magnesium Glycinate) and my Homeobotanicals sleep remedy.
- Resistance Exercise
Fluctuations in hormones also sees a decrease in muscle mass and increase in fat storage and so resistance exercise becomes more important during the menopausal years. Not only does it help to build muscle mass, which in turn boosts our metabolism and helps us to burn fat, but it helps keep blood sugar levels balanced, reduces stress, promotes better quality sleep and helps to normalise oestrogen levels which in turns helps with other menopausal symptoms.
Where to start?
With all things hormonal, you cannot think of any one thing in isolation. In saying that however, I would start with nutrition. Get that sorted and you will have better moods and be more motivated to create daily rituals such as a stress-reducing meditation practice, an exercise programme and a good bedtime routine.
If you would like to discuss any of this in more detail, please do book a free 30-minute discovery call.