Perimenopause – Weight gain and how to lose it

Recent research shows that weight gain during the menopause transition (perimenopause) is very common, and it is even thought that up to 70% of women are affected. While many in the world of health claim that it isn’t a ‘thing’, weight gain is now recognised as a known symptom of perimenopause and menopause.

I’ve been asking Women who join my free natural perimenopause group (Wise Women’s Wellness) what their top symptom during this transition has been, and by far the number one reported most bothersome symptom has been weight gain

Why are we gaining weight or noticing a redistribution of weight from our hips and thighs to our midsection during this time?

Well, there isn’t a single answer. It is combination of factors which may differ from woman to woman. Common factors that may contribute to these changes include hormonal factors like fluctuating estrogen levels, poor sleep patterns, increased stress levels, reduced physical activity levels and even some normal aging factors. 

Then we have the conditions that may be surfacing during this more vulnerable period that complicate and compound the weight gain. These include low thyroid function, insulin resistance, compromised gut and liver health and chronic inflammation.

This is why a holistic approach is needed and perhaps an investigation and complete overhaul. If our menstrual cycles are our report cards over all of our reproductive years, then our perimenopause experience is the final exam before we enter our new path into menopause. It is a time to get on a good path though as perimenopause is a more vulnerable stage of life when underlying imbalances may surface along with symptoms. I like to see our symptoms as messengers. It’s an empowering perspective that can change our lives for the better and have a ripple effect into our worlds – if we listen and respond.

Perimenopause can be a cross road and the path we go down really matters. 

Excess weight gain during perimenopause increases our risk of developing cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome and metabolic syndrome can also cause excess weight so a vicious cycle. If you haven’t heard, metabolic syndrome is a cluster of health issues including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, insulin resistance and fatty liver. While abdominal fat can expand, so can fat cells around the heart (para cardial fat) which increases our risk of heart disease. Heart disease prevention is important as heart disease kills twice as many women in New Zealand than any other cause.

Now the point of this post is not to create fear as I believe there is far too much of that around the perimenopause transition anyway. It is more about awareness and action. Awareness can inspire action. When we were younger our hormones afforded us protection against these conditions which we should be thankful for. We benefited from them when we had them. Now our risks increase, but put into perspective the risks mirror that which men have always had.

If we are on that downward spiral we need to be honest with ourselves and accept that we simply may not be able to continue doing what we have always done, if we want different results during perimenopause.

What worked for us before may no longer be enough!

So, that said, what can you do?

My approach is always to get all of the foundations in place first. This is the nutrition (including where necessary dietary supplements) and lifestyle factors. These are the most important factor and once you have these right there is space to layer in extra support if needed – for many women making some nutrition and lifestyle adjustments will be enough.

 

Here are my top factors to address – I expand on each below the image but know that each could be a blog post on their own so for now just use this list as a checklist.

1) Balanced Meals. Yes, again. You’re probably going to need to eat less carbs (definitely less of the refined carbs) and more protein during perimenopause to reach your weight loss goals and stop gaining belly fat. Get the free balanced meal formula for midlife fat loss to help you get this right.

2) Get on top of stress. No you can’t skip this one sorry! Elevated stress hormones ramp up your body’s glucose and insulin production, steals your nutrients, messes with your sex hormones and can cause mayhem with your metabolism. You are probably in a very busy phase of life right now and it is probably best if you address this voluntarily if you know it is a factor for you. I have a bunch of blogs to help here.

3) If you want to be fit, healthy & strong in old age then you are going to need to exercise. We lose muscle mass and consequently bone mass as we age. Find what you love so you can do it consistently and include some kind of resistance training. My advice is to get started on whatever works for you and then extend as you go. Building muscle helps fix our metabolism and all those other underlying benefits as well as helping us lose weight.

4) Sleep, it may already be harder to gain restful sleep as your progesterone slowly declines, so it is really important that you do all you can to support your sleep. Set up a good routine of getting 7-9 hours sleep a night. Things that can help include sun in the morning, blue light & screen reduction at night, a good magnesium supplement before bed, a predictable sleep routine (same time to bed and awake each day) and some kind of relaxation before bed.

5) Minimise or avoid alcohol. Our tolerance to alcohol decreases as we age. Alcohol could be impacting your ability to sleep. If it is, know that this will be impacting your waistline. 

6) Check your caffeine consumption and minimise or avoid. It won’t be doing your waistline any favors as it is making your body pump the stress hormones that keep your blood sugar levels and fat storage high. It may also be effecting your sleep and both caffeine and alcohol are metabolised by the liver preferentially before hormones and toxins.

7) If you struggle with any of the above or implementing healthy new habits in general maybe it is time to dive deeper into your behaviors and emotions. Maybe you self sabotage or maybe you are not really a conscious eater? This is something we explore in the midlife metabolism mastery course if you need guidance. It is something so often left out of weight loss courses but very important.

8) Identify and correct nutrient deficiencies. Why? Well they could be driving those blocks or barriers to weight loss we discussed earlier like sluggish thyroid, liver or digestion function. Some can be tested by standard blood tests, others can’t. If you have more complex issues you may need someone like myself to do this assessing for you.

9) Identify and treat any of the blocks like low thyroid or insulin resistance. When it comes to thyroid and digestion etc you really need to see the right practitioner for screening. A TSH and T4 blood test from your doctor is not enough. Taking losec from the doctor will only make things worse in the long run. The good news is the course helps you identify if insulin resistance is a problem for you and the whole thing is set up to help you heal. Get the foundations in place and if you still need more support I can help.

If you have read this far, go you, you are likely ready to take action. 

If you need help with the foundations or identifying or removing blocks I can help.

Midlife Metabolism Mastery Course

Work with me one to one 

 

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Julie McGill

Perimenopausal mother to 4 and holistic clinical nutritionist helping women thrive through perimenopause, naturally.

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Image of Julie McGill Holistic Nutritionist
Hi, I'm Julie

I help Women thrive through perimenopause, naturally.  I’m a qualified & holistic clinical nutritionist, mum to 4 and also navigating my way through second puberty.

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