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The Top 5 Reasons Menopausal Women Have Trouble Losing Weight
Remember the good old days when losing 5 or 10 pounds just meant eating less and exercising more? I have a formula – if I want to fit in my “skinny” jeans, I just stop the double order of onion rings and ride the extra miles on my bike. Whoosh! it comes.
Now that I’m in those wonderful menopauses, it doesn’t work that way anymore. I’ve heard the same lament from my clients, and if you’re a baby boomer woman, I’m sure you’ve been there too. I feel your pain. So, what is the problem here, and what can we do about it?
1. Hormones, hormones, hormones. Are you tired of hearing about these pesky critters – and – experiencing the havoc they wreak when they lose their balance? Hot flashes, night sweats, migraines, and of course weight gain, are just some of the problems associated with an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone. The ovaries produce estrogen, and as production starts to decline, our bodies start looking elsewhere for it. Fat storage is one of the places where the body gets estrogen. So if your body is struggling to maintain hormonal balance, body fat can be very valuable and the body will just keep going.
solution: First, have your hormone levels checked by a healthcare professional. There are countless alternative treatments, and every woman is different, so there is no one size fits all. Remember that low progesterone is often the culprit due to our constant production of estrogen. Natural progesterone creams are widely available and easy to use. But be sure to get to a level, or you could do more harm than good.
2. Stress. Adrenaline and cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormones, are released in our bodies in response to physical or psychological threats. When the threat passes, our bodies are supposed to relax and get on with life. This worked out well for our ancestors, with the occasional bear attack. But today’s stress tends to be constant and chronic, so these hormones stay in our system. Our bodies interpret prolonged stress as famine and store all excess calories as fat.
solution: In most of our lives, there will be some kind of stress. It’s important to identify where your stressors are and do your best to reduce or eliminate the causes. If this is an issue, then learn some stress coping techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, time-outs (for yourself or your kids!), mini-vacations—anything that calms and/or comforts you. Girlfriends are especially helpful in this regard. use them!
3. Diet. When you combine a high-stress lifestyle with a low-fat/high-carb diet, weight gain is inevitable. Restlessness and anxiety can make you crave and eat sweets, starches (some would say comfort food), and caffeine, which can lead to a temporary spike in energy and mood. However, this is short-lived, your blood sugar plummets due to the insulin surge, and then you crash! Keep going. The yo-yo diet can also stress the body and really wreak havoc on your metabolism. Again, the body goes into starvation mode and absorbs most of the calories you consume.
solution: Now I don’t believe carbs are evil, but if you want to get off the weight gain merry-go-round, you should eliminate or significantly reduce carbs. Carbohydrates are measured by the glycemic index, with white bread topping the list with 100. The higher the glycemic index, the faster sugar enters your bloodstream and the faster you’ll crash. Therefore, eating less white rice and foods made with white flour, such as muffins, pretzels, breadsticks, bagels, and pasta, will go a long way toward improving your diet. Fruits and vegetables are your friends, and the more variety the better. Protein helps keep you feeling satisfied for longer so you don’t get those nasty cravings.
4. Reduced metabolism. We lose muscle tissue as we age—about ½ pound per year after age 28-30. Muscle is the site of fat metabolism, so the less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism.
solution: Yes, we do lose muscle as we age, but the good news is – no matter how old you are – you can regain muscle and increase your metabolism. Weight training is an important part of your exercise program, so start adding it to yours. If you have absolutely no idea what to do, consult a fitness professional. If you’ve already joined an exercise program and reached a plateau – it’s time to step up. A day or two a week of longer, harder workouts will help jumpstart your metabolism. Plus, try different workout routines to work different muscles so you can surprise them. When our bodies get used to a certain type of exercise and intensity, they will maintain it, but not make any progress, whether losing weight or improving your physique is your goal.
5. Insulin resistance. The low fat/high carb/processed food diet mentioned above can cause the cells of your body to become resistant to insulin. Insulin transports glucose into cells, and cells have receptor sites for insulin to enter. If there are fewer receptor sites, glucose will “hang around” waiting to enter and eventually be stored as fat.
solution: Insulin resistance doesn’t affect everyone—in fact, about 25 percent of people are prone to it. If you know you’re one of them again, cut back on those high-glycemic carbs, eat protein and carbs to lower blood sugar levels, and eat smaller, more frequent meals.
All of these elements could be an article or even a book in themselves. In fact, many volumes have been written. You now at least know how to overcome the nemesis of weight gain that can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health during perimenopause and beyond. One last very helpful tip – get support! Either way, this will find you – girlfriend, church group, mother, aunt, neighbor. We can all do it – with a little help from our friends.
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