To all the women out there who have made it through menopause without gaining weight, I salute you. If you even exist. Maybe those movie stars who have personal chefs, daily fitness coaching, 3-hour Pilates classes, and hot yoga in a sauna can avoid putting on the pounds. But for the average woman, menopause is tough on the waistline.
During menopause, hormones--which once ran on something like a schedule--are completely derailed. I used to be as reliable as a Swiss watch and now my cycle is a train wreck. And the resulting hormonal fluctuations can create all kinds of problems: hot flashes, night sweats, moodiness, dry skin, brittle hair, acne, bloating, breast tenderness, and this is just off the top of my head. Is it any wonder women turn to alcohol and sugar for comfort?
But alcohol (which contains sugar) and sweet treats are no cure! In fact, alcohol and sugar are culprits in the menopausal weight gain situation. Yes, a bottle of wine and a pan full of brownies might make you feel better temporarily, but in the long run they will end up making you feel worse. Overindulging in either alcohol or sugary junk food will lead to blood sugar spikes, insulin spikes, excess calories being stored as fat, weight gain, mood swings, more cravings, more unhappiness!
A better way to go?
1) Ditch the sugar and up the protein. Protein is the key, unlocking many benefits for women. Eating more high quality protein helps build and sustain muscle during the time most women are losing muscle and gaining fat. Protein helps strengthen hair and nails. Protein is filling and satisfying and also helps stabilize blood sugar levels. Protein takes much more energy to digest--more than fat or carbs--and thus helps boost metabolism. The highest quality protein comes from animals: pastured eggs, grass-fed dairy, grass-fed meats and poultry, wild game, wild-caught fish. Try to get at least a 3-4 oz. serving (20 grams of protein) at every meal and snack.
2) Go with whole foods. They are much more satisfying than refined and processed food products. When you eat whole foods, your body expends more energy breaking them down. This extra effort means more calories are burned just digesting your dinner! More fiber helps you feel full, helps move food stuffs through your digestive system so you don't get backed up, and helps feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. Get your fiber from whole fruits, veggies, roots, nuts, seeds, and grains.
3) Drink more water. I would say ditch the alcohol, but I know you don't want to hear that! So just cut back on the alcohol while upping the water. Water helps rid your body of toxins, including excess estrogen and other hormones. Water fills you up with zero calories. Water makes every muscle, joint, and organ in your body function better, more easily, with less strain. Even slight dehydration makes you feel tired and lethargic. Drink more water and feel better!
4) Move more and sit less. Menopause is a time of transition. So this is a great time to start something new! Discover a new activity that you enjoy, one that gets you up off your butt. The choices are endless: biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, snowboarding, ballroom dance, yoga, frisbee golf, gardening, swimming, bootcamp, Pilates, Zumba. No matter whether you have exercised your entire life, or are just starting now, there is a class or a club out there for you! Grab a friend and get moving!
5) Chill out. Menopause can be stressful, like any other period of change, and stress does nothing to help with weight loss. Instead of sweating the small stuff, take time to breathe. Every moment of this transition might not be bliss-filled, but there are many ways to soothe the stress. You might enjoy yoga, meditation, t'ai chi, qi gong, or another mindful practice. You might prefer to join a church-based prayer group, a synagogue, or a daily walk in nature. Acupuncture or massage therapy could be your ticket to a deeper sense of peace. Maybe you just need a cup of tea and a chat with a good friend.
If you are struggling to lose weight while transitioning through menopause, I can offer you one-on-one support. I am available for weight loss coaching, holistic personal training, bootcamp classes and more. Leave me a message!