Is it possible to lose weight and thickness gained after menopause? Sharon sent us this question via our Ask Our Healthy Weight Loss Team a Question feature (look to your right). It’s a question near and dear to my heart as I’ve personally dealt with this and work with many women as they are going through this stage of life and worry about how their bodies are changing.
Abdominal weight gain is one of the most common complaints we see among women who are going through perimenopause or menopause. We are often told to just accept it, but do we have to? Let’s look at the causes and whether we can do anything about them.
Why Do Women Gain Weight during Menopause?
It’s different for every woman but hormonal fluctuations as we go through menopause do seem to trigger varying degrees of increased abdominal girth for many women. Some of the weight gain might be viewed as the natural course of things, but much of it is not. Let’s discuss what seems to be natural first.
As our ovaries stop producing estrogen, our bodies begin to seek out other sources. One of the best sources is abdominal fat. All fat cells produce estrogen but abdominal fat is a particularly available source. Why our bodies do this isn’t absolutely clear but some experts speculate it may be an attempt to preserve bone mass. Other natural hormonal processes also go on that likely contribute to our change in shape, too.
What’s important to understand, however, is that this natural process doesn’t have to mean significant amounts of increased abdominal fat. If we are developing the “middle-aged spread,” it’s likely a symptom of other things that may have been going on in our bodies for a while. In particular, inflammation and the related problem of insulin resistance may be at the root of many women’s struggles with weight during this time. Menopause simply makes it glaringly clear.
Avoiding Menopausal Weight Gain
How does inflammation start? With years of eating the standard American diet (SAD) (which by the way is not just American anymore) combined with unrelenting stress created by everything from yo-yo dieting and unrecognized food sensitivities to hectic, busy lives and emotional distress, we’ve got a sure recipe for knocking our bodies out of balance. Not only does it set us up for metabolic problems like insulin resistance, it can also lead to adrenal fatigue, which basically means we’ve exhausted our bodies’ system for managing stress. This exhaustion can leave us tired even when we get plenty of sleep, depressed, craving carbohydrates and, you guessed it, gaining weight.
The solution is to restore the basic health and balance in our bodies. How do we do that? With a healthy lifestyle program that’s based on eating whole, real foods, learning to manage stress and emotions, and physical activity that supports our well-being instead of stressing us more. We may also temporarily benefit from nutritional supplementation, but it’s best to work with a qualified health professional such as a registered dietitian to determine that. We want to develop an personalized plan that addresses our individual needs. Randomly taking supplements probably won’t help and it might harm.
It comes down to getting healthy. A good message for those of us who have worried about our weights for years. Taking the focus off weight during this time, and putting it where it can really help, is our best recipe for coming through menopause with our bodies functioning well without unwanted weight.
Many women have told me menopause was easy for them; others not so. What about you? If you haven’t experienced it yet, do you have any role models for breezing through this natural phase of life?