Is menopausal weight gain something you struggle with? Have you started putting on weight even though your diet and exercise routine hasn’t changed? And no matter what you do, you cannot shift the weight or it comes back with vengeance? It is a common question I receive in clinic with women when they reach their menopausal years.
Many women find they put on weight on their abdomen after menopause. Weight is easier to gain and harder to lose! The things that use to work for us no longer work. It can be very frustrating!
The decline of our digestive functioning
Hormonal changes during menopause affects our metabolism, our energy and our fat storage. In Chinese medicine theory, for example our digestive capacity starts to diminish at the age of 35 years old, which affects our capacity. At 35 we can also see the start of peri-menopause. When we reach 50, our digestive function has weakened considerably, where we see weight gain. Our digestive capacity and function needs attention.
Many women also may become less active – we find we tire easier, especially if we are having difficulty sleeping. Our energy reserves are lower because our digestive functioning decreases. We may also fall into unhealthy habits to get bursts of energy.
The mood factor in Menopausal weight gain
There are also mental and emotional changes that we can experience – more anxiety, depression, irritability. Our moods can become much less stable. If we experienced PMS (and didn’t address it) during our menstrual years, our mood swings can become much worse! Our families often feel the brunt of this.
When we experience all these mood changes, we often are less inclined to exercise. By starting to create good habits, and changing slowly, we can make profound changes to our menopausal years.
I want to say something here about our vitality and the ability to change. We need resources, energy, and vitality to change. If we don’t have the vitality to change, we will start to make changes, and then fall in a heap and go back to our old ways. There are a couple of ways to boost our vitality – there are certain yoga movements and herbal tonics that will give us that energy to change.
Understanding the hormonal change that leads to menopausal weight gain
As we move towards our menopausal years, this is called peri-menopause, our progesterone levels generally drop. This leads to estrogen dominance.
Then as our estrogen levels we drop. A decrease in estrogen can increase our appetite! we eat more and don’t feel full. This is because estrogen has a role in regulating our hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin. We become more hungry, eat a lot more, don’t feel full, eat more. This ultimately leads to menopausal weight gain, especially around our abdomen.
The other impact of decreased estrogen is the fat distribution of our body. We will notice less fat on our hips and thighs. Yet we find more fat on our abdomen.
We also lose muscle mass with a reduction in estrogen levels in our body. The reduction in muscle mass slows our metabolism even more, and this can result in finding it difficult to lose weight.
There is a lot going on for us during menopause – the way our body functions changes significantly. With understanding this, we can start to make adjustments to the way we view our body and adjust our lifestyle for a healthy happy menopause.
So here are some helpful hints to busting that bulge!
1. Posture – you may wonder what posture has to do with weight gain? The digestive organs are found in your abdomen, and if you are slouched over, it leads to sluggish digestion and poor waist (I means waste) Pardon the pun!
2. Every Mama Matters herbal tonics and teas – herbal medicine is not only used when you are sick. There are many tonics that help maintain optimal functioning of the processes in our body. You can take Chinese herbs to maintain and improve digestive functioning as we age.
3. Drink hawthorn fruit tea – it reduces fat accumulation, purifies the blood and reduces cholesterol.
4. Massage your legs – Yes massage your legs. There are energy pathways that run down your legs that have an impact on your digestion. There is a longevity point just under your knee that not only improves your energy, it can promote weight loss.
5. Spice up your life – add spices to your meals in drinks. Cinnamon, clove, ginger and garlic can all help with your food factory.
6. Avoid icy cold drinks and food. Cold is not a woman’s best friend. It can create sluggish digestion leading to weight gain.
7. Walk – especially for 10 minutes after eating. Walking when tired can also help invigorate your energy. You can actually be tired from not moving enough.
8. Eat like a king at breakfast, like a merchant at lunch and a pauper at dinner. At breakfast we need to fuel our day. In the evening is the tie we slow down and rest so we do not need a large meal.
9. Dance – and have fun doing it. Or find something that lights your fire to do. Dance moves like figure of eight and circular motion of the waist helps target the area where fat is often deposited during menopause.
There are many more helpful tips for menopausal weight gain. However it can be overwhelming with too much information. Choose one thing to do a week, introduce slowly and make them positive life style choices.