Weight loss and menopause seem to go hand in hand. Women who were trim their whole life find that the food they consumed for decades is suddenly piling on the kilos and no matter how hard they diet or exercise it won’t budge. The frustration is real and I see it every day in the clinic. I have been working with weight loss clients for years and I truly feel the frustration of a woman who is trying so hard to do all of the right things but they’re just not getting the results they want. Weight gain is not the only problem that comes hand in hand with menopause. Common symptoms such as headaches, hot flushes, muscle aches and pains, insomnia, anxiety and low mood etc can also accompany the hormone transition, and make the person feel nowhere near their best.
Is their body (and their weight) a slave to their hormones?? I say absolutely not!
Let’s start with a case study of a 48-year old woman who suddenly found the she was steadily gaining weight despite eating a healthy diet she had been eating for years and exercising most days. This steady weight gain was accompanied with regular, mild hot flushes, and irregular menstrual cycles so the assumption was that the weight gain was menopausal. This woman was in fact me! I was somewhat alarmed to find that I had gained 3kgs in around 3 months. I thought I had better get it under control so I incorporated many of the factors that I knew worked for my clients. I increased exercise (although this can often have the opposite effect if a person’s adrenal glands aren’t doing so well – more about that later), I reduced carbohydrates and increased protein in every meal and I reduced alcohol intake (I have since cut it out completely). It all worked beautifully. I am now back to my fighting weight, am fitter than I have ever been and the hot flushes have reduced dramatically.
HORMONES AND WEIGHT GAIN
So why would a diet that I had been eating for years all of a sudden stop working for me? It’s all due to the hormone spider’s web.
The Western diet and lifestyle drives a level of hormone dysfunction that hits the fan beautifully when we reach menopause. Years of high carbohydrate diets, crazy scheduling, hormone disrupting chemicals, stress, lack of exercise and relaxation time takes it toll and all comes crashing down when our sex hormones decide to go on a rollercoaster. I love using my spider’s web analogy when chatting to clients. It describes the subtle interplay between our hormones – you over do it in one area and it can pull all of them completely out of whack. Insulin is higher than it should be on a high carb diet, it can take the thyroid, stress hormones, sleep hormones and sex hormones with it. I find that people can get away with an unbalanced diet for a quite lengthy period of time but it always catches up with them eventually. In my case, I was eating quite a lot of carbohydrates as I felt I was burning them off with a very active lifestyle. The truth is I was overdoing the carbs and was very much protein deficient. When I got the macros right the rest fell into place. Luckily I only allowed the weight gain to get to 3kgs. When it gets to 20+kgs this is much further down the line and there is no quick fix. However, even though it takes a bit longer and is slower it can be done.
MENOPAUSE AND WEIGHT LOSS
When I work with my perimenopausal and menopausal clients I look at all aspects of their diet and lifestyle that can be affecting the spider’s web of hormones. What does their diet look like, are they exercising, do they have any other health issues, do they manage stress well has the weight gain been rapid or a slow steady onset, does their gut work well, how are their energy levels, what does their blood results look like etc. This information allows me to compile the best personalised diet for my clients that can help them reach their target weight and provide them with boundless energy.