The very word can brings thoughts of stubborn belly flat, hot flashes, and weight gain in almost every woman I know. The changes that happen in our body – hormonally – are inevitable.
I just entered menopause last year. Perimenopause started 5 years ago with hot flashes that robbed me of sleep and left me with flat, stuck to my face hair. Now in menopause I’m seeing a whole host of other changes.
On average, women gain 12-15 pounds between the ages of 45 and 55, according to JoAnnPinkerton, MD, executive director of the North American Menopause Society and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Virginia Health System.
But you do not have to be “average”! You can maintain a healthy weight, feel good and continue to look good through menopause and beyond. If you have already gone through menopause these strategies can help you lose the weight and feel good again.
Strategies To Maintain a Healthy Metabolism During Menopause
ONE: Exercise regularly.
Aim for 30 minutes, 3-4x a week. I recommend 2 days of high intensity exercise, a day of exercise like yoga which focus on lengthening muscles, flexibility and mobility of joints (choose a gentler class rather than hardcore like Bikram for this day). and 1 day of fun exercise like swimming, hiking, or biking. Mixing it up keeps it interesting. High Intensity Interval Training will build muscle and bone density (which helps boost metabolism). Yoga helps our muscles and joints stay limber. Outdoor activities are beneficial from a mind, body and soul perspective. If you want to get out and move daily – that’s great. But make the other 3 -4 days low key and stress relieving not intense.
TWO: Make Sleep a PRIORITY.
Most women heading in to menopause are busy women. Many are still raising families. Some women are climbing the corporate ladder (or reached the top). Some are doing both. We’re busy. We have a lot of things and people we are responsible for or to. And often because of this we lose out on sleep. We get into this mindset that we have to accomplish 20, 30….95 things every day. We cannot go to sleep until XYZ, ABC, and everything in between is accomplished. However, if you don’t get adequate sleep you are more susceptible to weight gain. Inadequate sleep is directly linked to obesity as it reduces leptin (the hormone which signals the feeling of being full) and increases ghrelin (the hormone which signals hunger).
THREE: Reduce stress.
Exercise and good sleep both help reduce stress. But in this crazy world we need to be intentional about reducing stress. We need a strategy to reduce stress. Intentionally incorporating stress relieving activities such as prayer, meditation, breathing techniques, or Emotion Freedom Technique can make an enormous difference on our stress levels. Increased stress is a factor in increased cortisol (which is already going up during menopause). Increased cortisol has been associated with increased belly fat.
FOUR: Manage your hot flashes.
How does this relate to weight loss? Because for many women it affects their sleep. Hot flashes, night sweats, waking up overheated….equals disrupted sleep. Which as you’ve seen above in #2 can have an affect on our metabolism and weight gain. Here are a few strategies for managing hot flashes:
- Stay hydrated. Aim for ounces equal to 50% your weight.
- Reduce caffeine.
- Don’t eat spicy food.
- Eat less sugar.
- Take Black Cohosh. Remifenin is the brand I take as recommended by my naturopath. When I take it regularly – once in the morning and once at night my hot flashes are all but non-existent. It took a few weeks to kick in but once it did I saw a clear difference.
- Invest in a Chilly Mat. I don’t know about you but when I do wake up feeling way hotter than I should and the bed feels horribly warm it’s so hard to get to sleep again. It occurred to me that there is a product that helps keep dogs cool outside in hot weather. It’s activated by their body weight. Why not something similar for menopausal women for use in their beds? My search took me to products made for menopausal women and they wanted 4x as much for the same product made for dogs. I have a small one for my head and an XL for my body. I keep it next to my bed so when I wake up overheated I can just get up, throw that on the bed and cool down instantly.
FIVE: Eat Healthy Fats.
Hopefully you’ve been seeing this advice more and more. The old thinking that fat makes us fat is outdated and, in my mind and many other experts out there, has caused us to become fatter and fatter and less and less healthy in many other ways.
So what are healthy fats? Avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, and butter (particularly butter from grass fed cows) to name a few. Dr. Mark Hyman, who is a functional medical doctor, shows us in his latest book Eat Fat, Get Thin that eating more fat can help us lose weight. I highly recommend the book if you want to know more.
Just a note: it isn’t just about eating more healthy fat. You also need to reduce carbs, especially processed carbs.
To recap. Here are the 5 strategies to lose weight before, during or after menopause:
- Exercise regularly.
- Make sleep a priority.
- Reduce stress
- Manage your hot flashes.
- Eat more healthy fat.
If you’re struggling and need help my doors are open.
Yours in health,