I work with women all the time who are struggling with weight gain during perimenopause and menopause. Here are 4 common reasons may start to struggle with losing unwanted pounds during this stage of life:
1. Chronic Stress: When you’re under constant stress, it can wreak havoc on the stress hormone cortisol. It’s sooo important to manage stress. If you don’t get your hormones into balance – otherwise, belly fat can creep up! Make sure you’re resting, taking breaks, listening to your body, and using meditation/mindfulness/breath work to help get back into a parasympathetic state.
2. You’re consuming way too much oil & saturated fat: Yes, we need some healthy fats; BUT there is so much evidence that staying “low-carb” all the time with excessive protein and fat is not conducive to long term fat loss. Often, those low-carb/high-protein diets encourage the eating of excessive saturated fat which increases risk of heart disease as well.
3. Your gut is imbalanced: Mind your microbiome! Avoid those foods that are highly processed and high in fat/low in fiber, increasing diversity of plants to feed the microbiome, improving digestion and nourishment. (Check out Fiber Fueled for more on this topic)
4. Excessive calorie restriction: When you restrict calories too much for too long, it is really hard to maintain weight loss over the long haul. As you approach your goal weight, you’ll have to do some experimenting to find the sweet spot of how much you can eat without gaining weight.
Bonus: You’re too self-critical: Mindset matters! If you’re obsessed with your “diet” vs enjoying a healthy lifestyle, your cortisol level goes up & this can lead to a binge or imbalance. Life, food & movement are to be enjoyed! Follow a 80×20 or 90×10 mindset to allow occasional indulgences, without going off the rails! When in a state of chronic stress, you’re more likely to hold onto every calorie and ounce of fat because your body feels like you’re constantly in a state of threat. (See #1 again)
A study released today by the Journal of the American Heart Association found that “Older women who ate more plant protein had lower risk of premature, dementia related death.” The main takeaway is that “Substituting red meat, eggs or dairy products with nuts was associated with a significantly lower risk of death from all causes”.
Compared to postmenopausal women who had the least amount of plant protein intake, those with the highest amount of plant protein intake had a 9% lower risk of death from all causes, a 12% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of dementia-related death.
Higher consumption of processed red meat was associated with a 20% higher risk of dying from dementia.
Higher consumption of unprocessed meat, eggs and dairy products was associated with a 12%, 24% and 11% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, respectively.
Higher consumption of eggs was associated with a 10% higher risk of death due to cancer.
However, higher consumption of eggs was associated with a 14% lower risk of dying from dementia, while higher poultry consumption was associated with a 15% lower risk.
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Many women experience a “menopause middle” increase in belly fat in their 40s and 50s, and it can be super frustrating!
Weight gain and increased abdominal obesity are both risk factors for coronary artery disease – and both common with menopausal women. Recent studies regarding the benefits of regular physical activity in midlife women are “consistently suggestive of a positive impact on mood and weight control.”source
“During midlife years, women are at risk of increasing body weight and waist circumference. We evaluated changes in weight and waist circumference from enrollment to 2 years later and examined the influence of physical activity level on those changes among 232 women aged between 40-50. Weight increased significantly for the entire sample. Those who increased their physical activity from enrollment to 2 years later had the smallest increase in weight and had a slight decrease in waist circumference. To maintain ideal weight and waist circumference, midlife women should be encouraged to increase physical activity before and during the menopausal transition.” -source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3563258/
As our hormones change, cortisol levels in the body can increase as well, resulting in that dreaded ‘menopause middle’. Working to reduce stress (which also happens to be a side benefit of exercise) via mindfulness and meditation as well as improving sleep can have a major positive impact as well. source