During menopause, many feel that trying to lose weight becomes more challenging. Your hormones are fluctuating, and you probably feel like your body is storing seeming un-shiftable fat more than ever before. But here’s the good news, you don’t need to buy into the idea that you cannot lose weight during menopause. Keep reading and you’ll learn how start this new phase of your life leaner, fitter and healthier than you thought possible!
How does menopause affect the body?
If you’re going through “the big change,” you have probably already experienced some of the symptoms:
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As you age, hormone levels begin to dip. The ovarian function begins to decline, and you may notice that you lose or miss your period altogether. Once your periods stop entirely, progesterone and oestrogen production also dip. Most people enter menopause in their mid-40s to mid-50s. However, some women may enter menopause early, whereas others may enter it later in life.
In order to lose weight during menopause, it helps to first understand the reasons for the these changes that are happening to your body and how this is impacting body composition and metabolism. Once you know how to work with your body, and not against it, you can fight off the stubborn fat.
Why is weight gain common during menopause?
While the key to fat loss is the calorie deficit, getting into and staying in a deficit is sometimes made more difficult by what’s going on in an individual’s life. Menopausal and perimenopausal women, for example, have so much going on physically, hormonally, and mentally that maintaining a deficit in order to lose weight is often very hard.
Reduction in muscle mass
One of the reasons why losing weight during menopause is difficult, is that it is fairly common to experience a reduction in muscle mass. Muscle tissue is very ‘metabolically active’. Which means if you lose muscle mass, combined with a general decrease in metabolic rate due to age, you need less calories to maintain your weight compared to say a few years ago. This is why people often find their weight increases during menopause, even though they haven’t increased the amount of calories they’re consuming! It’s because their caloric requirements have decreased. And now instead being at weight maintenance and staying at the same weight, they’ve unwittingly moved into a calorie surplus thus weight gain happens.
Endocrine system changes
Let’s chat hormones. Some studies have shown that the hormonal changes during menopause such as the decrease in oestrogen levels may contribute to weight gain too. Most women find that as their oestrogen levels decrease, unwanted fat accumulation increases. But interestingly, despite what many have been told – studies show that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has not been directly linked with weight gain.
Nervous system changes
One of the biggest complaints during menopause is the impact it can have on your overall mood too. You may feel like your moods swing back and forth, accompanied by anxiety and depression. Menopause can make the nervous system feel like it is going haywire. Additionally, it may also affect memory.
The skeletal system
The change in hormones can cause you to begin to lose bone density. Menopausal women tend to have a higher risk of osteoporosis. Your bones and joints may suffer aches and pains on a more regular basis making exercise seem less appealing that it may have done previously.
The cardiovascular system
Oestrogen helps decrease the risk of heart disease because of its cardioprotective effects. As your oestrogen decreases, unfortunately, your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol may increase too.
Combine all of the above with multiple other lifestyle and environmental factors such as increased stress levels, lack of sleep, reduction in physical activity and many others, it is understandable that studies have shown the average increase in weight during menopause is typically around 1-2 kg.
How can you combat menopausal weight gain?
There’s good news.
Firsrtly, don’t be disheartened….
You can lose weight before, during and after menopause!
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…and not only that but get fitter, healthier and stronger at the same time.
You don’t need to fast, cut out carbs, drink weird and wonderful potions, exercise on an empty stomach 7 days a week….or any other pseudoscientific nonsense.
All we need to do is we just need to shift the calorie balance back to fat burning mode and that is EXACTLY what we’re going to cover next…
Don’t look for a quick fix
If you want to lose weight during menopause, try and avoid hopping on any bandwagons.
The key to losing menopausal weight and keeping it off isn’t a glass of celery juice, a detoxing smoothie or cutting out all of your favourite foods.
Researchers can assure you that FAD dieting doesn’t work. It may be effective short term, but the results won’t last. While not all forms of dieting are necessarily bad, the common trends tend to be pretty similar – they offer quick fixes to complex problems. People may lose weight for a short time and then gain it all back quickly. If you put yourself on a tight leash when it comes to your food choices or start looking at some foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it’s not going to end in success.
In order to lose fat, during the menopause or at any other time the calorie deficit needs to be front and centre.
If a calorie deficit doesn’t exist, YOU WON’T LOSE FAT.
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Quite simply, a calorie deficit is when you consume fewer calories than you’re burning – or you’re burning more calories than you eat and drink per day.
Make simple food swaps to decrease calories
A couple of tactical foods swaps or following a few dietary habits per day can seriously reduce your overall calorie intake.
- 1 slice of toast instead of 2 for breakfast.
- Only eat fruit between meals.
- Don’t drink alchol during the week.
- Swap calorie containing drinks for sugar-free varieties.
- Eat a salad for lunch or dinner.
- Only eat chocolate if you’ve done 10,000 steps etc.
It doesn’t need to be anything extreme, and you don’t want to implement millions of habits all at once or it will seem like an overload and you’ll never stick to it. Just look at your current food intake and try and implement 2 or 3 habits that you can follow every day.
If you want more dietary habits, check out my book 101 Ways To Lose Weight And Never Find It Again….as the name suggests, there are quite a few habits in the book for you to try.
Bump up the protein to lose weight during menopause
Now if you’ve followed me for longer than a week you’ll know that protein is amazing and a high protein diet has been shown time and time again to confer multiple benefits. It helps you to feel fuller for longer, it helps to repair muscles after exercise, it helps you to get stronger, helps with losing weight, the list goes on and on. It’s certainly not just for bodybuilders.
^^ that’s my high protein white chicken chilli recipe
It’s not surprising that studies have also found it specifically helps menopausal women too! One study found that a mere increase of 0.1g/kg of protein per day, helped reduce muscle loss in peri and menopausal women by 0.62kg. On this plan I’ve made sure that there is plenty of protein from lean meats, poultry, fish and dairy but I’ve also included several new protein-packed plant-based recipes too.
Plan your meals in advance
Planning ahead helps you to stay in control of what you eat. Meal planning makes it less likely that you will order takeaway or go to a restaurant after work because you already know what you’ll eat that day and, in many cases, already have prepared it in advance.
Fail to prepare and prepare to fail,
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A bonus of meal prep is that it can save you money too. Impulse buying at the supermarket can cause you to spend more money than you would have if you had a shopping list or menu to stick to. Additionally, you spend less time going to buy more ingredients or purchasing prepared foods.
Increase your physical activity
Decreasing calorie intake isn’t the only way to create a calorie deficit. The other way to help lose weight during menopause is to level-up your physical activity too. You don’t have to smash the gym 7 days a week at 7am. Infact, you don’t even need to go the the gym at all.
Ideally, (according to government guidelines) you’d want to reach about 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity. Some examples of aerobic exercise include swimming, biking, jogging or walking, going to an exercise class etc. If you’re new to working out, don’t push yourself. Overexertion can cause injuries and force you to take a longer break from physical activity. If you’ve had a lengthy layoff from exercise, just try and get moving for around 10 minutes every day and gradually increase your exercise.
However, for those who do like to lift weights, great! Strength training is superb as it helps to prevent muscle loss. As mentioned above, muscle loss increases as we age. It is also metabolically active. Meaning the more muscle we have, the more calories we burn. Win win!
Lastly, exercise isn’t just about losing fat! It has a huge range of benefits. A 2019 study found that “women with high and moderate physical activity levels have less severe menopausal symptoms compared to inactive women” not only that but exercise helps with minimising injury, getting stronger, increasing bone health, sleeping better, improving mood and cognitive function…the list really does go on and on.
So on the days you’re not feeling drained, sore and unmotivated, adding a workout into your daily routine will convey a tonne of benefits.
Staying motivated when increasing your physical activity can be one of the most challenging elements. One way to stay motivated is to bring the whole family into your workout routine or find friends to help keep you grounded. When you train together, you are more likely to hold each other accountable and stay on plan. For example, after dinner, you and your family could take a 30-minute walk every day.
Other nutrition considerations
Try to increase your phytoestrogens
Some foods like soya and linseeds contain phytoestrogens. When eaten, these can have a mild-oestrogen boosting effect on the body, which can help as you go through fluctuating levels. However, it may take up to two to three months to see the benefits from increasing phytoestrogens.
Boost your bone health
After the age of 35, bones start losing calcium. Then, as your oestrogen levels drop during perimenopause, the rate at which you lose calcium also increases. Osteoporosis becomes a higher risk. Some women find that taking hormone replacement therapy helps maintain oestrogen levels to protect their bones.
In addition to HRT, you can also eat various nutritious foods to help increase your bone health. For example, consider any fruits, vegetables or dairy products with calcium. Vitamin D is also critical for bone health. Here in the U.K., it can be challenging to get a lot of sunlight. You may feel like your only shot to see the sun happens from April to September. Try to expose yourself to direct sunlight at least once or twice a day for about 10 minutes.
If you have darker skin or low sunlight exposure, you may want to take a vitamin D supplement all year round. You may only need the vitamin D supplement through the fall and winter months if you have fairer skin.
Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake
If you want to stop feeling like you’re walking into a sauna, have a think about your caffeine and alcohol intake. Tea, coffee and high caffeine soft drinks may increase your hot flashes. If you drink alcohol, try to keep it to no more than two to three units. If you notice alcohol worsens your symptoms, avoid it as much as possible.
What next? Get A FREE Menopause Weight Loss Plan
You’ve made it this far, pat on the back for you!
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that YOU CAN LOSE WEIGHT BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER MENOPAUSE and not only that but get fitter, healthier and stronger at the same time.
Anyone who says otherwise is telling porky pies.
You don’t need to fast, cut out carbs, drink weird and wonderful potions, exercise on an empty stomach 7 days a week….or any other pseudoscientific nonsense. The key is a calorie deficit, smart food portions, variety, following a clear plan, doing what you enjoy, including some exercise and having realistic expectations.
If you’d like some help with the above ^^ watch this video below to hear some of the success stories from women who have completed our 12-week Menopause Weight Loss Mastery program.
Before you go, I’d like to give you a FREE delicious 7-day meal plan for losing stubborn perimenopause and menopause weight and keeping it off FOREVER!