As a woman, there comes a time when your body starts to feel like it’s no longer predictable like it used to be. It reacts to foods that you used to love and you seem to gain weight simply looking at food.
And while for some that day may hit in your 30’s and for others well into their 50’s.
But inevitably it can feel very hard. It’s as if the contract you had with your body on how things are supposed to work has expired. And in truth, you didn’t really get any warning.
It’s like you remember hearing about this struggle your mom talked about – when she looked at you sweetly and said “one day you’ll understand darling” – but you figured you’d at least feel a little different so that you knew it was coming.
That’s how quietly it happens. And the truth is that you’re not really ready to give in.
So, you start to try fad diets. You starve yourself. You find yourself giving up entire food groups because darn it – you’re going to find the culprit behind this sudden weight gain!
And while you probably know deep down that it’s your hormones, it can be hard to accept because this is a part of the equation that you really can’t control or do anything about.
Or maybe you can.
When it comes to women, weight gain and hormones the key is really understanding what’s happening in your body and taking action that makes sense.
So, let’s dig in and maybe uncover what’s really at play so you can feel more in control of your body (and weight).
Estrogen is responsible for the functioning of female reproductive systems. It also promotes the storage of healthy fat for reproductive years so that a woman’s body can do what it was designed at optimal levels.
When estrogen levels fall below optimal levels in women, the biggest result often is weight gain and trouble losing weight. This most happens to women who are in the perimenopausal or menopausal phases of their life – when there is a notable decrease in estrogen.
Women who are in that phase of life often see a decrease in one form of estrogen called estradiol.
Estradiol helps regulate metabolism and body weight and lower levels of this form of estrogen are usually associated with the struggle we feel.
What might also become apparent for a woman experiencing decreased estradiol is that the weight gain isn’t the same as it used to be earlier in life. While you might have gained weight in your hips or thighs early in life, weight gain associated with loss of estradiol tends to build around the midsection and abdomen (which can be another great shock).
What’s even more impactful is that the weight gain that builds up in this area leads to a build up of visceral fat- which is the fat that has been linked to specific medical conditions such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease and some cancers.
And while it might be tempting to fight your body and demand it process foods the way it used to when you were 20 – the truth is that the impact can lead to more than just weight gain.
So, what can you do?
Well, as always being the Rebel Dietitian – I’m not going to suggest that you do anything drastic, adopt any fancy food plans or cut food groups out.
What I will tell you is that you need to . . .
- Get Information About Your Own Body
- Adopt A Healthy Diet That Supports What You Need
- Get Moving & Reduce Stress
Get Information About Your Own Body
Instead of assuming that you have low levels of hormones, it’s important to know exactly what’s going on in your body before you take any action to change your diet.
One of the things I often recommend women do before we implement a new food regimen is get some testing done. We offer a variety of tests that can help you see what’s going on in your own system!
Instead of guessing or assuming that your weight gain is a result of hormone loss, there is actually a test that can provide you with information about what’s happening for you – and here’s why that’s important. . .
Knowing your hormone levels can provide you with a window of how your body is metabolizing certain foods and allows for you to better choose the foods that will support optimal body function – including weight loss.
You may also want to consider getting a complete picture of your genomic make-up to help complete the picture and see how your genes play a role in your particular weight loss journey.
For example, you may have also noticed is that your body is now reacting to certain foods or alcohol in a way it didn’t before – all this could be tied to your hormone levels and way your body processes alcohol to start with, so getting a complete picture helps you create a meal plan (and add supplements) that can heal, support and improve your body functions!
Adopt A Healthy Diet That Supports What You Need
Although I often say that your meal plan is only as good as the information we can get on what’s really happening for you, there are certain things you can do today that will help you manage weight better during perimenopause and menopause.
When adopting a meal plan aimed at losing weight now, you’ll want to
- Avoid processed and high fat foods
- Eat a variety of fiber rich fruits and vegetables each day
- Drink water and avoid soda, sugary beverages, juice, and alcohol
- consume whole grains and lean proteins along with healthful plant-based fats (like avocado)
- Eat cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower
- Make sure you consume enough calcium (which you can do by eating plant based foods) to support your bones
- Enjoy seeds and nuts that are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc
By making a few simple changes and making sure that you don’t skip meals and end up ravenous for your next meal, you’ll ensure that you keep the pounds off and take care of your body in the best way possible. (also if you really want to know how to cue into your own body signals you can turn to genomic testing for further insight).
Get Moving and Reduce Stress
One of the biggest culprits of weight gain during this period can also be stress. Stress impacts levels of cortisol in your body which can ultimately lead to unwanted weight gain or trouble losing weight.
Instead of heading for a glass of wine to destress – it’s important to think about this as an opportunity to get your body moving (did you know that alcohol actually increases stress).
I often share that you’ll want to combine both cardio and strength exercises to help you shed weight and build muscles (which burns fat more effectively).
Cardio options can include anything from biking, running, swimming or even walking (or whatever else you’ll do consistently).
And because osteoporosis risks skyrocket after menopause, adopting a strength training routine can be especially important during this time. Strength training will help to build muscle mass, burn body fat, and overall improve your metabolism.
You can try working out at home or with a trainer using dumbbells, resistance tubing or free weight machines – I always recommend engaging an expert to help you get comfortable if this is new to you.
If this has been something you’ve done for years, you can talk to your trainer about working in new exercises and options to help you shake up your routine.
Ultimately, the key to weight loss when your body starts changing is to stay positive and not “give in”. I often hear of women who feel as if they can’t do anything during this time – so they give up! You don’t have to continue to struggle or give up. There are plenty of options – and they all start with getting to know what’s happening for your particular body!
If you’re interested in discussing how we can help you, contact our office for a consultation and we’ll help you get started on your weight loss path (we offer both virtual and in person options).
In good health,