Weight gain and in particular belly fat is the number one symptom we continuously hear from women causes the biggest stress. It lowers our self esteem, makes us feel frumpy, crap and frustrated. Belly fat in particular, is also a dangerous type of fat to have in terms of long term health.
Research has shown that women in perimenopause can put on anywhere between 1-2 kg. There are lots of reasons for this and every woman will be different (as genetics does play a role) but there is good news as there are several things we can do to manage with this irritating symptom.
Why do we put weight on during perimenopause?
In the early stages of perimenopause oestrogen is up and down like a roller coaster and can at times be really high. High amounts of oestrogen are thought to promote fat gain (1).
Unfortunately, low amounts of oestrogen (usually seen at the latter stage of perimenopause) has also been shown to increase fat, especially around the belly, which increases the risk of diabetes type 2 and insulin resistance (2).
Due to the ageing process women tend to lose muscle mass naturally and that muscle is replaced by fat.
When we hit our 40’s and 50’s our appetite can change too leading to us overeating (especially in relation to how much exercise we do to burn off that energy). One study showed that our hunger hormone grehlin increased during perimenopause (3) which makes us want to keep eating.
Not sleeping properly can lead to weight gain due to it affecting our metabolism and hunger and appetite hormones (decreases metabolism and increases our hunger) that means we want to eat more than our body can burn off leading to stored fat.
As we age our insulin levels increase with lowering oestrogen levels which can cause insulin resistance that drives fat storage especially around our tummy.
Stress means high amounts of cortisol – cortisol makes it harder to lose weight and will encourage us to hold onto weight so we survive the’ trauma’, ‘famine’ or ‘war’ that our brain has been primed to protect us from.
Our brain doesn’t understand that our kids sports and extra curricular activities, stroppy teenagers, work deadlines, sick parents and partners wanting attention doesn’t equate to possible starvation.
But not all is lost there is lots we can do…
Tips to manage the bulge:
- Test or chart to find out what is happening with your hormones. We offer the Eve hormone testing kit and we teach hormone charting on our online programme.
- Exercise – strength training is hugely important to build muscle which takes the place of the stubborn fat. Exercise can burn off that stored fat and help with stress and improve sleep.
- Reduce the refined and processed carbohydrates which can drive insulin resistance and belly fat. Alcohol can also exacerbate this so reduce or avoid alcohol for the time being and see how it makes you feel. There are quite a few studies that show that a low carb diet can really reduce stubborn belly fat, along with the Mediterranean diet.
- Eating a diet rich in fibre and prebiotic foods has also been shown to be beneficial by reducing insulin and also feeding the good bacteria (some strains of bacteria have been shown to extract more energy from food and drive obesity). A diet rich in vegetables, wholegrains, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds will give you the fibre you need.
- Manage your stress – take mini stress breaks every day, find the time to do something fun just for you, try journaling, meditation, diaphragmatic breathing and yin yoga.
- Make time for sleep – create a lovely winding down routine to let your body know you are ready for sleep, turn off devices 2 hours before bed to ensure cortisol levels have time to reduce so melatonin (sleep hormone) can be released. Try an epsom salts bath (0r foot bath). Epsom salts contain magnesium which can help sleep. Massage lavender oil into your feet before bed or try lavender pillow or burn oil. Have a relaxing herbal tea 2 hours before bed.
- Try mindful eating – take a note as to the reasons why you are eating – are you truly hungry or eating for emotional eating? Slow your eating down and enjoy every mouthful to stop you from overeating.
- Make sure you are eating enough protein and healthy fats at every meal. This will stop the rollercoaster of glucose and insulin which can lead to crashes in energy and cravings.
Come and join our free Facebook Group Hormone Health Tips for Women 40+ and be part of an amazing group of perimenopausal women
Why the belly fat?! Seriously, after 40 the belly fat can pile on. The next 30 minutes could change your life. Drop your email address below and we’ll send you our free webinar. Find out why our jeans get tighter as we head towards menopause, and what you can do to stop it!
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