Last week, while visiting over lunch, my friend looked at me -with tears in her eyes- and proceeded to tell me how terribly frustrated she was and she didn’t know what to do…
When I asked the details, she told me about the weight struggles she’d battled consistently for the past decade. It seems she had been to numerous doctors and each one had lectured her about not exercising enough – consuming too many calories – or not having enough discipline. Each one then placed her on a stringent diet—none of which worked—and all of which made her feel more and more like a failure.
After listening to her story, I asked her when her weight issues had begun. She told me they had started in her mid-forties. I then asked her when her Menopause process had started. She again stated her mid-forties. (See a pattern forming here?)
We stared at each other for a moment and then she snapped her fingers, laughed and said ‘It’s HORMONES NOT FOOD, isn’t it??!!’ I smiled at her and we began to talk in-depth about the Menopause process and the female body.
She left our conversation invigorated and hopeful. I left painfully aware that women are just NOT getting the information they need about Menopause – especially where weight issues are concerned. This both troubles and saddens me.
One of the primary Menopause-related symptoms is -unfortunately- weight gain. It’s estimated that upwards of 90% of peri menopausal/Menopausal women between the ages of 35-58 gain weight. That weight gain is thought to be approximately 10-18 pounds total, gradually accumulating at a rate of about a pound a year. More if the thyroid is impacted, which is quite common in Midlife women.
While it’s been a long-held belief that lack of exercise, eating too much and slowed metabolism were chiefly responsible for this accruing weight, new medical studies are proving otherwise. It’s now believed that hormone imbalances are primarily responsible for menopausal weight gain; declining estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and/or testosterone all play a role in this problem – as does stress, Metabolic Syndrome, depression, toxicity within the body, undiagnosed food allergies, possible thyroid issues, and chronic inflammatory conditions, to name but a few additional potentialities.
First let’s look at the role hormones play:
During Menopause it’s well known that estrogen and progesterone decrease dramatically.
The ovaries began producing less and less estrogen, causing monthly ovulation to cease. The body then sources small amounts of estrogen from other places within the body, primarily the adrenal glands and the fat cells. Fat cells are known to produce estrogen, consequently the body will begin to store fat in order to increase estrogen levels. Lowered progesterone levels also exacerbate the primary symptoms of Menopause, including weight gain and bloating/water retention. Testosterone contributes to the development of lean muscle. Once testosterone levels decline- they tend to take the ability to develop, and maintain muscle with them; leaving a body that is storing fat cells and slowing metabolically.
Chronic stress causes overworked adrenals to release cortisol -and cortisol then triggers the body to store fat as well. Stress also robs us of quality sleep and works to keep the body ‘whipped’- worsening already out- of- whack hormones.
Add to this mix, the distinct possibility of an under-functioning thyroid, possible insulin resistance and endocrine system disrupting toxicity- and there is A LOT more to Menopausal weight gain than JUST calorie counting and portion control!
That being said however, food DOES have a role to play- and we should be mindful at this stage of our lives particularly, to not just FEED our bodies- but to NOURISH them with high-quality food, quality vitamin and mineral supplementation, plenty of essential fatty acids and omegas and proper hydration. All these have a part to play in keeping us balanced, fit and well.
The tendency in this country to eat a low fat/ high carb diet also exacerbates issues. Certain fats (the Omegas and essential fatty acids) are critical to hormone balance, stable emotions and a properly functioning metabolism- while high carbohydrate consumption can exhaust the adrenals, trigger food cravings, cause damaging dips in blood sugar and subsequent insulin-resistance.
According to numerous Dietitians we’ve interviewed here at Menopauserus.com, the role of functional foods in Menopause can help control weight, balance estrogen, manage symptoms and help reduce the effects of postmenopausal diseases such as: metabolic syndrome, heart disease, etc.
Some of these important foods are:
omega 3 fatty acids
cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage (but watch out if you have
thyroid issues!) and plenty of deep, dark green leafy vegetables
fresh fruits in moderation
Grass fed, Organic meats, poultry
Organic dairy such as yogurt and grass-fed butter
Raw nuts, seeds, avocados and quality, cold pressed-extra virgin oils
Phytoestrogens are also very important- especially for this time in a woman’s life. Phytoestrogens have two classes: lignans and isoflavonoids.
Lignans are found in grains, certain seeds, fruits, vegetables and flaxseed.
Isoflavonoids are found in legumes like soy, lentils, chickpeas and peanuts.
Reducing refined sugar and not ‘starving’ yourself are the most important first steps!
So, this brings us full circle back to my friend and her decade of suffering. If weight gain is an issue for you as you journey through Menopause, talk with your ND or MD about checking your hormones and thyroid- first and foremost- and then set yourself the task of cleaning up every single aspect of your diet and lifestyle! Doing so might just save you ALOT of wasted time- and tears!
(If you have a skin health or beauty question for Carrie please email her directly: Carrie@MidlifeMystique.com – she’s looking forward to hearing from you!)
© copyright 2017 Carrie E. Pierce all rights reserved
Health and Beauty has been Carrie E. Pierce’s career focus for over 28 years. Throughout her career, Carrie has served as: Guest and Corporate Makeup Artist for numerous major, international cosmetic companies and as a Hollywood film, TV and special effects makeup artist. She’s provided skin care and makeup services for the fashion industry, as well as restorative make up procedures for burn and scar patients, cancer patients, domestic violence survivors and women suffering with self-esteem issues. Carrie is a licensed Aesthetician, Certified Color Analyst, Menopause Skin Care Specialist, Author, Public Speaker and served as co host of the syndicated radio show ‘Magnificent Menopause & Beyond©’. It’s her mission and her passion to help women be the best they can be – especially as they move through Midlife! Find out more at www.MidlifeMystique.com