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Menopause and Weight Gain

Podcast Episode 23 transcript.

Listen to Apple, Spotify, and our website - or wherever you get your podcasts!


Today, I’m talking about Menopause & Weight gain.


Weight gain during perimenopause and postmenopause is very specific to each person. It depends on genetics, changes to body composition, and how certain foods like fats and sugars are burnt and stored. We now also know that our gut biome, exercise, and sleep quality directly affect weight gain.


A recent study has shown that as oestrogen levels decrease, a woman’s body accumulates fat in the tummy area, leading to an increased waistline. Fat is also pushed towards the inside of the body to fill up the spaces between the organs in the abdomen. This is called visceral fat, which increases our risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions like diabetes. At a cellular level, fat cells in perimenopausal women also start to fill up and hold more fat than ever before.


It has also been shown that the gut microbiome changes as oestrogen levels fluctuate, which might affect weight gain.


Being overweight or obese can lead to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, mental health issues, arthritis and early death. 


We can all agree that we need to stay within a healthy weight range. So, is it just a matter of cutting down calories?


A calorie is a unit of energy equivalent to the heat energy needed to raise the temperature of 1g of water by 1 degree Celsius - in other words; it measures energy.


Many years ago, humans were hunter-gatherers and didn’t get to eat very often. As a survival mechanism, their bodies evolved to keep hold of any calories they had eaten by burning (or metabolising) this fuel more slowly. This survival mode is still genetically coded within our system, so when people cut their calories drastically, the body switches on this survival mode and slows down metabolism to keep hold of these calories. This is why people find it difficult to lose weight.


During menopause, it is advised to focus on the quality of food you eat rather than the quantity. This means that although 100 calories from chocolate, energy-wise, is identical to 100 calories from vegetables, the quality of the calories the body gets from vegetables is much higher, nutrition-wise, than those from chocolate. And that, my friends, is what makes all the difference!


If you eat too much sugar or carbohydrates, like pasta or bread, all this energy must be stored somewhere. Remember, the body is designed to try to keep hold of all this fuel! Insulin is made to grab all this sugar, which is now floating around inside your blood as glucose and directs it to the liver and muscle cells to be used as stored temporarily and be quickly available to make energy. When all these places are full, the body turns this glucose into fat.


As we age, we lose muscle mass. This means that we have less temporary storage in our body, so we have more glucose stored as fat. This is why we need to eat less as we age.


Start by reducing sugary drinks and processed and fast food. Eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Fermented foods help your gut microbiome thrive, and don’t eat too late at night.


Good quality sleep is important, as is exercising and moving more. We now recognise the importance of building strength rather than aiming to be thin. 


Managing stress regularly reduces the amount of the stress hormone cortisol, which encourages fat to be stored around the abdomen.


Keeping a healthy weight is not always straightforward and can be frustrating, especially when women have adopted a healthy lifestyle all their lives and suddenly find that those strategies are not working anymore.


My best suggestion is to modify your goals from losing weight to being strong and healthy. Stay focused and make this your main objective. If in doubt, talk to your healthcare professional. It takes time to change your mindset and body, so as always, there are no quick fixes. But with the right attitude, you can do it! 

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