Winning The Battle

Why staying active can help beat the dreaded Menopot

So you’re attempting to eat healthy, working out and jogging but the pounds seem to add themselves to your physique while you sleep. Could this be the menopause bulge?

Yes, a woman’s body changes in peri-menopause which proceeds menopause by about 10 years. Menopause occurs when a woman has gone a year without a period and on average occurs around the age of 51. A woman’s body composition alters as she ages. Muscle mass diminishes while fat increases. This is to help balance declining estrogen levels.

Now, women are exposed to chemicals and toxins in foods and health and beauty products that increase their exposure to estrogen-like compounds that make them estrogen dominant. This leads to increased fat storage.

When we lose muscle mass, our metabolism slows down. So if you continue to eat the same amount, your weight will increase. Loss of muscle mass decreases the rate at which your body uses calories, which can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight. If you continue to eat as you always have and don’t increase your physical activity, you’re likely to gain weight.

Hormonal changes at menopause can make you fat if you don’t take action now. You may also notice that your appetite is out of control. Estrogen controls how much we eat and how much energy we burn. As it declines, we pack on the pounds. Testosterone, another hormone, can also hit a downward spiral affecting our sex lives and how much muscle we can pump up. This is another deterrent to calorie burning.

We eat more as hormones decline. We sleep less which impacts our appetites and hormones. We begin to get joint aches and our energy bottoms out so exercise seems like too much of a chore.

Fitting activity into our jam-packed days may seem exhausting. I often find women either do way too much and stress their bodies out, or succumb to the couch potato mentality. Neither is optimal. If exercise were a drug, we’d all want to be on it. It’s cheap and when done properly, it normally doesn’t have any side effects.

Any type of movement counts. Do what you love, then it becomes part of your daily life. Walking in nature not only leads to a healthier lifestyle, it improves mood and sleep. To balance stress hormones, yoga and gentle stretching are great additions. Instead of watching your kids doing sports, join in and walk around the field or hockey arena. I suggest women do strength training with light weights or resistance bands. This builds muscle which increases calorie burning.

Menopausal women seem to develop something called insulin resistance as they age. This affects how our bodies handle sugar from all sources, so blood sugar increases and gets stored as fat. Controlling blood sugar levels is a key factor to managing weight. The risk of diabetes increases at menopause. Eating a lower carbohydrate diet with adequate protein to conserve muscle mass and good fats, balances hormones and lowers inflammation. It also improves body composition. Good fats don’t make you fat.

Stress control may seem like an oxymoron when your life is running away from you. Did you know that managing stress may be a solution to the battle of the bulge at menopause? Stress increases a hormone called cortisol. Too much cortisol can lead to higher blood sugar which then leads to increased fat storage, so you are what you stress about.

As I tell my patients, it’s about getting healthy on the inside and outside, in body and mind, not just about the weight.