There are a lot of ads on my social feeds lately about weight gain, in particular middle area (belly) increase due to hormones and menopause. The term ‘meno belly’ is being thrown around a bit, so I thought I’d do some research. As I started my research, I learned that women have a transitioning period to menopause. This known as perimenopause, and for most women it starts in their 40’s, but has been found to begin earlier in some women. During this time, the ovaries gradually start producing less estrogen, which causes slight hormonal imbalances while the body adjusts. Perimenopause can last up to 10 years, though most women experience the related symptoms for around 4 years.
Symptoms of Perimenopause/Menopause
I’m so glad I stumbled across this little gem of information and also feel a little silly that I didn’t already know this, being a woman in my 40’s. Perimenopause is very similar to menopause, as are some of the signs and symptoms. Some tell-tale signs of perimenopause are:-
● Irregular Periods
● Mood Swings (now I have something to blame them on :-))
● Weight Gain
● Hot Flashes & Night Sweats (here’s me thinking I was going into early menopause, but no)
There are however some other signs that not all women will experience, but are related to this stage in our lives. These are; sleeping problems, low libido & changes in sexual desire, cognitive problems, breast tenderness, vaginal dryness and urinary incontinence.
Weight gain in particular was the original reason I started researching this topic. Mostly because I was wondering if there is something we can do about it, or is it something we have to put up with as aging women? The latter I refuse to accept as I’m not currently overweight, don’t think I will be if I stick to my current lifestyle habits. Have I had my weight struggles in the past? Yes. However, as I edge to my late 40’s I am the fittest, healthiest and strongest I have been. But even I have that stubborn bodyweight (yes around my middle area) and I wanted to know if it was age related or possibly just lifestyle choices like eating out and having a social drink.
Causes of Possible Weight Gain during Perimenopause/Menopause
There have been many studies conducted on this topic on women all over the world. The most common finding being that the reduction in estrogen produced at this stage of our lives can have an effect on weight or weight distribution (where it is stored). In some cases where estrogen levels dropped extremely low, obesity was one of the outcomes. Estrogen therapy has been known to prevent these changes in body composition and lowered metabolic rate, however not in every case. Elevated stress levels and increase of the stress hormone cortisol was found to also be a likely fact.
The hormonal changes of menopause and perimenopause might make you more likely to gain weight around your abdomen than around your hips and thighs. However, hormonal changes alone don’t necessarily cause menopause weight gain. Instead, the weight gain can also be related to aging, as well as lifestyle and genetic factors. Being in a calorie surplus will of course lead us to gaining weight, however you can still have your cake and eat it too (or that glass or two of red). Just allow for those extra calories in your day or week and make adjustments elsewhere.
Treatment for Perimenopause/Menopause
As stated earlier, Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) is probably the most sort after treatment for this phase of our lives. It usually comes in the form of a pill or patch which makes it quite an easy option. Note: ERT has been linked to some cases of breast cancer, so please seek medical advice prior to undergoing any treatment. If you are looking for a more natural remedy however, there are some other options for you.
Soy – Soy contains a plant-based estrogen called isoflavones. Studies have been found that including more soy products in your life may assist in the relief of some of the symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness.
Ginseng – Ground ginseng root can be consumed as a tea or a pill. For some, the soothing effects of ginseng have been known to improve the quality and duration of your sleep.
Vitamin D – As your ovaries slow the production of estrogen, the risk of osteoporosis rises. While Vitamin D may not help with the annoying symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, but it can help to boost your moods which helps with self perception and therefore stabilising your emotions.
Positiveness and hard work will always be your best friend. But here are my suggestions to kicking the aging battle of the bulge:
Tips to Successful Weight Management
- If you are concerned about your hormone levels and think they may be an issue, go to your GP and have a simple blood test to find out.
- Exercise. It is recommended that you exercise 3-4 times per week. This can be in the form of walking, running, resistance training or your favourite cardio class. The point is, regular exercise will help you keep a manageable waist line.
- Have a healthy and balanced diet. Sure it’s ok to indulge now and then, just not every day.
- Manage your stress levels if you can. This can be in the form of meditation, walking or soaking in a bath to let all your days troubles just melt away.
We are not all the same, and our bodies will always respond differently to the way each of us treat it. We only have one, look after it.
Yours in health, fitness and happiness,
I am at coach at Authentic Health Studio in Essendon. If you would like to know more about health and fitness, drop me a message via Instagram or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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