Weight Gain and Menopause: Is Menopause Causing Weight Gain?
Author: Nic Monteforte
Trust me when I say this: I totally feel your pain around weight gain from menopause. It has been the bane of my existence ever since the dreaded M-word started to play its role in my life.
Now, whilst I have always had to be conscious of my weight (because I’m a 5’1 stocky Italian), I generally found it easy to manage in the past with movement and clean eating. However, since menopause came on to the scene, no matter what I did, my belly fat just would not budge.
Why does this happen?
If you’re going through the same thing, it’s essential to know these two main factors that play out:
- As we move into the menopause stage of life, our muscles decrease in bulk and in turn, our metabolism slows down.
- Declining estrogen levels highly contributes to weight gain, that’s why most women are prone to becoming overweight when they approach menopause.
Other lifestyle factors include:
- Reduced physical activity
- Depression-based overeating
- Use of antidepressants
- Altered lifestyle changes like eating out more often
- Increased alcohol consumption
(Aside from weight gain, you can know more about the other symptoms of menopause here: What is Menopause and 5 Signs You May Be Experiencing It)
It’s not all bad news
The good news is that it’s not all doom and gloom. There are many things you can do to support yourself through this phase (which does pass, I promise!) I have 5 key areas that I focused on to combat weight gain and still do to this day because they are not only good for you but also make you feel great.
1. Strength training
Yep, lift weights! The more you lift, the more you increase your metabolism by building muscle. The more muscle you have, the more fuel your body burns. It’s a myth that weight training makes you big and bulky. At our age, it’s the best thing that you can do not just for managing belly fat but also to make your bones strong. Win - win!
2. Walk, walk, and walk some more
Walking for 30 minutes per day gives your metabolism a great little boost. Not only that, it’s also scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety. So leave your phone and get out on foot. Be conscious of the surroundings and be present in the moment. Everything will still be there when you get back and you will have a clearer and more peaceful mind to actually deal with it.
3. Think before you eat
It’s really a vicious cycle once the weight starts packing on. You feel down and depressed and your self-esteem plummets, which leads you to eat from emotions rather than wellbeing. Begin to be more conscious of when you eat and why you are eating. Is it real hunger? Boredom hunger? Depressed hunger? Note this down in your phone over the course of a week and see what patterns begin to emerge. Once you start noticing when it’s not real hunger, then choose meals or snacks that give you the fix you need without the excessive calories. My general go-to snacks would be hummus and crackers, avocado and tomato on crackers, nuts, and a kiwi fruit. When I have a sweet tooth, I go straight for one of Strong Formula’s sweet treats. (Get your FREE Recipe, Workout, and Meal Planner here!)
4. Pranayama breathing
This is an ancient yogic practice that supports our life energy (our breath). It is simply put as a way of controlling your breathing which in turn calms the nervous system down. How does this affect weight gain, you ask? Well, during the hormonal changes from menopause, we can often feel anxious, which causes our body to release adrenalin and cortisol. Cortisol is the real killer as it inhibits our ability to burn fat as a fuel which means we store more fat. Pranayama breathing calms the nervous system down and counteracts the negative impacts of adrenaline and cortisol production. The calmer our nervous system, the more our body functions optimally and less fat is stored. So how do you practice pranayama breathing? Start by committing 10 to 15 minutes a day. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down on, and begin with a 1-1-2 pattern. For example, inhale for 5 seconds, hold for another 5, then exhale for 10 seconds.
5. Accept and surrender
Whilst this is the last one, it is probably the most important. It took me a long time to get to this stage, but when I did, everything changed. The more you fight against what is happening, the more stress you put yourself under, the more fat you store, the more your self-confidence takes a dive. If you’re doing all of the above things consistently, then the only thing left to do is to surrender and accept that this is another stage in life. It will pass and you are AWESOME no matter what your belly looks like.
I highly encourage you to give them a try. I know they work because I am living proof, so come along for the ride! It ain’t that bad once you know the why’s and how’s. If you’d like to get started in working out, eating the right way, and so much more, while being surrounded with a community of strong, like-minded women, check out Strong Formula’s 5 x 6 program HERE.