20 Aug The Good, The Bad, The Middle on Menopause Weight
As I scroll Facebook and when I look in the mirror, I am not judging myself or other women, but I am definitely observing. Hey, I am a yoga teacher and therefore, I am trained to observe bodies without judgement but rather in a way to help them to heal. Menopause weight is real. Anyway, I am observing the changes that are happening in my body and in the bodies of my friends as many of us are in the “thick of midlife weight”, pun intended, of course. Menopause weight is taking a toll on our overall physical health and our mental health. We must address it.
As I scroll, I am looking at the women younger than myself with envy of their slender waists, perky breasts, and their long legs. I am noticing women older than me in their beauty with their beautiful silver streaked hair and glowing smiles shining from their eyes. Each day when I look in the mirror without my clothes, I look at the parts of my body that I am grateful for and reflect on all the amazing things my body has given me over my life. From when I was a teenager and my hips gave me stretch marks to my abdomen that no longer has the linea nigra from my pregnancies, to my breasts that fed three children over the course of more than 6 years, I look at my arms and my legs and wonder where my youthful muscle tone has disappeared to? Definition in my arms from carrying babies and heavy groceries is starting to diminish.
I’m sure I am not alone and that you are probably wondering the same questions about your changing menopausal body. So, here’s the science of it: Menopause has been identified as a high-risk stage for weight gain in a woman’s lifecycle.
But, Why? Because menopause-related weight gain is a consequence of low circulating estrogen levels due to progressive loss of ovarian function.
Let’s explore this phenomenon.
Where Does The Menopause Middle Come From?
The so-called menopause middle, or midlife middle, is all to blame on the hormone estrogen. During perimenopause, estrogen production declines and thus less estrogen is circulating through the body to keep your metabolism energized. Estrogen is needed to convert fat cells around the middle body, specifically the hips, the abdomen, and the breasts into what the female body needs for pregnancy, childbirth and child-nourishment such as milk production. Since during menopause the body isn’t generating as much estrogen as it once did, the adipose tissue cell (fat cells) production factory has not gotten the memo until after it’s started building a storage supply. Umm, too late!
So then, the question becomes, “What do we do with all this extra weight around the middle that we don’t need for baby making?”
Why Does Menopause Make Weight Loss So Hard?
Well, there’s the science and then there’s the hard core facts of lifestyle and not balancing the two. Obviously, the body reacts to what we put into it. What we often forget is that the body requires us to put energy into it just as much as it requires us to put food and hydration into it. Energy gets things moving, including your digestive system which is a lot larger in the big picture when we break it down.
Energy goes beyond your weekly yoga class, your occasional walk in the park, and beyond your session with your personal trainer. The energy that you give your liver to function is what is needed to optimally lose the menopause weight that you have been trying to lose all this time. If we aren’t going to help things move through the body, they stay stuck in limbo and turn into fat accumulating in your body. Get moving and focus on your liver digesting all those hormones that are no longer needed.
How To Lose The Menopause Weight
A wise friend one time told me, “The answer is almost right under your nose!.” She was right. It’s right in front of you but it’s a commitment, requires changes, and making some hard core decisions. Face it, your body is changing, your life is changing, so should your habits! The fact is that we are not in the same body that we were in in our 20s, 30s, even early 40s. Ready or not, the time of change has come.
Here are my Favorite Five Tips for Losing the Menopause Weight
But wait! What about Horrific Body Image During Menopause?
We go to the doctor and complain about our weight gain…
We mention that we have tried everything but the needle on the scale doesn’t budge in the right direction…
Next thing you know, we’re being told to eat less, count calories, go to the gym. Perhaps they even told you to try out a diet program like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. And even worse, they may have even handed you a prescription for weight loss pills. Yikes!
Here’s the thing: Your doctor is NOT a weight loss specialist. Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers are not getting into your lifestyle and into your mind stuff. The thing about diets is that they are temporary. They might get you the results you want but as soon as you return to your normal habits, you’ll put the weight back on. Promise. Plus, diets don’t address the hormonal shift that is happening on a deeper level. They only address just the foods you eat.
There is so much more to how menopause affects your mental wellbeing that you just can’t get in a pill or by eating less. I know first hand that body image affects women throughout the lifespan and that women in perimenopause are highest at risk for poor body image. A positive body image is a predictor of well-being and a higher quality of life. Body image constitutes an important element of self-esteem since it is a mental representation of our body perception. Body image encompasses our beliefs about own appearance, desired appearance, and what the body should look like.
And the point that I want to make about a pill to replace exercise or a weight loss pill, is that a pill usually leads to another pill and another pill after that one. A pill is not the answer to replacing exercise and mindfulness.
Excuse me, did you say “Exercise in pill form?“
Yeah well, researchers are already closing in. Here’s the low down:
What’s happening: Experts at Baylor College of Medicine isolated a molecule that’s released into the blood during exercise. When fed to obese mice, it lowered appetite and improved both overall cardiac health and glucose tolerance.
Why it matters: It’s a potential life-changer for the elderly or disabled who otherwise wouldn’t be able to reap exercise’s many benefits. It’s a potential disaster for everyone else!
Just in the past month alone, significant studies have pointed to the absolute necessity of balancing physical movement with adequate nutrition and adequate sleep.
• McGill University: Lower muscle mass directly related to steeper cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer’s.
Northwestern: Supplements don’t prevent chronic disease like exercise and vegetables can.
• American Heart Association: Strength training directly linked to better sleep.
• University of Sydney: Exercise and diet must be paired to lower all-cause mortality.
Takeaway: In a society obsessed with shortcuts and instant gratification, a consumer-focused “exercise pill” could be very bad news.