3 weight worries during menopause & how to manage them

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Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

18 November 2019

Today's topic

Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be talking about three weight worries many women have during the menopause and how they can be managed.
These are really common questions that I am asked on a regular basis, all about weight, so I thought I would talk about them all together this week. So, what are these three weight worries during the menopause?

1. "Why am I putting on weight around the belly and why can't I shift it?"

This is a really common menopause symptom, and it does happen to a number of women. The problem here is that cutting calories, going down the gym or doing lots of exercise is counterproductive here.

The reason this is happening is all to do with stress, anxiety, and your nervous system. When your hormones start to change on the approach to the menopause, all these internal changes can put a huge amount of stress on your nervous system. So, it tends to end up being stuck on fight-or-flight mode the whole time.

I'm quite sure a lot of you now find that you notice little things that before never would have bothered you, and they suddenly seem to take on huge proportions. This can give you a lot of anxiety or make worry about the slightest little thing.

You know, even something like not being able to find your car keys in the morning. Instead of just looking for them, the body goes into this fight-or-flight response. You might find that you start getting really tense, your heart might start pumping, and you just find that you can't think properly, which hinders you from then actually finding the car keys.

The problem with this situation is that your nervous system then ends up being triggered just about every single day. Now, thousands of years ago, this action would be very useful and would probably save our lives. But the flight-or-fight would not happen very regularly.

When it happens all the time, the body needs to make sure that you have enough energy to get through all these fight-or-flight scenarios. So, what it does is, very often, it slows your metabolism down to conserve energy, and this starts to put fat on around the middle as a way to get an easy energy source.

The other thing that can happen here is that your digestive processes get bypassed and carbohydrates (especially the simple ones like white sugars and white foods), end up being turned straight into fat, and they get stored here. So, as I mentioned to start with, if you then start dieting like mad and exercising like mad, you're only exacerbating the whole fight-or-flight issue.

What can help?

So, in this situation, it's really important to deal with the nervous system. If you can get that to calm down, if you can get that working properly then, very often, the weight will start to come off by itself. So, what to do? What's going to help with this?

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Stress-relieving remedies

Magnesium is an absolute must for your nervous system. This is really important. Make sure you're using quite a high dose for this. So, you're looking at maybe 300 or 400 milligrams on a daily basis. You can have a vitamin B complex alongside it, and then one of the stress-relieving remedies.

I would be inclined to go with something like our Stress Relief Daytime if it's appropriate, or you can also look at herbs such as maca or ashwagandha because these all help to calm the nervous system right down.

My Top Tip:

Just mix 10-20 drops with a little water, once or twice daily, to help relax your nervous system and reduce mild stress symptoms.

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Other things to do

Drink plenty of water because dehydration will make this fight-or-flight situation worse, and you need to try and get into the habit of slow, deep breathing whenever you can. This is one of the quickest ways of calming your nervous system down.
If anxiety and panic are starting to get too much, then you can look at treatments such as acupuncture. That can be very effective as well. Once your nervous system has calmed down and you're feeling better, then that's the point where you would look at putting in some weight-reducing strategies, such as tweaking your diet and exercise.

2. "Why am I still gaining weight even though I'm exercising regularly, and I'm being very careful with what I'm eating?"

This almost ties back to number one as well. If your nervous system is under pressure during the menopause, what happens here, as I've mentioned before, is your metabolism starts to slow down. If you then eat less and, especially if you go for low-fat and low-calorie options, in this situation, your body thinks there is a serious famine. So it will reduce your metabolism even further and it will basically go into survival mode.

If you then exercise, especially if you exercise every day and you exercise hard, then the body thinks there's an energy crisis as well, so you're ending up with a double whammy here. Your body will then slow everything down even further. It will start turning more and more food into fat as a means of saving as much energy as possible. This can also start to trigger fatigue, and your body will force you to slow down and stop exercising. So, in this situation, you need to be careful about going on low-calorie, low-fat diets.

I have mentioned this before and, although it's still a bit of a contentious subject, fats are very important during the menopause. You need fat in order to manufacture your hormones. So, if you're going low-fat, not only are you contributing to weight gain but you may be hindering your body's production of hormones just when you really need them here.

What can help?

So, the same thing applies here that going on a good diet, eating little and often, having your healthy fats, exercising if you're fit and energetic enough can help to fool the body into thinking that nothing's going on.

The best thing here is to try and do some high-intensity interval training sessions every second day. If you exercise every day, the body thinks there's something seriously wrong going on. If you exercise at least every second day, you're giving your body time to rest and you're fooling it into thinking nothing is going on.

And, if you exercise very quickly, the exercises are over and done before your body has time to register that you're exercising hard. And that combination can often be really effective at shifting that stubborn weight gain.

3. "I'm piling on the weight. It's affecting my confidence and the more down I feel, the more I eat, and this just goes on and on."

One of the things that does happen in the menopause is that your blood sugar control can be affected. So, your blood sugar levels will fluctuate a lot more. That will cause hunger and you will start to crave sweet things. And, unfortunately, when we're feeling low about anything, we tend to crave sweet foods, not healthy foods like fruit or a little bit of nice protein.

So, if we're putting on weight and we get really miserable about it, our moods dip, our blood sugar levels dip, we get the cravings to eat more, and then we go for the biscuits, the sugary foods, and the sugary drinks. And that makes things worse! What happens then is your blood sugar levels shoot up. You get a very quick hit, a very drastic fall and then your mood drops as well, and the whole thing starts all over again.

So, in this situation, firstly, if you're putting weight on really quickly, there could be other issues going on like low thyroid function. This is one where you really do need to check with your doctor if you're putting on weight really quickly, and you don't feel that what you're eating justifies it.

Secondly, it's all about stabilising your blood sugars so that you're not craving foods that are going to compound the whole problem.

What can help?

So, you can look at things like magnesium, which is great. Eat little and often, and make sure you're eating healthy snacks. So, between meals, these can be things like a small handful of nuts and seeds, or some plain yoghurt. We have got lots of tips on really good healthy snacks so you could check the link on that one, too.

If your cravings are really bad, there is a supplement called chromium which is known to help to balance blood sugar levels, so that might be worth taking just to help you get over this particular time. Once you get your blood sugar stabilised, then you can focus on eating healthily and doing the exercises that I mentioned before.

So, I hope this has helped.
As I said, these are really very common questions that we are asked very regularly. If any of you have any other tips that you have found have helped with your weight control or things that you've done that have helped you to lose weight nice, and steadily, and healthily, then please share them with us because I'm sure there's an awful lot of women out there who would love to know how you've got on.

What you said!

We recently ran a poll to find out what weight problem worries you most. We've crunched the numbers and here are the results.

Results: What is your biggest weight worry?

The most common place for weight to accumulate is around the belly, so it's no wonder that 64.3% of you agreed that this is your biggest weight worry.


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