Success with menopause weight management becomes a major stressor for many of us going through this transformative stage of life.
We can no longer work out endlessly and cut back our calories and lose weight like we were able to do in our 20s, 30s, and some even in their 40s.
As a physical therapist and holistic nutritionist, I am here to empower you during your menopausal journey.
In this post, we will explore the science-backed reasons why undereating and overexercising are ineffective for weight loss during menopause.
We will also discuss the importance of a holistic approach focusing on nourishment, self-care, and overall well-being!
Metabolism and Menopause weight Management
Menopause brings about significant shifts in hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone.
These hormonal fluctuations can directly impact metabolic rate, making weight loss more challenging.
During menopause, there is a natural decline in metabolic rate, partly due to the loss of lean muscle mass.
Whereas restrictive diets and excessive exercise can further suppress the metabolic rate, making it harder to shed any weight, let alone ridding any excess weight.
Loss of Lean Muscle Mass and Metabolism
Losing lean muscle mass can suppress our metabolic rate, or the rate at which our body burns calories.
Here's how it happens:
- Muscle is metabolically active tissue: Lean muscle mass plays a crucial role in how we 'spend' our energy. It requires more calories than fat tissue...so having more muscle tone can result in a higher metabolism!
- Muscle burns calories even at rest: Muscles have a higher metabolic rate than fat. So, the more muscle mass we have, the more calories we burn throughout the day, even when not exercising.
- Decreased muscle mass lowers metabolic rate: As we age or go through menopause, there is a natural decline in muscle mass, a condition known as sarcopenia. Our metabolic rate decreases with less muscle, leading to fewer calories burned at rest.
- Metabolic rate and weight management: A suppressed metabolic rate makes it easier to gain weight and more challenging to lose weight. When our body burns fewer calories, there is a higher likelihood of weight gain or difficulty in shedding excess pounds.
Under-eating and overexercising: A no-no for weight management
Under-eating through restrictive diets disrupts hormonal balance and metabolic function.
Inadequate calorie intake leads to nutrient deficiencies and muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia.
Overexercising without proper fueling and recovery can cause you to become weaker and depleted.
Whereas chronic stress triggers the release of cortisol, also known as the "stress hormone".
Elevated cortisol levels can lead to increased appetite and cravings, particularly for sugary and high-fat foods, which can result in weight gain.
Stress can also interfere with sleep quality and duration, leading to sleep deprivation.
Lack of sleep affects hunger-regulating hormones, such as ghrelin and leptin, which can result in increased appetite and overeating.
Therefore, the more we try to 'cut calories' and under-eat during menopause, the more it backfires, causing our bodies to hold onto weight!
Hormonal Balance and Nutrition
Maintaining hormonal balance is crucial for overall health and weight management during menopause.
Therefore, under eating can disrupt the rhythmic dance between estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones, which directly leads to putting the breaks on weight loss efforts.
Adequate nutrition, on the other hand, supports hormonal balance and helps decrease the negative effects of menopause.
A well-rounded, whole-foods-based diet, as instructed in THE MENO METHOD™️ 30 DAY PROGRAM, provides essential nutrients that nourish the body and support optimal hormone function.
Whole Foods Hormone balancing plan
A well-rounded, whole-foods-based diet emphasizes consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
- Consuming ample amounts of fruits and diverse types of vegetables
- Including whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats in the diet provides fiber and complex carbohydrates that provide sustained energy and support digestive health. (Try this Quinoa recipe to add a little protein packed grain into your life!)
- Lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, tofu, and legumes, are rich in amino acids necessary for hormone production and help maintain muscle mass.
- Incorporating healthy fats from sources like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil provides essential fatty acids that support hormone synthesis and absorption.
- Avoiding processed and refined foods that are high in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and artificial ingredients helps maintain stable blood sugar levels and supports hormone regulation.
- Prioritizing hydration by drinking plenty of water throughout the day supports overall health and helps flush out toxins.
Muscle Mass and Bone Health for weight management
Preserving muscle mass and promoting bone health are vital components of weight management during menopause.
Overexercising without adequate nutrition can lead to muscle loss and compromised bone density, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Strength training exercises, combined with proper nutrition, play a significant role in maintaining muscle mass, which, in turn, supports a healthy metabolism.
strength training to offset bone & Muscle loss
Here are some examples of strength training exercises that can help offset bone loss in menopause:
- Weightlifting: Use free weights or weight machines to incorporate exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges.
- Resistance band exercises: Using resistance bands, perform bicep curls, tricep extensions, and shoulder presses.
- Bodyweight exercises: Include push-ups, planks, squats, and lunges in your routine.
- Yoga and Pilates: These practices promote strength, balance, and flexibility, which can help support bone health.
- Functional movements: Engage in activities that mimic daily movements, such as carrying groceries, lifting objects, or climbing stairs.
- High-impact exercises: Consider activities like jumping jacks, running, martial arts or dance aerobics, but make sure to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure they are suitable for you.
Building and preserving muscle not only aids in menopause weight management but also enhances overall strength and functionality.
Psychological Wellbeing and Mindful Eating
Menopause weight management is not solely about physical changes but also about psychological well-being.
Undereating and overexercising can create a negative cycle of restriction, deprivation, and increased stress.
Adopting a holistic approach that embraces self-care practices, including mindful eating, is crucial for nurturing a healthy relationship with food.
Mindful eating involves:
- Being present in the moment.
- Paying attention to hunger and fullness cues.
- Savoring each bite.
Practicing mindfulness can better honor our body's needs and foster a positive mindset around food.
Embracing a holistic approach to weight management during menopause is the key to nourishing your body and achieving sustainable results.
Rather than resorting to restrictive eating and excessive exercise, focus on nourishing your body with a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet and engaging in physical activities that bring joy and support overall well-being.
Remember, weight management is not solely about the numbers on a scale but about embracing your body's unique needs, nurturing yourself with self-care practices, and finding joy in movement.
By adopting a holistic approach, you can navigate menopause with grace, prioritize your health, and experience the transformative power of nourishing your body from within.
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by DR. BIANCA BELDINI
May 17, 2023
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