Holy Hippo! (a.k.a. Perimenopause Weight Gain)

Perimenopause weight gain?!!  Whatever!!  That ain’t happening to me.  I’ve always been in great shape.

Wrong-o!!!

I have been a runner since grade 6, and I have always been (moderately) careful not to over-indulge in all the foods….cuz I love ALL THE FOODZ!!!  Actually, the only food I really don’t need in my life is brussel sprouts.  Nope!  The bitter little cabbage boogers do nothing for me.  Of course, if you sauté them in bacon fat and brown sugar (read: “Do whatever it takes to mask their taste”), then I can tolerate them.  But what’s the point?

So because I have stayed active and am careful about what I eat, I have been able to keep my girlish figure and still fit into my favourite pair of denim cut-offs that I’ve held onto since I was 23!!  But it’s work.  A lot of work.  Especially since I love all the foods.  Oh yes.  We already established that.

 

So when other women say to me, “Oh you can certainly afford to eat that chocolate cake” with a snarky, almost condescending tone, it makes the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  What I’d like to say back to them is, “Well, I got up at 6:00 this morning so that I could run 4 miles before I got ready for work.  For breakfast, I had a cup of non-fat yogurt with some berries and a half cup of non-fat cottage cheese.  What have you done about the way you look today??”  But I don’t.  I just force a smile through my grinding teeth and say nothing.

 

So because I was in good shape and always had a lean, flat tummy, I felt immune to this perimenopause ‘thickening-around-the-middle’ thing.  Nope!  Nadda!  No way!  My middle has thickened up very nicely, thank you.  For the first time in my life I have what looks like the beginning of love handles and a muffin top.  And I hate it.  Yes, I hate it a lot!  I’ve also started quite a little cellulite party on my butt and thighs.  *long exasperated sigh*

So I’ve hit the internet and researched what the heck is going on and what I need to do to fix it.  You see, I refuse to let this beat me.  Both men and women have said things to me like, “Well you’re 50 now.  You’re not as young as you used to be.  (How profound!)  You can’t expect to look like you did 20 years ago”.

Wanna bet??!!??  Challenge accepted!!  Maybe other people are comfortable using that excuse for their changing bodies, but I’m not.  I will whip myself back into shape and update my progress on my blog.  And I challenge other men and women to do the same and share your results in the Comment section at the end of this post.

So, why am I getting a thick midriff?  (read:  W.T.F.!!!!!)

There are a few reasons why women tend to gain weight during their perimenopause and menopause years, according to the website gethealthyu.com:

1. Hormones

Yes, the same little buggers that have plagued us all our adult lives, ladies, are kicking our butts again as we finish up our reproductive years.  Seriously?  Can we not get a break here, after dealing with this nonsense for 3 decades??  Without going into huge medical and scientific detail (because most of us probably don’t care about getting down to the molecular level of this issue), the female hormones estrogen and progesterone as well as insulin and cortisol all play a huge role in a woman’s fat-burning metabolism.  Since these hormones are changing and some are diminishing during the menopause years and since insulin and cortisol may be the primary culprits in female belly fat storage, the transition into menopause often results in fat gain especially around the middle.

2. Muscle Loss 

Muscle is the active tissue in your body that burns up more calories than body fat. As we age, we slowly lose a little bit of muscle every year if we are not actively replacing it. By the time menopause rolls around, less muscle and less activity can slow down your metabolism and your body’s ability to burn calories, even at rest.

3. Stress

Let’s face it, there can be many new and difficult challenges that come during this period in life. Children leaving or marrying, caring for aging parents, a spousal death or illness, job changes or nearing retirement—all these things add stress. Stress can increase your body’s levels of cortisol, a hormone which can cause you to pack on the pounds. It can be particularly problematic for belly fat.

4. Less Activity

As we age, aches and pains in our body start to add up. Getting up off a chair sounds like I’m snapping pretzels most of the time. This can make us feel less motivated to work out and get the exercise we need. As I said above, when you move less, you have less muscle and gain more weight. That’s simple science. Get moving not only for weight management but to keep your joints and bones healthy.

 

How do we fix this?

1. Eat Quality Food

It’s no secret: you need good quality food to maintain a healthy weight. Eat foods that are rich in fiber, minerals, and vitamins like dark, leafy greens, brightly-colored vegetables and fruits, lean meat and fish. Go organic to avoid preservatives, pesticides and chemicals that disrupt your hormones. Choose foods that reduce inflammation in the body and avoid white, starchy or sugary carbs that spike blood sugar and end up getting stored as fat. As they said in the movie Fed Up “ You can have a bowl of corn flakes without sugar or a bowl of sugar without corn flakes and the reaction in your body is the same.” Bottom line, at this menopausal time of life, you want to eat more real food, less processed foods and be aware of the quality of your food.

You also may find out you don’t need as much food if you are less active. According to the Mayo Clinic you need about 200 less calories per day at this time of life to help you prevent unwanted weight gain.  Sorry, ladies.

2. Limit Sugar Intake

Not only can excess sugar cause you to pack on the pounds, but excess sugar makes menopausal symptoms worse.   Hot flashes and night sweats are often more severe in people who eat more sugar.  Reduce your daily sugar intake for your waistline as well as your hot flashes. Natural sugar found in fruit is better for you because it’s accompanied by fiber.  This helps your body break down the sugar more easily as opposed to artificial sugars.

3. Stay Consistent With Exercise

Lift Weights!!  Remember, the muscle loss you are experiencing is slowing your metabolism down. So do something about it. You need muscle to burn calories, so get out those dumbbells and start strength training.   Consistent cardiovascular activity is equally as important. This will strengthen your heart, increase your energy and help you shed some of the extra pounds you might have already put on. Don’t forget, it’s recommended that we get a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise a week.   In addition, exercise is a natural stress reliever. No one ever regrets the feeling they have after they finish a good workout!

4. Check In With Your Gynecologist

It doesn’t hurt to have your hormone levels checked and discuss what is happening with your doctor. Some things are just part of the process of aging, while others might benefit from medical attention or different treatments. Just because you are done with babies doesn’t mean you are done with the doctor.

5.  Stay Hydrated
 Don’t underestimate the power of water. You should drink at least 8-12 glasses of water per day. At least! It will help with weight loss, energy and act as an all-around health booster which will make everything else listed above much, much easier!  I know this may seem like a difficult one for some people, but once you get started sipping on water all day, it gets much easier and automatic.  I just have a full bottle of water with me at all times. You can even purchase water bottles that keep track of how much water you’ve had and send out an alarm when it’s time for another drink.  Huh!  Do they make wine bottles like that??!!
6.  Get Proper Sleep

I know this is easier said than done at this point of our lives, ladies, but we all know by now how important proper sleep is to our overall good health.  Our bodies need time to rest and rejuvenate at night.

Since most women have very erratic sleeps at this point in their lives, it is very important to stick to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible.  No long Sunday sleep-ins or super late Saturday nights.  This may help prevent some of the night-time restlessness.

Staying as cool as possible during the night is also helpful.  Cooling the bedroom down before going to bed, buying light-weight pajamas made of fibres that help to wick away moisture, and investing in a cooling pillow are all ways to help keep you cooler and more comfortable at night.

 

Getting older holds many positive and exciting new changes. However, it also holds its own challenges. Don’t make weight gain one of them. Keep a positive attitude and do what you can to stay healthy and strong.

Again, I intend to keep my readers updated on my weight loss progress.  Please feel free to do the same by using the comment section below.

We’re all in this together, Ladies.  Let’s try to make it fun!

Kathleen Bolton

2 Responses to “Holy Hippo! (a.k.a. Perimenopause Weight Gain)

  • Kimberly
    2 months ago

    Great Article! Well written. I am going through the same thing. I’m looking forward to knowing how you make out with losing that weight.

    • Thanks Kimberly. Happy to have you aboard. I’m going on a fairly rigorous change of diet until Christmas. I’ll write another post at that point to report on my progress. Best of luck with your ‘midriff’, too.

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