Many of us women find in mid life that we start gaining weight around our middles, especially in perimenopause and into the post menopause years.

We know this is one of the perimenopause symptoms that can cause much distress in women. We'd like to pause here for a moment before we dive into this:

This time of our lives can be a time of empowerment rather than feeling at the mercy of forces beyond our control.  We can begin to accept that changes are inevitable and happening - and that includes the shape of our bodies.

This can be a time when we might choose to focus on things that are away from external looks and validation from others. Goodness knows we've been subjected to an endless barrage of others' expectations for (probably) most of our adult lives and possibly more.

Perimenopause can be a time where we shift to self-compassion, focusing on our energy levels, how things make us feel, nourishing ourselves well to love and support our bodies through this hormonal upheaval.

Have a read through below of why this happens in perimenopause and have a look at some of the recommendations. Then commit to self-parenting (doing what you know is good and right for you), self compassion and good wholesome nourishment.

Okay, pep talk over! Let's dive into what's really happening. Women's health is complicated! There are alot of things going on within our bodies in the transitional years of perimenopause.

Jean Marino, CNP, Menopause Specialist at University Hospital says:

“Research tells us that the number one reason for increased belly fat is a decrease in physical activity, but for women in the menopause transition, there are almost always other factors at play, including hormonal changes, stress levels, dysfunctional sleep patterns and some medications. Like so many things related to women’s health, it’s complicated.” 

We'll look into the reasons why weight gain could be happening for you. 

We'll also take a look at the lifestyle and dietary changes you can make to reverse weight gain in perimenopause and help you move into your post-menopausal years in great health.

Perimenopause is a Hormonal Roller Coaster Ride

As we hit the perimenopause and menopause years start to go a bit wild as we transition. Estrogen and progesterone, our BFFs during our reproductive years, start dipping all over the show.

When this happens other hormones come into play that can contribute to increased weight gain:

  • Testosterone: Throughout our lives our ovaries and adrenal glands produce testosterone in small quantities. However, during menopause, as estrogen levels decline, the presence of testosterone rises. This increase can lead to a shift in how body fat is distributed: frequently resulting in more fat being stored around the belly area.

  • Alterations in the secretion of hunger-regulating hormones, leptin and ghrelin, occur: A drop in estrogen levels leads to reduced leptin, which naturally helps suppress appetite. Moreover, disrupted sleep patterns cause a rise in ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger signals and encourages the body to retain extra weight.

Stress, Mood Swings and Weight Gain in Perimenopause

“During perimenopause and menopause women have a higher risk of mood changes, especially women with a prior history of anxiety, depression, PMS or postpartum depression.

Mood changes during this time may present differently than in premenopausal women and include symptoms of fatigue, feeling overwhelmed or lower self-esteem.”

In addition, women at this stage of life are often dealing with significant life challenges, including children leaving home, the demands of caring for aging parents and relationship changes with a spouse or partner. The emotional and physical stress that often accompanies these changes can lead to changes in eating habits and weight gain,” Jean Marino, CNP, Menopause Specialist at University Hospital.

Sleepless Nights and Weight in Perimenopause

Who knew that something as innocent as not getting a good night's sleep could be linked to weight gain? 

Disrupted sleep patterns cause a rise in ghrelin, the hormone that triggers hunger signals and encourages the body to retain extra weight.

Poor sleep doesn't just increase ghrelin, it makes us cranky and less likely to exercise and more likely to raid the fridge for a quick sugar fix.

For better sleep, try our magnesium loaded Superlattes. Take two cups a day consistently for results.

Medication Side Effects 

Some commonly used medications can contribute to weight gain. Please check with your health professional if you have concerns.

Getting Older and Weight Gain

As we age there are a few things going on that increase our chances of gaining weight.

Naturally after 20, our basal metabolic rate decreases approximately 1-2% per decade. Your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories required to keep your body functioning while you are not doing any physical activity. So your body's requirement for daily calories naturally goes down.

The other big driver is as we go into menopause our body composition starts to shift because of hormonal changes, decreasing our muscle mass (muscle mass burns more calories than fat) and, if we gain weight, contributing to weight gain around our middle. 

Tackle Weight Around Your Middle (Visceral fat) 

If you've noticed weight starting around your tummy, it may be a sign of insulin reistance.

None of this is just about not fitting into your favourite jeans (though can be the first thing that raises the alarm). The shift from subcutaneous to visceral fat is like inviting a bunch of troublemakers into your body, increasing the risk of insulin resistance which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

The main sign of insulin resistance is abdominal weight gain (that's weight gain around your middle).

Other signs might be:

  • Fatigue
  • Sugar cravings
  • High cholesterol and triglycerides (fat cells in your blood)
  • Fatty liver
  • Skin tags: (you might notice thicker and darker patches, usually in skin creases and folds like the sides and back of the neck, armpits, elbow pits, and groin.

If you would like to read more about insulin resistance and how to reverse it, read this article: Abdominal Weight Could Be Insulin Resistance.

**Insulin resistance can worsen all perimenopausal symptoms**

Take Control of Weight Gain in Perimenopause

  • Move daily - Keep movement up, to keep muscle mass up, to reduce weight gain around our middles and keep our metabolism fires going. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle your metabolism can slow down.

  • Prioritise stress reduction - when we are stressed we release the stress hormone Cortisol which sends messages to our brain to store fuel, which makes us eat more. There are so many studies supporting yoga and meditations through perimenopause to reduce anxiety, better sleep and even reduce hot flashes.

Some great tips here to reduce anxiety, get better sleep and reduce hot flushes in perimenopause.

Our Peri Chai Latte is loaded with Magnesium which will help you with mood swings and anxiety.

  • Don't diet - don’t starve yourself. Diets don’t work. All that happens is you slow down your metabolism and when you start eating properly again you will put the weight back on and more.

    Instead, focus on improving your gut healthHere's a great nutrition guide for perimenopause.

  • Lift weights - Lifting weights helps you gain more muscle mass, and increases metabolism.

  • Increase protein - to increase muscle mass and to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Our need for protein goes up as we hit peri, eat 1.2g of protein per kg of body weight daily.

    Our Peri Protein POWders with KSM-66 Ashwagandha are high in plant-based protein, vegan, and can help with weight management. Info here.
  • Hydrate - you need to stay optimally hydrated throughout the day to make sure your body has the water it needs to function at full throttle. We are 60% water and every cell in our body needs water to function. It’s such an easy way to boost your metabolism.

  • Eat healthy fats - think: oily fish, nuts and seeds, olive oil - these kinds of fats will keep you fuller for longer and will improve cellular functioning and cell-to-cell communication.

  • Improve your gut health - drops in oestrogen can cause bad bacteria growth in the microbiome and this can also lead to “leaky gut” and gut inflammation which causes digestive issues and weight gain.

    Some great tips here to get your gut and biome tip-top to support your body through peri.

  • Enjoy some spice in your life - certain spices can boost your metabolism by increasing your body temperature during digestion. Include in your meals/drinks. Try incorporating these into your life: black pepper, ginger, chili peppers (as long as you're not susceptible to hot flushes), cayenne (same note applies re: hit flushes) and turmeric (we're huge fans of turmeric which is great at reducing inflammation and therefore the severity of our perimenopause symptoms).

    Check out our Peri Chai Latte for a daily turmeric boost.

  • Prioritise sleep - Bad sleep can mess around with your metabolism and have you looking for sugar the next day. A focus on improved sleep will help with trying to balance your weight.

    Our SuperLattes will help you get a great night sleep.

  • Insulin resistance - if you have it, now's the time to reverse it. A great approach is a keto or low carb diet to get you started (though not recommended as a long term strategy). Find out how to reverse insulin resistance here.

Articles about Perimenopause Weight

  • Tummy fat? Check out our blog post here about peri tummy fat
  • Why exercise is more important now than ever - more here.
  • Sugar cravings? Find out more here
  • The best Perimenopause diet, here
  • The top 10 foods you need to be eating if you're in Perimenopause

    Wrap Up…

    Celebrate the transformation your body is going through and let go of any fixation of the numbers on your scales. Remember, your value isn't captured by a mere number. It's truly about embracing wellness, feeling vibrant and healthy, and treating ourselves with an extra dose of love and kindness as we step into this new phase of life: nurturing yourself, inside and out.

    March 04, 2024 — Angela Greely

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