Archive for menopause weight gain


Shorts, Sales and Moving

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Summer is here and the other day I was thinking of hitting the 4th of July clothing sales to get myself some new shorts. My legs aren’t great after years of standing all day, but it is hot here in the south. Around July, I often reach the point of not caring what my legs look like as long as I don’t look in a full length mirror!

Plus there’s that menopausal weight gain and body weight shift issue, and some shorts aren’t as comfortable as they were last year.

Growing older and seeing our bodies and figures change is tough for menopausal women. We usually figure out how to maintain our health and weight through our 30′s and 40′s, but then it all changes without us seeming to change anything!

Or have we changed a lot and just not been aware of it?

A recent study hitting the news reveals some shocking statistics: up to 51% of us women have no leisure time activity or exercise built into our lives! This is up from 14% in 1994; and felt to be the primary cause for obesity.

So it is not that we are actually eating more calories, although admittedly the calories we are eating may be of lesser quality. Our weight problem has more to do with moving much less than in past years. This can happen slowly and without us being aware of it. We get busier at work and at home, and we feel we can skip the exercise today. Today then becomes tomorrow, the next day and onward; until exercise is no longer a habit.

This slide into inactivity can happen quickly, and can easily be blamed on any number of reasons. There is really only one reason though, and it is not making movement and exercise a firm part of our routine. It is not that we are lazy, we just haven’t placed it high on the priority list and that list can be long.

Now that you have decided you do not want to be part of the 51% of women who don’t exercise, it is time to start making some changes.

Starting with your activity level is a good place to begin. I want you to take these next steps.

Decide what you would like to try for exercise and schedule a time. Sign up for an exercise class either with or without a friend. Get out of the house first thing in the morning for whatever amount of time you can, and do something such as walking. Set an alarm on your watch or phone every 60-90 minutes and walk around the house or office; even run up a flight of stairs.

I absolutely know you will feel better with more movement built into your day. You may have to pick specific activities if you have an orthopedic problem, and I can make suggestions for you to discuss with your medical provider.

As for me, I admitted to myself that my shorts are fine and I will like them more if they are a little looser. I don’t need new ones. So I will be doing my floor exercises more faithfully at night while I watch the evening news.

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Why Sleeping Is so Important to Menopausal women

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Your may have read some headlines recently, discussing how lack of sleep can cause you to gain weight. You may even have experienced this first hand. I know when I do not sleep well, I usually overeat the next day. I had assumed this was my bodies way of getting much needed extra energy. I assumed it was something that specific to me, not necessarily driven by any known biological mechanism of action.

It turns out there is a biological reason that we eat more when we have not slept. Through knowledge gained from research studies on why sleep is so important, it has been shown that many important functions occur while we sleep. The body and brain repairs itself while we sleep. Most of us have always assumed this, but many of us would never imagine that lack of sleep can make us fat!

Sleep deprivation, even if only for a few days; can wreck havoc on our hormone system. It can cause cortisol to rise in the evening, when it should be declining. This rise in cortisol can contribute to diabetes and obesity as it promotes fat storage. Thyroid function can also be affected by lack of sleep.

But how can sleep actually make us fat? In addition to the cortisol rise mentioned above, sleep deprivation affects the appetite regulatory hormones leptin and ghrelin. These hormones play an important role in helping to regulate our appetite through signalling when we are full and when we are hungry. Lack if sleep causes them to rise and fall inappropriately, encouraging you to consume more calories than you actually require.

Additionally, lack of sleep has been shown to also decrease glucose sensitivity by almost 30%. This means  that the food you eat will not be utilized as efficiently and will be more likely to be stored as fat. Such a response implies that chronic sleep deprivation may cause an increased chance of developing diabetes and obesity.

Menopausal sleep deprivation can not only add to the weight gain and fatigue of menopause, it can also increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease. If you are being told by your medical provider that your glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure are becoming higher than normal; your sleep patterns as well as diet may be the reason.

It is important to work on your sleep habits in order to minimize the effect menopause may be having on your health. Work on getting plenty of exercise, decrease caffeine, learn to relax and maybe meditate to decrease stress. Talk to your provider about help with sleep and any medical conditions other than menopause which may be contributing to lack of sleep.

Most importantly, set a schedule for sleep and stick to it! Work on not allowing the phone, your computer, or TV watching interfere with your bedtime.

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One of the biggest problems encountered by menopausal women, aside from hot flashes, fatigue, sleeplessness, hair loss, absent libido and brain fog; is WEIGHT GAIN! I am asked over and over in the clinic where I practice medicine, how to combat this.

It is easily one of the top 5 cursed changes that occurs with menopause. There is a huge weight loss industry in the US because of the growing obesity problem, and menopausal women are utilizing many of the various diets and medications to help combat weight gain.

At the core of the problem for menopausal women, and aging men also; is the change in metabolism and food utilization as we age. There is a change in the hormones produced related to food breakdown, utilization and storage that occurs with aging. There is an evolutionary reason for this, but it is not a reason we need in this day and age in our country; and it is definitely not desired by many Westerners.

How we store our fat can also affect our health. Visceral fat is common in middle age for both men and women. It is a more active fat hormonally, and can contribute to heart disease and diabetes. We have all come to recognize the “apple shape vs pear shape” of weight gain, with the pear shape body being the healthier version of weight gain.

An important finding from a recently completed study from the Mayo clinic demonstrates that visceral (abdominal fat) regardless of your overall weight, is more detrimental to your health than lower body obesity. Equally as unsightly as a big lower half of the body, how do we combat this  dangerous belly fat?

What you eat is the biggest factor in how much and how you will gain weight as you age. Exercise is important also for cardiovascular health, but the food and beverages you put in your mouth are key to energy storage (fat) and energy usage.

A recent study looked at the effectiveness of low fat (20% cal. from fat, 20% from protein, 60% carbohydrates), low carb -similar to Adkins (10% carbs, 30% fat, 60% protein) and low glycemic -think Mediterranean diet(40% carbs, 40% fat, 20% protein). They found that while the low carb diet participants burned the most calories a day, it caused an increase in substances known to cause heart disease. The low glycemic dieters burned more calories per day than low fat dieters, and with a healthier effect on cardiovascular system.

It is clear from these results that a diet high in vegetables and fruits, lean proteins and whole grains; low in processed starches and wheat products, sugar and animal fats is healthiest for a weight loss and maintenance diet. Additional studies recently have shown that a highly restrictive diet has not been shown to help with long term weight loss. A recent study illustrated that a self selected diet or eating plan, that did not eliminate entire categories of food but rather encouraged increase consumption of fruits and vegetables was most effective at long term weight loss.

At this point, you may be wondering what to do with all this information!

These easy guidelines to start with will help you to lose and maintain weight loss during and after menopause:

  1. Eliminate as much sugar from your diet in form of sweets, sugared drinks, alcohol, and processed items with high fructose corn syrup as you can.
  2. Reduce fatty meats, as well as deep fried items. Choose lean meats and bake or saute in a healthy oil such as olive oil, and not too much oil.
  3. Increase fruits and vegetables, make one or both of these items part of every meal.
  4. Decrease portion sizes at meals, eliminate seconds.
  5. Cut down on snacking, and make your snack healthy such as fruits, vegetables, raw nuts.
  6. Chose food that you like and enjoy, you need to look forward to every meal and feel satisfied at the end.
  7. Don’t skip meals, this will slow your metabolism.
  8. Drink at least 60 oz of water at day.

These are but a few suggestions. Click here to get some tips from the premier weight loss spas in our country.

An important factor to remember is that permanent weight loss is best achieved with small changes taken slowly over a long period of time. Whatever eating pattern you find most effective and pleasant, think about this being a permanent change. That will give you the most rewarding results.

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Menopause Guide to an Active Healthy Life, P6

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What does a healthy diet cost?  It depends on what you eat where and how much you eat.  Anne talks about eating organic foods in this video. If you are going to eat organic but have limited funds, what foods should you eat from organic sources? A source we use is The Daily Green. You can find foods you should eat from organic sources and a list of foods you don’t. One thing about the list is the cost of transportation and climate effects of the use of shipping foods from the tropics to North America. Here is a list of no worry fresh foods grown locally in NC where we live:

Onion, Sweet Corn, Sweet Potatoe, Asparagus, Sweet peas, Tomato, Cabbage, Eggplant, Watermelon and Brocchoi. Other foods on the list are Avocado, Pineapple, Mango, Kiwi, Papaya.

Foods you should always buy organic are:

Celery, Apples, Bell Peppers, Cherries, Peaches, Spinach, Potatoes, Strawberries Imported Grapes and Leafy Greens

Others that may matter are Meats (pesticide residue in the fat), Milk, Coffee, Carrots Blue berries and Kale

Here is my video on this topic:

Here are some rules to help you eat healthy:

1. You were never intended to eat and eat, regularly without a break. At the least vary your meal times. If you don’t have a reason your Doctor says not to, skip a meal a different times. Going 12 hours on just water at irregular intervals makes the body use all available energy stores. It keeps insulin low and doesn’t allow your metabolism to get in a rhythm. You body needs and craves variety. Feasting needs some short periods of fasting following it. Went out for a great meal last night – then eat very light today or maybe not at all for one meal.

2. Quit doing other things when you eat. Sit, quietly, eat, talk, listen to some soothing music but don’t stand, drive or look at any kind of a screen like TV or a computer. Once a week eat with friends, in courses, for 2 hours or more. When you shop, take a “to go box”with you and put in all the samples you want to try and then when you have time, sit and sample them and decide if you would buy them. If you know you are not going to buy, then don’t eat them!

3. Download a PDF copy of our 30 tips to avoid Menopause weight gain.

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Many people know why they gain weight: too much food, too little exercise, bad genes. Peri-menopausal and menopausal women are often at a loss however, to explain why the pounds are piling on without a major change of life style. Even women with strong exercise habits and a healthy diet find that they gain weight during this life process.

Why does this happen?

Hormones is why, but maybe not the ones you want to blame. 90% of women between ages 35-55 will gain weight as they age. Oftentimes this is due to a slowing of metabolism associated with aging, as well as decreased physical activity. This can contribute to overall weight gain, but it is the visceral fat (inside the abdomen) gain that presents a problem.

Visceral fat is fat that is in the abdominal cavity, not like subcutaneous fat which lays under the skin. It is a hormonally active fat which develops in response to both hereditary tendencies as well as hormonal changes as people age. Visceral fat produces estrogen after menopause, which the body places there for exactly that reason. It produces and is created in response to cortisol, a stress hormone. It promotes insulin resistance, a major cause of weight gain. Through these mechanisms, visceral fat changes the way the body breaks down and stores fat. It is very effective at storing energy which is one reason the body wants to hang on to it!

The risks of increased visceral fat and this type of weight gain include:

* cardiovascular disease and stroke (through increased levels of cortisol and insulin resistance)
* hypertension (because of cortisol)
* diabetes ( from insulin resistance)
* increased cholesterol ( due to insulin resistance)
* breast cancer ( from increased levels of estrogen)

As women are experiencing changes in hormone level with decreased amounts of estrogen, the body actually makes fat in order to store and produce the estrogen the ovaries are no longer producing. This causes increased production of androgens which distributes fat differently, more at the waist and less at the hips.

This weight gain then leads to increased insulin and insulin growth factor which contributes to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance changes how the body utilizes the food you eat. Normal insulin sensitivity allows the glucose formed from the breakdown and digestion of food, to enter the body’s cells for metabolism. All of our cells requires glucose to function; without it our brain, muscles and organs could not function. This is why diabetics feel so poorly when their glucose (or sugar) is too high, the glucose cannot get from the blood stream to the organs. This is, in part, due to the fact that their insulin is not able to work normally or they do not have enough insulin to allow this movement of glucose. When there is an excess of glucose in the blood stream, the body stores it as fat. Oftentimes, this is visceral fat.

Cortisol is another key hormone which changes fat metabolism and deposition. Cortisol is excreted in response to stress. It is what allows the body to respond to an emergency both physically and mentally. It is what you need when someone is breaking into your house, the ability to run or fight. It moves blood to muscles, focuses concentration, increases your heart rate and blood pressure for the upcoming action. This is an important hormone we need at times such as these. The problem arises when our lives are so stressful, that cortisol stays elevated. This often comes from job stress ( most of us cannot physically do battle with problems at work) or family stress ( bad marriage, sick loved ones, teenagers!) This continues cortisol elevation leads to insulin resistance as well as high blood pressure, which leads to increase in glucose which leads to increase fat storage.

So what can you do?

One of the keys is to keep blood cortisol levels down and keep insulin levels down to avoid insulin resistance. Stress reduction, exercise, meditation/prayer, yoga can all help lower cortisol by avoiding excess production and physically using up what is being produced in excess. Diet and eating patterns are likewise key in avoiding excess insulin levels. Eat foods which take longer to digest (higher in fiber or fat) to avoid rapid rises in glucose.  Exercise long and slow to utilize the glucose you have produced. These two habits are key to avoiding visceral fat creation.

Let me know about your experience with weight gain and your healthy habits in the comments section.

Anne V. PAC

Sign up for our free membership to learn more about all facets of menopause below. You can find the gift of a report there with tips about avoiding menopause weight gain there:

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Betsy Collie is an active woman and has been active her entire life. She has been involved in dance, athletics, group BetsyC.ITSfitness, personal training, and instructing Kettlebell exercise classes in her new studio Rapid Results Fitness. In this interview with Bruce Bair, PAC,  Betsy addresses many of the issues that can influence a woman’s health, fitness and quality of life after age 45.  Betsy is in her 40′s and looks just like the photo. Bruce met her at a wellness event for Durham Public Schools where both were presenters.

[private_basic] Bruce was helping her set up her sign and had to move a kettlebell sitting on the table.  He reached out to lift it and barely did so – it weighed 35 deceptive pounds.  Then for the rest of the day, he watched Betsy lift and swing this in demonstrating basic kettlebell moves to the people involved.  She is petite but packs more muscle than some collegiate wrestlers. Yet, in her exercise clothes Betsy just looks slim and small.

If you like this interview, you are going to want to subscribe so you can know when interviews like this are posted.  We  offer a membership with an interview of the month, live monthly calls and coaching depending on your membership level. For now, some content is free but you should sign up. Look at the top right side of the page to do so.

Your comments, questions and suggestions are always welcome.  Please leave them in the comments section below.

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MENOPAUSE- a word which conjures up many feelings for women, not all of which are happy.  My gynecologist recently stated to me that menopause only lasts one day! What a surprise to me! What he was actually referring to is the fact that menopause is the day at which point a women has gone 365 days or 12 consecutive months without a period.  All the rest is either peri-menopause or post menopause.  Well, the semantics of this definition doesn’t change the fact that women experiencing this change of life are troubled by many symptoms which feel at best , slightly disruptive and at worst completely mind boggling.  There are ways however to lessen or manage these symptoms and changes so that you still feel in control of your body. It does take some effort however, but it is well worth it.

Many of us go through our years without paying a lot of attention to how our life style is affecting us both physically and emotionally.  I tell many of my patients that when we are young, our bodies can continue to function efficiently even though we are not eating a very healthy diet, we are not drinking enough water, we are not sleeping enough at night and we are not exercising adequately.  Many women will not gain weight, feel tired and may even have normal cholesterol and glucose levels despite a less that healthy lifestyle. Then menopause hits and this all changes. Women are experiencing hot flashes, inability to sleep, weight gain even though their diet hasn’t changed, mood swings, fatigue and lack of concentration and of course the low libido or lack of sex drive.  So our partners have to deal with us thrashing around at night, grumpy and moody, and then we don’t even want to have sex!  It takes true devotion to see a menopausal woman through this phase of her life!

Each of the troubling symptoms of menopause can be managed in ways both natural and in some ways through use of medication. Only you and your medical provider can decide on the usefulness of medication. I will discuss the most prevalent issues with suggestions on managing these issues and I hope to include interviews with experts on their experience and suggestions for women to help during this phase of their lives.  I feel it is important for women to not let the time of menopause unravel them physically and emotionally.

I have been experiencing menopause myself for several years now and have had to find ways to mitigate its effects on my sleep, energy, weight, skin, hair and yes, my sex life. This along with the countless stories and histories shared with me through the years working in my profession, I feel I understand what women are experiencing and hope to help women understand how they too can travel through this phase without losing their health or their minds!

“Reading this does not constitute treatment.  It is information for you to use to ask your doctor or
health care provider better questions and to help you make better decisions after consulting with a practitioner face
to face.  Because we provide you with information, stories and anecdotes, it does not mean you are a patient or that
we assume care for your health. Our relationship is casual and is not a therapeutic one.”

Categories : Menopause Symptoms
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