Menopause and Weight Loss
Are you a female above the age of 45 and noticing your pants fit a little tighter than normal? Are you going to the gym but having a harder time seeing the results? If you are in this age range you are likely starting perimenopause or are in menopause. Most women report having a hard time losing weight during this time, especially in the abdomen area. This is extremely common, although, with the right diet and proper exercise, you will start to see the abdomen weight diminish.
First, let’s look at the science behind why women tend to gain a few extra lbs around the abdomen during these years. During menopause, all sex hormones decrease, this includes estrogen and testosterone. Estrogen and testosterone promote muscle mass and muscle mass controls metabolism, therefore if there is less estrogen, less muscle mass is being obtained then the metabolism will slow down. Secondly, as estrogen the body becomes more insulin resistant, making it harder to tolerate carbohydrates and sugars. Your body’s main goal is to protect you. When your body senses a slowing down in the system, it directs fat storage to the abdomen area to protect the major internal organs.
Although your body is just trying to protect you, we need to let it know we are not in survival mode. The best way to support our body through menopause is to make these five changes to your diet along with adding in strength training to your routine:
Increase Cruciferous Veggies
These veggies release a phytochemical called Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), when consumed. I3C promotes liver detoxification which is important for hormone balance. The liver has to work hard to filter out excess estrogens, xenoestrogens (chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body) and all other toxins and chemicals we are exposed to in our lifetime. Cruciferous vegetables should be eaten daily, examples include:
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
Eat the right kind of fats
Omega 3 fats are needed to reduce inflammation in the body as well as build hormones. Healthy fats are also needed to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K from food, which all play an important role in hormone balancing.
Here are some examples of healthy fats to consume in your diet:
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil and avocados
- Raw unsalted Nuts and seeds
- Fatty fish (ex. salmon, mackerel, anchovy, sardine, herring)
- Coconut oil (in moderation)
Here are some examples of fats you want to keep out of the diet. These fats will hinder hormone balancing and influence weight gain:
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Vegetable oil
- Sesame oil
- Trans fat/hydrogenated oil
Eat quality protein at every meal: Protein is made up of amino acids, and amino are needed for almost every body function, mainly hormone production. Without amino acids, communication between the hypothalamus, adrenals, and hormones will be off and hormone production will be diminished. Also, as a general rule, it is important to eat good quality protein daily in order to keep you feeling full for longer, thus avoiding continuous snacking.
Limit carbohydrates, sugar and fruit
Due to the change in insulin response, most women do not tolerate carbs as well as they previously did. Even healthy carbs and fruits will likely need to be limited to avoid glucose and insulin spikes which can lead to weight gain. Examples of foods high in carbohydrates are:
- baked goods
Increase Fermented foods
In order to feel good from the inside out, our gut flora needs support. 80% of serotonin is made in the gut, so in order to feel good from the inside we need to ensure we are providing our gut with a diverse colony of flora. It also supports our immune system function to keep our body in tip-top, virus-fighting shape allowing the body to focus on hormone production. Here is a list of fermented foods to add to the diet daily:
- Sugar-free coconut yogurt
Try it out! Hormone Balancing Meal Ideas
To put everything into practice, here is a one-day basic meal plan with a focus on hormonal balancing:
Butter leaf lettuce with avocado, arugula and egg
Explanation: the avocado offers healthy fats to reduce inflammation and keep you fuller for longer. The arugula contains I3C for natural estrogenic balance, and the egg provides protein for hormonal building and satiation.
Vegetable power bowl, topped with chicken breast, sweet potatoes, and massaged kale (hand washed and massaged with olive would and apple cider vinegar to help break down the fiber content for easier digestion)
Explanation: chicken provides lean protein, sweet potatoes offer many vitamins and minerals, mainly vitamin A and beta carotene, and kale is the cruciferous veggie.
Salmon, broccoli and 1/3 cup brown rice topped with pumpkin seeds
Explanation: Salmon is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, it is also a low-mercury fish. Broccoli is our third cruciferous veggie of the day which increases the I3C in the body immensely in the body and brown rice contains calcium needed for strong bones.
Fats and cholesterol. The Nutrition Source. (2019, May 22). Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/
Fenton, A. (2021). Weight, shape, and body composition changes at Menopause. Journal of Mid-Life Health, 12(3), 187. https://doi.org/10.4103/jmh.jmh_123_21
Gordon, K. (2022, August 31). Fruits Low in Sugar. LiveScience. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from https://www.livescience.com/which-fruits-are-low-in-sugar
Lombardo, M., Perrone, M. A., Guseva, E., Aulisa, G., Padua, E., Bellia, C., Della-Morte, D., Iellamo, F., Caprio, M., & Bellia, A. (2020). Losing weight after menopause with minimal aerobic training and Mediterranean diet. Nutrients, 12(8), 2471. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12082471