How Your Hormones Affect Midlife Weight Gain
One of the questions I get asked the most from my 45 and over clients is “How can I lose this belly fat?”
Well sis, before we dive in - let’s talk about why belly fat is such a hot topic after 40. . . .
Ah yes, the dreaded "muffin top” conversation.
First, understand that any woman can get a muffin top, but it’s super common for women to gain excess belly weight, as they go through perimenopause and into menopause.
This is because as estrogen levels drop, body fat is redistributed from the hips, thighs, and butt (where it used to be stored as a fuel reserve for breastfeeding) to the midsection!!
Developing a tiny (or not so tiny) pooch during this time is often referred to as the "menopot..” And while it’s considered perfectly normal, it’s not fun and usually not welcomed!
I really want to remind you that things that are considered “normal” in midlife don’t have to be accepted!! Just because science and media like to remind us that these changes are normal, doesn’t mean that we just sit back and give in without a fight.
This is exactly why I’ve dedicated my health coaching practice to specifically working with women struggling with midlife changes - YOU do have a say so in how this journey is going to go!! Please, don’t ever give up hope or throw in the towel. The goal will always remain the same - to feel our best, but our course of action may change as we age.
Obviously we don’t enjoy an expanding midsection because it makes us feel uncomfortable (literally and figuratively) in our clothes, but also this deeper fat is creating visceral fat, or "toxic fat."
Excessive amounts of visceral fat increase inflammation in the body and ultimately contribute to several conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and THAT is why it’s so important we are working WITH our hormones to help decrease that menopot.
Ok so that’s the Debbie Downer side (no offense to any Debbies out there).
Let’s look at the upside -----> you can do something about it.
First thing I want YOU to do is take out that dreaded tape measure and measure around your waist across your belly button. Your goal here is to be well below 35 inches. If you're 35 or greater, you have too much internal belly fat and it’s time to make that a top priority.
Second, it’s time to do a little self inventory.
What are you eating? How much are you eating? And When are you eating?
Are you choose whole foods (veggies, fruits, whole grains) and high-quality fats, carbs, and proteins?
Are you eating the proper portion size?
Are you eating 3 meals throughout the day, plus 2-3 healthy snacks? (Being especially sure to eat a healthy snack after 3 p.m., when fatigue and frustration drive many women to reach for junk food!) Believe it or not, undereating can actually make you gain weight, so you need to be making sure you are getting in the proper amount of calories each day. [bonus: check out my Five Signs That You Are Under Eating PDF]
And finally, are you moving your body enough? Do you have a set exercise routine? PLUS I need you to think about the amount of sitting you do all day. Thirty to six minutes of fitness is great, but if the rest of the day is spent sedentary you are doing a great disservice to your health. So it’s important that you are moving throughout the day as well. A midday walk, a five minute break from your desk. Try to limit the amount of time you are just sitting!!
Okay, so we’ve established you are doing all the things and still struggling - now it’s time to talk about those hormones.
Women often suffer from real metabolic and hormonal imbalances that can create a kind of resistance to active weight loss. If what you did in the past is no longer working for you, your weight loss issues may be caused by any of the following types of hormonal imbalance:
Thyroid imbalance: your thyroid may be low or “sluggish” (sometimes referred to as subclinical hypothyroidism), making it much easier to gain weight, and harder to lose it. The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating metabolism, so when thyroid hormone is low — even if it’s only slightly off — stubborn weight gain can result, along with intense cravings and low energy. Understand that cutting back on calories slows down your metabolism and decreases your ability to lose weight. So it’s super important that someone with this issue is monitoring their caloric intake to make sure they are eating enough throughout the day. >> Symptoms of thyroid imbalance: weight gain and body changes, loss of energy, hair and skin issues, intolerance to cold temperatures, depressed mood
Adrenal imbalance: excessive or ongoing stress, even mild stress, triggers more cortisol production, causing your body to deposit excessive fat around your middle. The adrenal glands jump into action to protect you from life-threatening emergencies and other kinds of stress. Cortisol is released until the stress has passed, and that’s supposed to happen pretty quickly. But when you’re constantly under stress — even if you’ve gotten used to it mentally — your body continues to release those stress hormones. Cortisol adds fat to your belly area, but the message never gets sent that it’s okay for your body to let go of it. The problem with an Adrenal imbalance is that those higher levels of cortisol can directly influence your cravings for foods that are high in sugar and fat and also increases the drug-like satisfaction you get from eating certain foods like sugar, making you crave even more than usual. See it’s a terrible vicious cycle. Many women with adrenal imbalance keep themselves going every day with multiple hits of sugar, fat and caffeine.
>> Symptoms of adrenal imbalance: weight gain around the waist, stress symptoms including fatigue, low energy, sleep issues, anxiety, and cravings for sugar, caffeine and salt.
Reproductive hormone imbalance: higher levels of testosterone or lowered estrogen can add weight around the waist area that creates even more fat-producing hormones. Reproductive hormones are connected along the same brain-body axis to other hormones that influence how you use and store calories. When estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are already fluctuating outside of normal ranges, as they tend to be during perimenopause or menopause and in PMS, weight gain often follows. Weight gain related to reproductive hormonal imbalance often results in increased levels of sex hormones that can lead to gaining even more weight along with stronger weight loss resistance.
>> Symptoms of hormonal imbalance: stubborn weight gain, hot flashes, night sweats, irritability. vaginal dryness, low libido, depressed mood, memory issues.
A combination of imbalances: when normal hormonal balance is upset, it can alter balance throughout your endocrine network and you may experience a potent blend of all three of these issues.
While the idea of your body being resistant to weight loss may be new to you, here’s the good news - there are solutions out there!!
#1 I encourage you to put the focus on your health, not just your weight loss.
#2 Address the root source of the issue to help restore balance to your body. That means you need to open up that dialogue with your doctor. Let him or her know what is going on. Be honest and specific and demand that you get a detailed blood test run. If your doctor “blows you off,” which I’m afraid is common, get a second, third or forth opinion.
#3 Schedule a free discovery call. I want to dive in a little deeper with you. Let’s talk about what’s going on and put some strategies into place TODAY so you are finding some relief now and not waiting for it to come to you.