The “worry waist” is a term used to describe the very common side effect of the perimenopause; weight gain. The term is coined due to the apparent relationship between the stress hormone cortisol and weight gain during this period. Read on to find out more.
Why did I get perimenopause weight gain?
Perimenopausal weight gain is very normal. However, it can lead to an increase in risk factors associated with early mortality and for many the increase in fat deposits in particular sights of the body are unwanted. We are here to provide an answer to perimenopause weight gain by explaining the processes that take place. Though it is a natural process and very normal, there are still many things we can do to minimise and reverse perimenopause weight gain.
Menopause is a term derived from ancient Greece to describe the permanent end to monthly cycles. Perimenopause is the period of time before the menopause where your menstrual cycles begin to come to an end. This is often experienced as gradually decreasing numbers of cycles per year and increasing lengths of time per cycle.
The role of hormones
What results in this gradual cessation of cycle is all to do with our hormones, which you probably all know already. This is why a common method to combat the unwanted symptoms of menopause is hormone replacement therapy. This can be highly effective, however, comes with its own risk factors1. Having HRT as a treatment option is really powerful. Let's empower you even further by diving into why exactly these hormones impact our weight so much. The main hormones related to menopause are testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen. By understanding these hormones in more detail we will be better equipped to understand why we get perimenopause weight gain. Knowledge is power and in a world where “menopause magnets” and “menopause shampoo” are some of the top searched terms with regards to menopause it could be said that more knowledge is required to better aid our consumer decisions.
During the menopause the aforementioned hormones begin to decline. For testosterone and progesterone this decline is a fairly linear progress without too much fluctuation. However, with regards to oestrogen there is a lot of fluctuation during perimenopause. All three of these hormones play a role in managing our metabolism. Our metabolism is involved in the creation and storage of energy. Therefore anything that impacts our metabolism is going to have an impact on our weight.
Testosterone is responsible for helping maintain muscle mass. The higher the level of muscle mass the more calories burnt per day. Therefore as testosterone levels begin to decrease in women over time it becomes harder to maintain muscle mass resulting in a slow down in the metabolism2. In order to increase muscle mass one of the best and most widely tested ways is through resistance training. Resistance training when performed at high enough intensities results in the breakdown of muscle fibres which triggers our body to re-grow bigger and stronger muscles. Despite lowered testosterone levels it is still very possible to increase your muscle mass. In recent years more attention has been placed on testosterone becoming a part of the HRT process which currently only focuses on oestrogen and progesterone much in part thanks to the Davina Mccall Menopause book whose author is famous for the menopause five day diet to lose weight. The book is called “menopausing” and can be found on amazon.
The oestrogen and progesterone dynamic
When it comes to oestrogen and progesterone it is the relationship between the two which is key to understanding why you may be experiencing weight gain during perimenopause. During the perimenopausal phase oestrogen levels can increase and decrease dramatically, whereas progesterone decreases much like testosterone at a relatively linear and gradual rate. Whenever the balance of progesterone and oestrogen falls out of its regular pattern the results are changes in our metabolism. These changes are as follows;
-During the years pre menopause Oestrogen is produced in the ovaries and post menopause is produced in fat cells. During perimenopause there is a crossover due to fluctuating oestrogen levels. When oestrogen levels drop relative to progesterone levels our bodies will store more fat in order for us to produce more estrogen3.
-When oestrogen levels elevate relative to progesterone levels we see a decrease in thyroid function. The thyroid is responsible for the release of hormones associated with metabolism. Increased levels of oestrogen cause a slow down in metabolism4.
As you can see there is a lot at play within this dynamic and we are only just touching the surface in this blog. What is clear is that during perimenopause weight gain is a natural occurrence. The extent at which you gain weight depends on many factors including genetics, ethnicity and age which are non modifiable with regards to weight gain leading to many of us feeling desperate and out of control searching for quick solutions to our problems such as “menopause bracelets”. However despite the challenges, there are many modifiable factors which you do have control over.
What can be done?
By acknowledging what has happened and accepting where you are we can move to work to reverse the negative impacts perimenopause weight gain may have had. Now things have changed you are going to have to work harder to fight against the processes that are taking place.
The beautiful thing is you have so much control over the outcomes. With a little help and guidance you can achieve so much. Here's why…
Now that your testosterone levels are lower you will not be able to hold on to the muscle mass that you naturally have without training. So it's time to start training! If you are training already then now you have to train more. We can build muscle mass well into our nineties therefore there is no excuse. Progressive overload is the best approach where you continuously make each session more challenging by applying more load or volume. Don't settle for your normal workout plan, keep mixing it up. We can help you by working alongside you to come up with tailor made workouts that you can perform at home or in the gym. Our programs are run on an app where you can log progress and your coach can see where adjustments need to be made. By increasing the amount of muscle mass not only will you increase your metabolism but also add shape to your body. Participating in resistance training will also help fight against osteoporosis.
Now that you are through the challenges of perimenopause the road is going to be a lot smoother. You can now focus on increasing your activity levels and reducing calorie intake to regain the level of body fat you desire. We recommend trying to consume at least 25% of your calories as protein. This helps maintain muscle mass.
If you are considering making a change to your perimenopause weight gain don't hesitate to get in touch. We offer a 30 minute free consultation call where you can learn more about how we can help you. This is a no obligations call and a great opportunity to learn more about what you can do yourself to tackle perimenopause weight gain.