In one of my previous blog posts I said I wondered which was going to be worse: period pains or the menopause… I can now conclude, it is in fact the menopause!
As if the hot flushes, random aches and pains, fatigue, and lack of ability to concentrate or focus are not enough… I’m now also gaining weight at a phenomenal record breaking rate. I mean, quicker than it took me to grow an actual baby. I literally just need to look at food now and I gain weight… It’s not even funny at this point, Its just frustrating.
So then, why is it soooo much easier to gain weight after the menopause and so much harder to shed those extra pounds… even when I feel like I am doing all the right things?
1. Hormone Changes
Okay, so apparently when your oestrogen levels drop so does your resting metabolism rate (meaning you just burn way less energy) and ironically you feel more hungry at the same time.
Worse still, your cells lose sensitivity to insulin making it easier for your body to store fat. Brilliant! Especially If you don’t exercise, (which believe me, I definitely am trying to do). You also lose muscle mass at a faster rate – and that means less metabolically active tissue to burn calories. Hence, why strength training is MORE important than ever before. But why is it hard to muster up the energy to train? It is a real mental battle, finding that willpower to leave the sofa and get to the gym sometimes.
2. Sleep Changes
Menopause disrupts your sleep pattern in some super frustrating ways. First up, more than 60% of women say they find it harder to fall asleep during the menopause, and then when they eventually do drop off, actually staying asleep is just as hard. One minute you can be fast asleep and the next you’re wide awake and drenched in sweat.
But, what does poor quality sleep have to do with gaining weight? Well, let me tell you… Research shows that getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night is directly linked with an increased risk of weight gain. In fact, lack of sleep boosts the release of an appetite-stimulating hormone called Ghrelin. And, yep you guessed it, Ghrelin is what makes high calorie and sugary foods all that more appealing. Plus, I think its fair to say you feel wayyyy less motivated to exercise when you’re sleep deprived.
My top tips for better sleep are a slightly weighted eye mask and having a fan in your room. I just find it way easier to stay asleep when the room is that bit cooler.
3. Stress Changes
Let’s be real, with so many changes happening to your body all of a sudden, the menopause definitely feels like a stressful time. But, when you’re feeling tense or stressed, your body produces a hormone called Cortisol (AKA the stress hormone). Cortisol can trigger sugar cravings and lead to weight redistribution- Yeay! More weight around your belly and less on your hips (hello muffin top).
Furthermore, more Cortisol means less sleep, less energy, more random aches and pains, and unpredictable mood swings. It also reduces your body’s immune system responses and therefore makes it easier for you to feel rundown or poorly.
The best way to beat the cortisol blues is to make sure you keep active… You can see where I am going with this one though, right? It’s so hard to find the motivation to exercise when you have low energy, hot flushes, and mad sugar cravings. Catch 22!!
This is why the menopause is such an important time to focus on stress control strategies. So, anything that makes you feel calm, happy, relaxed, and less tense… do that.
Oh apart from dinking loads of wine – which also frustratingly helps you put weight on!!!! UUgghhhhh 😫🤯😢
THIS! is why I can absolutely, 100%, definitely, honestly conclude that period pain was easier to deal with than the menopause – you could just take a paracetamol for that… (and wine was obviously an absolutely acceptable stress control strategy too).