I recently heard from a Brain Warrior who, after a lifetime of having a healthy weight, began struggling with postmenopausal weight gain despite eating organic foods, taking high-quality supplements, and doing intermittent juice fasts.
All of a sudden at age 47, she started feeling hungry all the time and as a result, she put on about 15 pounds. She started taking a weight loss drug that has a host of potential side effects, such as panic, psychosis, and delirium. After a few years on the medication, she realized that it wasn’t good for her and tossed the pills in the trash.
Since then, she gained another 15 pounds even though she’s tried some of the same strategies she used in her younger days when she wanted to drop weight. Now, she feels bloated, ravenous, and disappointed in herself. You may know the feeling.
What is it that keeps women at THAT stage of life from successfully maintaining a healthy weight? And what can you do to change it? Read on.
7 Common Postmenopausal Weight Gain Culprits
Some of the most common reasons why women going through menopause find it harder to maintain their weight include the following.
1. Elevated cortisol levels: The menopausal transition is often a time of heightened stress. Women in their late 40s, 50s, and beyond may be sending their children off to college, dealing with divorce, or trying to cope with the loss of a spouse or loved one. The increase in stress comes with a bump in the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat and sugar cravings. Using alcohol to try to calm stress backfires because it also raises cortisol levels.
Brain Warrior’s Way: Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation, prayer, and deep breathing, to soothe stress. Using Everyday Stress Relief to replenish the nutrients that are lost during times of excessive stress can also be helpful.
2. Hormonal imbalances: Waning estrogen during this time of life can create hormonal imbalances that make it more difficult to lose weight, especially around the waist.
Brain Warrior’s Way: Have a physician—ideally an integrative or functional medicine doctor—check your hormone levels and balance them with bioidentical hormones if necessary.
3. Food allergies or sensitivities: Even if you’re eating a balanced diet with organic, healthy foods, you may have developed a sensitivity or allergy to a certain food, which can lead to gut dysfunction. Surprisingly, even highly nutritious foods can cause problems for some people.
Brain Warrior’s Way: Find out more about food sensitivities, how to test for them, and what to do about them in this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast.
4. Gut dysbiosis: An imbalance in the gut flora may occur at any age and may be due to an overgrowth of weight-retaining strains of bacteria or inadequate levels of beneficial strains.
Brain Warrior’s Way: Eating probiotic-rich foods (such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir) and taking probiotic supplements can help re-balance gut flora.
5. Sleep disturbances: Hot flashes and night sweats can disrupt sleep, which can cause imbalances with the appetite hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Women who don’t get adequate sleep are more likely to have elevated levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, which increases appetite.
Brain Warrior’s Way: Adopt a healthy sleep hygiene routine and consider supplements with calming vitamins and minerals that promote relaxation, such as those in Restful Sleep.
6. Loss of muscle mass: Aging is associated with a loss of lean muscle in women, which can lead to a decrease in metabolic rate. Low-calorie diets actually accelerate muscle wasting and can sabotage weight-loss efforts.
Brain Warrior’s Way: The key to maintaining muscle mass in the perimenopausal and postmenopausal stages is to increase strength training. Check my website for exercises to build lean muscle.
7. Environmental toxins: Decades of exposure to environmental toxins can lead to a build-up of these harmful substances, which can impact hormone levels in ways that are associated with weight gain.
Brain Warrior’s Way: Essentials for maintaining healthy, age-appropriate estrogen levels include avoiding the following environmental toxins:
- Hormones in animal proteins (eat organic, pasture-raised, grass-finished)
- Estrogen-competing toxins often found in plastic containers, bottles, and plastic wraps
- BPA lining in cans
- Phthalates found in body care products
- Dioxins found in grains and dairy
- Insecticides and pesticides
For guidance on avoiding environmental toxins, use the Think Dirty app.
If you need additional help, you may benefit from working with an integrative medicine (also called functional medicine) physician to fully assess your situation and find solutions that work for you. For more information, watch Dr. Mark Filidei, Director of Integrative Medicine at Amen Clinics, discuss bioidentical hormone therapy or make an appointment by calling 1-844-818-0616.
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