Menopause & Weightloss
What is menopause?
Menopause occurs when a womans ovaries stop producing the usual amount of two important female sex hormones – oestrogen and progesterone and this marks the end of reproduction which typically occurs between the ages of 40 and 50. Each woman may have different experiences and face different challenges though out this time with not only her body but various element of her life as well
This can be an emotionally challenging time for women as this often marks a new phase in a woman’s life. Some feel excitement & relief as there is no worry about their monthly cycle or using birth control. Others however may feel challenged with mood control, increased sadness & anxiety, problems with memory and concentration, and even depression. This can be coupled with social changes family and their environment, such as employment change, loss of partner or relationship change and departure and maturity of children.
The physical changes of rapid hormonal fluctuation occurring during menopause will affect women long term and be different for each person. When the female body stops ovulating, oestrogen production diminishes dramatically. Simultaneously, levels of testosterone increase which can result in multiple and various symptoms shown in the table below
- hot flushes
- night sweats
- aches and pains
- crawling or itching sensations under the skin
- lack of self-esteem
- reduced sex drive (libido)
- difficulty sleeping
- weight gain around mid-section
- urinary frequency
- vaginal dryness
- discomfort with sexual intercourse.
Weight loss and Menopause
Weight loss during menopause can prove to be a great challenge for some women and its important to understand why. As hormones fluctuate and change, metabolism, weight distribution and energy use change. This means food intake and exercise also the need to change to match or influence desired weight.
Throughout a normal womans cycle the basal metabolic rate will drop and rise normally as oestrogen fluctuates. Importantly as oestrogen levels decline, metabolism also slows down, which is similar during menopause. This mean the rate at which we use energy will be lower and weight loss or maintenance will be harder.
Estrogen levels are connected to the storage and location of fat in the body and can affect where and how we gain and lose weight before, during and after menopause. Estrogen is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat stores thus the more fat we have the more estrogen we will also have in the body. Estrogen increases alpha-adrenergic receptors in the lower body and these receptors slow fat release, causing the pear shape seen before menopause, also challenging weight loss in this area generally. As estrogen levels drop and testosterone levels increase the receptors also reduce causing a redistribution of weight to the abdominal area and the change to an apple shape.
During this phase estrogen is still required for other functions and the body will strive to find it in other places. As estrogen is produced in the stored fat, the body will try to conserve fat at all costs and convert excess energy into fat.
This means for weight loss to occur food intake should not be in excess and monitored in particular fats and sugars, to ensure the body does not store excess fat. A focus should be on boosting metabolism with regular eating intervals of portioned food as well as different forms of exercise.
Strength training is highly important during menopause as this is also a time where osteoporosis is a high risk. Strength training will maintain and improve bone density as well as build muscle and as a result will enable increased energy use in daily life and training, encouraging further weight loss. High intensity interval training is also key for weight loss at this time as it can be efficient at boosting metabolism and using large amounts of energy is a small-time frame.