Why You Gained Inches After Menopause and What You Can Do About It

 
 

*Warning-This blog is very sciency-because menopause is about hormones...just is what it is. 

If you don't feel like reading it, just understand this gist:

The hormonal changes that a woman goes through after menopause makes her more sensitive to carbohydrates and stress. 

Meaning, carbohydrate intake needs to be appropriate for the individual, stress levels (from life and exercise) must be managed well, and using the right types of exercise in the right amounts (because exercise is a stress) is important to optimize fat burning. 

 

If you don't want to learn the science, skip to:

 How We Address Menopausal Fat Loss At Brainy Betties

At the bottom of the page

 

Did you gain fat in your middle after menopause?

Is this something you WANT to change and feel like you’ve tried “everything”?

There's always more to losing fat than calories in vs calories out, but especially after menopause.

This is a hormonal game.

Meet Paula

*Not her real name. Changed for privacy purposes.

Paula, a woman in her 60's, came to me after living an active life and eating healthy.

She never had an issue with body fat until she went through menopause. 

She said:

"I thought women who gained weight after going through menopause were lying-until I experienced it myself.

I've always exercised and ate healthy, but when I went through menopause, it didn't matter-I was gaining weight in my middle no matter how healthy I ate or how much cardiovascular exercise I did."

Does this sound familiar at all?

Lets go over why this happens, and why what used to work, no longer does.

Then, at the end, we'll talk about what Paula did to overcome this, and what you can do too!

*Again, if you don't care about the science, just skip to the bottom.

Why Most Women put on fat in their middle After Menopause

Reason #1: More Carbohydrates from the Diet End Up Being Stored as fat.

Why?

Estrogen and Progesterone decrease after menopause.

These hormones help make your body more sensitive to insulin (insulin is what helps bring carbs/sugar from the blood stream into the muscle), and when there isn’t as much of these hormones around, it’s much harder to get the carbs/sugar from the blood into the muscles.

This is also known as becoming more insulin resistant.

Since the muscles can’t take in as much of the carbs/sugar from the blood (and it has to go somewhere), it gets converted to fat and shuttled off to the fat stores.

Reason #2: Belly Fat Increases Because of the Change in Progesterone and Cortisol

Cortisol is the hormone responsible for storing more fat around the middle. And progesterone helps to fight the fat storing tendencies of cortisol.

This is why when there’s less progesterone around and cortisol isn’t properly managed (by not picking the appropriate type and amount of exercise and/or by not keeping stress in check), more fat is stored around the middle.

The Effect of Stress

Since stress HIGHLY affects cortisol, women after menopause that are stressed are WAY more likely to put on body fat, and have a MUCH harder time losing it if they aren’t effectively managing stress.

Reason #3: If You Haven’t Been Strength Training Regularly, Your Body Has Now Lost Enough Muscle to Significantly and Noticeably Impact Your Metabolic Rate.

The old saying: “If you don’t use it, you lose it” really holds true here.

After the age of 25-30, if you aren’t continuously on a regular strength training program, you start losing muscle mass. This loss of muscle affects how many calories you burn at rest, and also like mentioned above, your ability to efficiently utilize carbs/sugar from the blood.

So, at this point the fat gaining potential is two-fold, because not only do you have less muscle working for you but, the muscle you do have doesn’t work as efficiently as it could.

But, no worries! This can be reversed.

Why What You’ve Tried in the Past Hasn’t Worked

After menopause, you may have tried some things that used to work for you, but now don’t. This all has to do with hormones.

Things you may have tried and why they didn’t work:

  •  Just Doing Cardiovascular Exercise

Since this activity is not building much muscle, it does very little to address the carb/sugar uptake issue when you’re not doing the activity.

And for the same reason, also doesn’t do much to increase the resting metabolic rate either.

  • Just Eating Less and Moving More (but not strategically)

Eating Less

Just eating less, but not addressing the amount and type of carbohydrate intake can offer lackluster results because of how carbohydrates affect your hormones.

And this doesn’t mean be afraid of carbs! Not by any sense. It just means you have to learn how the type and amount of carbohydrates you’re eating are affecting your unique body.

Moving More

Cardiovascular exercise is great and you want that too! But, relying on just that isn’t going to get you where you want to go. Again, this is because of how strength training/having more muscle mass effects your hormones.

  • “Strength” Training That’s Not Really Strength Training

Any kind of workout that’s labeled strength training or even looks like strength training, but ISN’T DEVELOPING MEASUREABLE STRENGTH, isn’t actually strength training.

And it isn’t addressing the overall carb/sugar uptake/hormonal issue or effectively altering the resting metabolic rate either.

  • Excessively Exercising (in any form)

This can actually make the situation worse (gain body fat) because over-exercising has the same effect on cortisol as stress. Because it’s a stress!

You CAN have too much of a good thing, especially after menopause.

How We Address Menopausal Fat Loss at Brainy Betties

Some women can start to see some success by doing just one thing specific to menopausal fat loss (depending on their stress levels and how much fat they have to lose.)

But, to be as efficient as possible and to continue seeing fat loss, all 4 of these things need to be addressed:

  • Appropriate Food Intake (quantity and quality)

  • Cardiovascular Exercise That’s Appropriate for Menopausal Fat Loss

  • Strength Training That’s Appropriate for Menopausal Fat Loss

* Learn why strength training is so important for fat loss in the blog: WHY STRENGTH TRAINING SHOULD BE YOUR FITNESS PRIORITY.

  • Activities That Effectively Keep Stress/Cortisol in Check

at Brainy Betties, Paula learned (and you can too!): 

  • How to eat in a way that is specific to her unique body and is also in-line with losing fat for menopause.

  • How to Strength train and create exercise programs specific for menopausal fat loss (and in a way she could replicate at home.)

  • Which stress relief practices are best for lowering cortisol to ensure her body is able to burn fat.

*At Brainy Betties, learning how to lose fat (and keep it off!) is a combination of our in-person training sessions and our FIT and BALANCED educational sections. 

Paula Was Shocked

Paula was very shocked at how just making a couple tweaks to her food, incorporating appropriate strength training, and stress lowering techniques allowed her body to start burning fat. 

She's now fitter and happier than she's ever been. 

It's not always about working harder. It's about working smarter.

Working with your body-not against it. 

Be Fit AND Happy!

~Ashley

References:

Thank you to Dr. Jade Teta and the Metabolic Effect company. As much of this information was based off their many works. 

If you're post menopausal, feel like there's no hope, but still want to be Fit AND Happy, click here!