Chaos to Calm

Perimenopause Weight Gain: Finding solutions that work for you

June 11, 2023 Sarah McLachlan
Chaos to Calm
Perimenopause Weight Gain: Finding solutions that work for you
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Are you noticing a slow increase in weight around your abdomen that won’t budge even though you’re doing all of the “right” things? Join Sarah in this episode as we delve into the intriguing topic of weight gain during perimenopause, the common possible causes and recommended actions to take to improve your health.

Tune in to find out about:

  • Why generic solutions aren’t working for you
  • The negative outcomes of undereating
  • Sufficient amounts of protein intake
  • How high intensity exercise could be contributing to weight gain
  • Hormonal effects
  • The link between thyroid dysfunction and weight
  • Why sleep is a complex contributor
  • Addressing nutrient deficiencies

FREEBIES:

  • Caught in a hormonal storm? The Perimenopause Decoder is the ultimate guide to understanding if perimenopause hormone fluctuations are behind your changing mood, metabolism and energy after 40, what phase of perimenopause you're in and how much longer you may be on this roller coaster for.
  • Been told your blood test results are "normal" or "fine" while you feel far from your best? It's time to dig deeper and uncover the missing piece of the puzzle. Discover the power of optimal blood test analysis with The Blood Test Decoder: Optimal Ranges for Women Over 40.

To connect with Sarah and learn more about her services, visit her website at www.theperimenopausenaturopath.com.au, follow along on Instagram at @theperimenopausenaturopath.

Sarah McLachlan:

Hey there, I'm Sarah McLachlan. Thanks for joining me on the Chaos to Calm podcast, a podcast designed for women over 40 who think that changing hormones might be messing with their mood, metabolism and energy and want to change that in a healthy, sustainable and permanent way. Each episode will explore topics related to health and wellness for women in their 40s, like what the heck is happening to your hormones, what to do about it with nutrition, lifestyle and stress management, and inspiring conversations with guests sharing their insights and tips on how to live your best life in your 40s and beyond. So if you're feeling like you're in the midst of a hormonal storm and don't want perimenopause to be horrific, then join me on Chaos to Calm, as I share with you how to make it to menopause without it wrecking your relationships and life. Hello and welcome to the Chaos to Calm podcast, where we discuss each week how to master the chaos of changing hormones, mood, metabolism and energy in your 40s and beyond.

Sarah McLachlan:

I'm Sarah, the perimenopause naturopath, your host today for episode number 13, lucky for Some And today I'm talking about what I reckon must be one of the most googled questions. I'm kind of guessing, but I'm also have done a little bit of research. And that question is why can't I lose weight in perimenopause? And you know what it's. You might know what it's like. You might know someone who knows what it's like after you turn 40. You start to notice that over time you get that creeping gain around your abdomen, that abdominal adiposity, and maybe getting a bit softer and squishier around the middle. Your kids might like it. It's a nice soft pillow mum. That's what I used to say to me, but I used to hate it because it made my clothes uncomfortable. You know my jeans cut in around the middle too tight and, yeah, get that muffin top happening. So, yeah, there's lots of reasons why we'll discuss a few today and I'm sure I'll probably talk about this again another time.

Sarah McLachlan:

But what I want you to know is that there really is no quick fix for this scenario. We can be efficient with it. That's definitely what I offer my clients and one size fits all solutions Those cookie cutter, you know, meal plans, or do this shake thing or meal replacement or a generic PT meal plan They're not going to solve the problem. They're not going to do what you want them to do, and certainly not in the long term. So if you find yourself gaining weight in this phase of life and you might be eating a normal amount of food. Maybe you're doing all the right things Air quotes around that and you're doing the things that we're told are the right things are eat less, move more. It can be skipping meals or restricting your calories. That's the sort of thing that we're told works, which I guess your 40s shows you do not work, and that is not as easy as that, because you could just look at a takeaway and feel like you gain weight from that, that this phase of life, while everyone's assuming you're just eating heaps of junk food or ultra processed food and, yeah, doing all those things as well. So let's have a look at some reasons why you might be gaining weight that are not to do with eating too much and moving too little.

Sarah McLachlan:

So, first up, i want to say that we are all unique beings, so it doesn't make sense that generic plans or ideas around weight loss are going to work for all of us. We're all different. Our hormones are fluctuating and at different rates and phases every day of the week and even through the day they're different. So, yeah, your reason for gaining weight may be slightly different to someone else's, and you know, i'm a big fan of personalized nutrition and a personalized approach to healthcare, and this is certainly no different. It needs to be adjusted to you. Research tells us that people that follow personalized plans or ways of styles of eating based on their genetic makeup that study was lost more weight compared to those on standard diets. Those generic aspects to weight loss they don't take into account you, your biochemistry, like what's happening in your bloodstream, your nutrient levels, the phase of life that you're in. So, yeah, that's a big reason that you can't lose weight. Maybe you're following a generic plan. It's not going to work for you there. You need to understand what is driving your weight gain.

Sarah McLachlan:

Okay, another major major reason that you might be struggling to lose weight is you're actually under eating. I know I see it all the time and people find it really shocking, because you know dieting is eating less. That's supposed to help you lose weight. Right, that's what we're told. We're told that from a very young age You think back. I bet you remember your mom or your aunties or older women in your life when you were a child. In a tenth they were on a diet. They were missing, cutting out foods, restricting calories and all of that sort of thing. Your body is really smart. I think you've heard me mention that before. It's number one goal is to protect you and a baby. If there's a baby growing Now, we might know that's not going to happen, but your body is primal, it doesn't know that and so if you cut your calories right down or skip meals and reduce what you're eating, your body is going to cling to your energy stores like what is coming in and store it as fat so that you know, maybe it freaks it out, puts it into famine mode I've talked about that before as well sends a message to your thyroid and tells your thyroid to slow down to protect those stores as well and also get you to do less.

Sarah McLachlan:

So you're using less energy there as well. And it ramps up our friend cortisol, our stress response hormone, and that the sequelae, the flow on from that, is that insulin resistance picture and fat storage mode. So eating less it actually impacts your metabolism. Your body switches off and goes into fat storage mode and your weight can climb. Also, you feel hungry and irritated. So the outcomes are not great.

Sarah McLachlan:

And yeah, you know how I feel about intermittent fasting. It can fall into this category here, because your fasting window might be too small and you might spend a lot of the rest of your day hungry and that is a trigger for your body. We don't want you to be hungry. I always say it to my clients all the time I don't want you to be hungry, so we will increase their food to lose weight, which I know to can feel like counter-intuitive for many of you, because we were all raised in an era where move more and eat less was the common weight loss advice. So there's lots of women come to me restricting calories and have gained weight or, you know, skipping meals and all that sort of thing.

Sarah McLachlan:

So I want you to really focus on nourishing your body with nutrient dense foods and making sure you have sufficient protein intake to support your metabolism and minimize the cravings and keep you fuller for longer. Protein is king, it's the boss. So don't forget to have a freebie you can find it in my show notes that is the balanced meal formula and that will help you with how to lay out your plate or set your plate up to make sure that you have the nutrients that you need for health, your hormone health and balance, and to avoid gaining weight to try and avoid that there. So, yeah, research tells us that adequate protein intake is super important for supporting satiety, fullness and preserving your lean muscle mass. That's another thing that can trigger off binge eating and weight gain is eating too little protein. So when you're skimping on your calories or counting calories and restricting foods and intake, you will probably lose muscle mass more than fat mass, and that triggers your body into making you eat and eat and eat and eat until you build that muscle mass back up again.

Sarah McLachlan:

So, under eating, under nutrient, undernutrienting is that even a word? I'm going to, i'm going to be bold and invent that one. Now. That's terrible. Under nourishing yourself is actually what I want to say there, anyway. So, under doing those things, under nourishing, now another reason overdoing everything else.

Sarah McLachlan:

So I'm thinking of Emily, one of my clients in the past, and she was an F45 lover. So she was in that I'm going to F45 and doing, you know, flogging herself multiple times a week, as well as working full time, having kids, doing the sport, retain with them. She had a lot on. Like you, like most of the women in their 40s that I speak to, it's a busy phase of life And you have a lot on your plate. So adding in lots of heavy duty, high intensity exercise to try and create that calorie gap or, you know, use more energy than what you've got coming in can increase cortisol as well And again, and insulin resistance and fat storage. It's really stressful for your body And it's not necessary.

Sarah McLachlan:

I asked my clients not to exercise for the first few weeks and they lose weight. Amazing, it's like it goes against everything that you've been told in your entire life, but that this was also true for Emily. So she paused her exercise was losing weight And then she was like but I really loved my F45. So she went back to it. Guess what happened? It's stored her progress. She stopped losing weight. It's too inflammatory, it's too stressful in the body. So she reduced her F45ing and added in some other strength training and gentle movement of body Like yoga, pilates, that kind of thing, and, guess what? Losing weight again. So there are many studies that show us how chronic stress and high cortisol levels can increase your abdominal fat and influence your metabolism and create dysfunction there as well. So don't forget a nice mix of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, restorative practices like yoga, meditation, much nicer and help manage your stress levels, which is also another way that you're overdoing it.

Sarah McLachlan:

Like I mentioned before how busy my client Emily was, i bet that's you too, because, like everyone I talk to, in their 40s it's the busiest phase of life And it is the time when your natural inbuilt stress resilience progesterone is declining. So you have too much, too much stress too much going on and that influences and increases your stress response hormones cortisol, adrenaline they're designed to increase your blood glucose levels. Now, when you can't use all of that because, let's face it, our stress is not us running away from a saber-toothed tiger, our stress is like on our phone or in our house with us, or mother of teens here, if you know. You know, yeah, so your stressors are different to what our primal brains are used to, so we're not getting rid of that glucose and then it gets stored as fat around our abdomen and so, yeah, it's. It's really important to address your stress and also build your stress resilience in your 40s because, like I said, your progesterone is declining and that is your natural stress resilience hormone. So let's talk about hormones.

Sarah McLachlan:

So, like I said at the start, often those generic things that you're doing do not take into account your what's going on for you phase of life, where you're at, you know what your hormones are doing and I mentioned before how, when we're under eating, that can impact our thyroid. But also the hormone changes of perimenopause can impact your thyroid and I will do a whole feature on thyroid in the future episode. But for now I just want to say that if you're, you know, doing all the right things, eating well, like most of the women I talked to, i mean, you're not eating garbage, you're eating well. Maybe have a few too many wines across the week or you've had some more sugar cravings or sweet cravings coming up there as well, but generally you know you're eating nice food, you're making nice food for yourself there as well. The exercising, moving your body why can't I lose weight? you know so it's often what I see is the hormones, like insulin. Insulin resistance is part of the picture and that can be because of your stress levels or just the way that you're eating, how you're eating there.

Sarah McLachlan:

But also undiagnosed hypothyroidism is one of the biggest things that I find, that Wendy and I find for our clients, and that is a slowed thyroid, slow metabolic rate. And maybe you know you've had testing down your GPS are oh yeah, it's fine, but their ranges and my ranges are painted different picture because I'm using narrow optimal ranges for women's health so that we can get in early and see when dysfunction is starting to happen before we have to. You know we're not waiting until it's really bad and oh, here you go, you can take this medication to try and balance it out. So it's lots of time and opportunity before you get to that point. But also it can definitely impact you how you're feeling, how your energy, your brain fog and memory and that kind of thing, as well as weight loss or weight gain, before you get diagnosed with hypothyroidism.

Sarah McLachlan:

The other thing is to that you know only measuring one aspect of your thyroid function, the thyroid stimulating hormone. It's not enough. It doesn't tell you the full picture and that's why we do that for our clients is take that you know your free t3 and your free t4 and potentially antibodies there as well, to really get a full picture of your thyroid and what's happening there. So when I'm talking about hormones not being in balance, it's not just estrogen and progesterone I'm talking about. I'm talking as well about insulin, your thyroid hormones there as well. And we need to remember things like testosterone because, as that relative imbalance with testosterone happens through your 40s and perimenopause, into menopause and beyond. It gets, it becomes a higher, relatively higher, and that means that it can put you into insulin resistance mode and gaining weight. So, while I don't do hormone testing I've talked about that before I like to use a symptom picture to understand what's going on or where you're at there as well. So that's your hormones to consider there as well. And we've talked about calorie restriction.

Sarah McLachlan:

The one more thing I want to cover off is something that you're probably not getting enough of is sleep, and maybe it's the last thing on your priority list right now. Maybe it's your highest priority, but you just can't get enough of it. But it might actually be the reason that your weight is creeping up, no matter what you're doing all those right things that you think you're doing. Sleep is not just a time to be lazy or sleeping. It's a really complex process and it involves lots of essential mechanisms or things to happen that reboot your body, including your metabolism. There's a lot of repair and resetting happening there. So when you're skimping on sleep again spiking your stress hormones like cortisol and putting yourself into that insulin resistance mode, and it can impact or sabotage your thyroid gland. So, yeah, that's all going to add up to weight gain.

Sarah McLachlan:

Super interesting is that one night of disrupted or insufficient sleep can significantly impact your microbiome, your food choices. I mean, you know you're eating all those crunchy carbs. You're being driven to get into those. When you're tired You can't make good food choices because your body's just seeking instant energy hits. So, really prioritizing your sleep to give yourself the opportunity for seven to eight hours per night. If you can't get good sleep, if you're waking and can't get back to sleep, then work with a practitioner to get that back on on how it should be, because you just can't be you. You can't do all the things that you need to do as busy modern woman and mother without sleep. You just I mean, you know it. I don't have to tell you. That's why you tell your kids to go to bed all the time, because you know how important it is there too.

Sarah McLachlan:

So one more thing I wanted to say as well is that your vitamin D levels I forgot to mention this when I was talking about nutrition and nourishment before They can play a role in weight gain. So research tells us that low vitamin D is associated with stubborn weight gain, so having a hard time to lose weight, addressing that can really play a significant part, can help with your bari, menopause Symptoms. Two, and your mood. There's lots of research about how important vitamin D is. Again, it can be tricky to get that tested through the GP or Medicare, but it's worth doing. That's why we do it, because it is so significant, so important in your body there as well. So that is episode 13.

Sarah McLachlan:

We have talked all about why you might be gaining weight. We've talked about what you're not doing enough of eating, nourishing your body. What you might be asleep falls into that category as well, and what you might be doing too much of over exercising, too busy, too stressed there as well, and you know, when it comes to weight loss, it's not about following the latest fad or squeezing into a one size fits all approach. It just doesn't make sense. We're all unique beings. We need a unique or individualized approach to what is going on for us.

Sarah McLachlan:

We need to understand your body. You need to understand your body, addressing what it needs, what's out of balance, what's deficient, and, most of all, you need a sustainable or personalized approach to nutrition and lifestyle. Because what happens when you finish the program? otherwise You just go back to what you did before and you gain weight again. So it's really key to learn and understand what works for you and how to put your plate together, ongoing and how to manage eating out, how to manage festivities All of those things are really important and if what you're doing doesn't help you learn that or understand that, then you're not going to get long term results.

Sarah McLachlan:

So by nourishing your body, smoothing out the normal hormone fluctuations of perimenopause, getting that holistic mindset in place, saying goodbye to that all or nothing approach, you really can get on top of and lose those extra kilos. But also learn how to navigate perimenopause with grace and ease. You don't have to keep yo-yo dieting and feeling rubbish. Perimenopause doesn't have to be horrific. You can feel good and age, and confidently and vibrantly. So I encourage you to kick those outdated approaches to the curb and be curious and reflect and review what you think is contributing to your weight gain and how you're feeling.

Sarah McLachlan:

And remember that I am here. Just reach out and let me know if you have questions or you want to learn more about personalised nutrition and what it can do to you. I am here for you in that way. Until next time, i'm Sarah the perimenopause naturopath, reminding you, of course, perimenopause does not have to be horrific. It can be such a wonderful time of life to thrive in. Thank you so much for sharing your time with me today and I'm looking forward to talking with you next, episode number 14. It's really common for women over 40 to experience the chaos of changing hormones, mood, metabolism and energy, but I hope you know now that common doesn't have to equal normal for you or them. You can help others understand they aren't alone in feeling this way and that perimenopause doesn't have to be horrific By subscribing, leaving a review and sharing this podcast with other women in their 40s and beyond. Thanks so much for listening and sharing your time with me today in this chaos to calm conversation.

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Understanding Hormones and Weight Gain
Thriving in Perimenopause