Let’s just be real: Very few women look forward to the symptoms that typically start to pop up as we enter perimenopause and menopause. But as we have (thankfully) started to talk more openly and honestly about the changes our bodies go through, there are more resources and products readily available that help alleviate things like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and bladder leaks.
“...When your muffin top turns into a cake top.”
The one that can be tougher to address? Weight gain, especially around the midsection. Or as integrated dietician Esther Blum describes it, “when your muffin top turns into a cake top.” But contrary to what many say, it’s not just something you have to accept as part of the process. It’s all about understanding the bigger picture.
We chatted with Blum – a Functional Medicine Dietitian who’s been coaching clients for more than 27 years – about her whole body approach that makes so. much. sense. It’s all about eating plenty of protein, managing your stress level, getting enough sleep, and balancing hormones.
Read on for an easy-to-understand explanation of what’s actually happening in your body and the food and lifestyle changes that can make all the difference.
Here's The Deal
No, your metabolism does not slow down with age – that’s a myth. As you enter perimenopause/menopause, your body produces less estrogen and progesterone, which in turn causes insulin resistance (meaning your body isn’t breaking down carbs). All of that results in – you guessed it – weight gain.
Good Night, Sleep Tight
Progesterone is a calming neurotransmitter that gives you good deep sleep, so as those levels decline during menopause, sleep struggles ensue. Lack of sleep leads to stronger cravings, which leads to you eating the chocolate and packing on the pounds. You have to break the vicious cycle.
So About That Sleep
Small sleep hygiene tweaks can make a big difference. An hour before bed, avoid blue light and screens. Put yourself in a timeout where you just slow down – take a bath, meditate, breathe, just. chill. out.
The Power Of Protein
When it comes to food, the key to staving off those extra pounds is to eat more protein than carbs. She recommends four to six ounces of protein at all three meals (yes that much, and yes at every meal). Protein is the only nutrient that shuts off hunger in the brain. (Ever heard of someone eating 40 ounces of chicken? Us either.) It also stabilizes blood sugar, which in turn kills cravings and promotes sleep. Bonus points for helping to build muscle and maintain bone density.
Get On The Fast Track
Give intermittent fasting a try. Start with a 12-hour fast, and if you can tolerate it, extend it to 14 or even 16 hours but no more than that. This resets insulin receptors…
Kind Of A Buzzkill
Sorry, but if you really want to optimize your health, you need to say buh-bye to alcohol (or at least cut back). Just one drink slows down your thyroid function for up to 4 days! Plus, alcohol is a major sleep disruptor, not to mention extra calories. It’s just a fact – it’s really hard to lose fat when you’re drinking.
Take It Down A Notch
And now for some welcome news: Ease up on the cardio. Yep, you read that right. This is the time to shift from long-duration cardio to gentler workouts like walking, yoga, and low-intensity biking. Here’s why: High-intensity workouts raise your Cortisol, which causes you to crash with fatigue afterwards and then sleep horribly (which causes the cravings, the chocolate… you get the drift). Walking naturally lowers cortisol and burns fat. It’s also imperative that you lift weight to prevent age- and hormone-related muscle loss. Building muscle helps burn body fat, builds bone density, and keeps your mind sharp.
Hormone Balancing Act
There is so much rampant misinformation on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). The versions that your mother took were chemically-derived from the urine of pregnant horses (yep, you read that right). To start, that’s obviously not structurally similar to our own natural hormones, but they also put you at higher risk for cancer and heart disease. For this reason, many doctors will simply tell you you don’t “need” HRT. But the science is simple: Without enough estrogen, many experience brain fog, short-term memory loss, low (or no) libido, and vaginal dryness. And without enough progesterone, expect to feel ragey, anxious, and depressed.
That’s no way to live. Did you know there’s a brilliant alternative to traditional HRT? Meet BHRT (Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy), the man-made version that is biologically identical to the ones your body makes, so you can absorb them easily. There is promising research to show that BHRT offsets bone loss, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. BHRT can be compounded, which means the dosages can be customized based on your individual needs.Of course, you should consult your doctor, as not all women can take HRT or BHRT.
A Woman With A Plan
Knowledge is power, and Blum has plenty of it, on top of an approach that makes a daunting struggle feel much less so. And if you’re more of the hand-holding type (that would be us), she does 1-on-1 coaching, offers online programs, and has written books that will help get you feeling (and looking) like your best self. Her next book on menopause will be released on October 6, 2022. Follow Esther on IG or go to www.estherblum.com and sign up for her newsletter to learn more!