The first misconception about menopause is that decreased oestrogen levels is responsible for many of the uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flushes, sweating and mood swings,to mention but a few.
Deficiency in estrogen is not the cause of these menopausal symptoms. This incorrect theory was encouraged by the pharmaceutical industry so that they could sell their synthetically fabricated estrogen.
The unfortunate effect of synthetic estrogen, apart from causing breast cancer and other side effects, is that it always leads to significant weight gain.
Another misconception is that using “natural” estrogen called phytoestrogens from plant sources such as flaxseed, soy, evening primrose oil and fish oil instead of synthetic estrogen will reduce the risk of breast and other cancers.
Such natural sources of estrogen should not lead to breast cancer; however their usage could result in weight gain.
New research has shown that it is the decline in progesterone that causes most menopausal symptoms and progesterone replacement will normally stop the traits.
Again, the progesterone must be from natural, plant-derived sources, and not from synthetic sources. Bio-identical sources of progesterone will not lead to weight gain and will also reduce water retention while helping you to feel and look a lot better.
The best type of progesterone is in the form of creams, which are rubbed onto the body. They are easily absorbed through the skin, rather than in the form of pills which have to be taken orally. When taken as pills, they are digested through the liver, a process that reduces their efficacy and then, adds unnecessary toxic load to the body.
Other causes of weight gain during menopause
Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance can occur during the menopausal years. This is when your body turns every calorie you take into fat. Most women follow a low fat but high carbohydrate diet. After a while, processed and refined food may make your body resistant to insulin produced in the blood stream. This is often a cause of weight gain after the age of 40.
Stress: Stress is a contributing factor to weight gain in menopausal women. Stress hormones can prevent weight loss as they signal to your body to go into storage mode. This is referred to as the “famine effect” – your body is thinking it won’t get food for a long time and stores every calorie it takes in, causing weight gain. Indeed the stress factor has been linked to adrenal stress and fatigue, which in turn affects your ability to metabolise carbohydrates. When you cannot metabolise carbohydrates, then you become insulin -resistant which is a pre-diabetic condition that causes weight gain.
How to prevent or reverse weight gain
There is no magic formula for avoiding weight gain as you get older. The strategies for maintaining a healthy weight at any age remains the same: watch what you eat and get moving. The most effective approach to reversing weight gain after menopause includes a combination of the following:
Increase in physical activity: Aerobic exercise boosts your metabolism and helps you to burn fat. Strength-training exercises increase muscle mass, boosts your metabolism and strengthens your bones.
You can become physically active without starting a formal exercise programme. Just spend time doing the thing you love that also get you moving. Do more gardening and dancing. Take longer walks or ride a bike.
Make it your goal to be active for a total of 30 minutes or more a day, on most days. Increased physical activity, including strength training, may be the most single important factor for maintaining a healthy body composition and having more lean muscle mass and less body fat as you get older.
Reduce calorie in-take: Though weight gain is not noticeable overnight, it occurs overnight. To gain six kilogrammes (14 pounds) in six months, you need to consume around 270 calories more than what you need each day.
You may say your diet has not changed but a small addition is what you need to gain weight.
Pay attention to the food you eat and slightly reduce the amount of calories you consume each day. By choosing a varied diet composed mainly of lean protein and vegetable, you can safely cut back on calories and lose weight. Be careful not to cut back too drastically on calorie intake, or your body will respond by conserving energy, making it harder to shed the extra pounds.
Because your metabolism slows as you get older, you need about 200 fewer calories a day to maintain your weight as you get into your mid to late 40s. This shouldn’t be a problem if you eat only when hungry and only enough to satisfy your hunger.
Decrease dietary fat: Eating large amount of high-fat foods adds excess calories, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. Limit calories from fat to 20-35 per cent of your daily calories. Emphasise on fats from a healthier source, such as nuts and olive oil, palm oil, coconut and avocado oils.
Reduce carbohydrate intake: With age, many become insulin, resistant, which will reduce the ability to metabolise carbohydrates. To reduce weight gain, you need to cut down on carbohydrates. All highly processed carbohydrates should be removed from your diet. These include sugar, soft drinks, cakes, biscuits, meat pie and white bread.
Natural carbohydrates should be eaten in moderation. These include Eba, rice, yam, Amala and fruits such as pineapple and mangos, which have a lot of sugar. Instead, eat grape fruit and pawpaw and plenty of green leafy vegetables. Please remember to watch the ororo and epo in Efo!