As women enter perimenopause and menopause during their 40s and 50s, body fat seems to be more of a problem. And in the United States, obesity is an epidemic without the added strain of perimenopause and menopause.
If you want to live long and well, watching your fat percentage is essential for there are many serious health risks associated with obesity…
- Heart disease and stroke
- High blood pressure (Hypertension)
- High cholesterol, high triglycerides
- Chest pain or angina, heart attacks
- Sleep apnea
- Bone and joint disease
- Cancer – breast, colon, gallbladder and uterine
- Gallbladder disease and gallstones
- Widespread pain and difficulty moving
- Depression, anxiety and other mental disorders
And excess body fat can affect or lead to issues such as chronic dehydration, poor digestion, poor sleep and more.
Even if you do not have a history with excess weight, when you reach menopause, it seems you can’t keep it off. Especially around the belly.
Types of Body Fat
There are three types of fat on in the human body; brown fat, white fat and visceral fat.
Brown fat keeps you warm when activated, and it does this by burning white fat. Lean adults and children have higher percentages of brown fat than heavy people, but it’s still only a small percentage.
In an adult that weighs about 150 pounds, they may have only a couple of ounces of brown fat. However, you don’t need much to support weight maintenance or even fat loss. Two ounces of brown fat can burn 300-500 calories a day.
White fat is the most present in the human body. You need some white fat to store energy, excess glucose, and to produce hormones.
For example, the hormone adiponectin produced by “small” white fat cells helps liver and muscles cells remain sensitive to insulin. This is essential, because without it you are more prone to diabetes and heart disease.
However, once you become overweight, the production of adiponectin decreases.
Visceral Fat, the fat that wraps itself around your organs is thought to be the most dangerous fat, particularly if you have a lot of belly fat. The more you have, the higher risk you are for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and dementia.
Not all belly fat is visceral fat, some of it is referred to as subcutaneous fat, the fat found directly under the skin. And research is indicating subcutaneous fat around the belly is just as dangerous as visceral fat. Regardless of visceral fat or subcutaneous fat, too much fat around the belly is linked to several health risks.
For example, research has shown a link between belly fat and both insulin resistance and another hormone, leptin resistance.
Insulin resistance refers to when your cells ignore insulin signals to store glucose. When cells are functioning normally, they will accept glucose and nutrients from the blood stream when insulin is released. However, if blood sugar is not well regulated and insulin has been demanding cells to take in more glucose than they can handle, overtime, cells will begin to ignore insulin. When this happens, fat cells take in more and store it away as fat.
When this happens, you not only put on more fat, nutrients and glucose are not available to feed cells or support cell regeneration.
Leptin is produced by your fat cells and when functioning properly, it sends signals to your brain alerting it to when it’s time to eat and when you are full.
Unfortunately, when you are obese, you are producing a lot of leptin and the signaling can become confused. Resulting in your brain ignoring the signal for full. You become leptin resistant, and your brain believes your body is starving.
This can cause you to feel the need to eat more and at the same time, your body will conserve energy by slowing your metabolism.
There are other reasons why you my become leptin resistant, but having constant high levels of it is a primary cause. Two other causes, elevated fatty acids in your bloodstream and chronic inflammation, are also associated with obesity.
Besides gaining weight, new research is showing a link with obesity, leptin resistance and dementia and even Alzheimer’s.
When it comes to estrogen, fat gain and menopause we have a double-edged sword. On one hand as women enter menopause, estradiol – a form of estrogen, decreases. Estradiol helps to regulate metabolism and body weight, meaning lower levels of estradiol may lead to weight gain. And, studies have shown that estrogen affects the DNA responsible for weight control. Meaning, when you don’t have estrogen overall, you gain weight.
On the other hand, your fat also produces estrogen. The more fat around the belly, the more estrogen (this is one reason why you’re more at risk for hormone sensitive cancers like breast cancer when you are obese). This is helpful once your ovaries are no longer producing estrogen, but it does mean your body may want to hold onto some extra fat for hormone production. The good news is, your body fat is not the only source of estrogen after menopause. Your adrenals glands and your brain also produce estrogen.
The Key To Losing Fat During And After Menopause
By the time you reach menopause, you can have a harder time maintaining your ideal weight. Factors such as insulin and leptin resistance, no estrogen produced by your ovaries, injuries or illnesses over the years which slow you down and other factors that occur as you age. However, all is not lost, and you can lose fat. And that includes belly fat.
To lose and maintain ideal fat levels you will want to participate in activities that increase your metabolism, reduce chronic exposure to stress triggering cortisol release and interrupt your insulin cycle.
One way to increase your metabolism is by increasing your protein intake, though that doesn’t mean eating more animal protein. There are key amino acids essential for health and hormone balance that can only be had by eating animal protein or taking supplements. However, you want to reduce the amount of saturated fats and omega-6s that are found in most commercially raised livestock.
To increase your protein and reduce the harmful elements of eating too much animal protein, eat a mix of vegetable and animal protein. I recommend that you stick with grass-fed, pasture raised organic sources if available and limit your red meats to two servings a week. With no more than 6 ounces at a time. Commercially raised poultry is not necessarily a healthy substitute for red meat, but by swapping out a few meals with poultry you can reduce saturated fat. I also recommend that you have fish 1 -2 times a week.
There are plenty of vegetable protein available, just remember that you do need essential amino acids that require supplementation or some animal protein in your diet. Here is a short list of potential plant protein sources:
- Vegetable protein powders
Other ways to increase metabolism include; High-Intensity Workouts, strength training, moving more in general, and getting plenty of rest and deep sleep.
Reduce Chronic Stress
This subject can go in many directions. The key is to remember that stress is anything that triggers your brain to react to threat. It can be…
Perceived; something you imagine or forecast that may or may not occur in the future. For example, being worried about the possibility of losing your job.
Real; something that is actually occurring. For example, you are looking for a job, but haven’t found one yet and your bills need to be paid.
External; a threat that is outside of your body. For example, you work for a supervisor who is chaotic and like to yell.
Internal; a threat that is within your body. For example, a poor diet causing inflammation or a GI Tract infection.
Physical; a threat to your physical being. For example, almost being run over by a car.
Emotional; a threat to your emotional wellbeing. For example, you feel left out and don’t have many friends to spend meaningful time with.
In all cases, you have the ability to influence the situation to reduce stress. It may not feel like you do, but you do. If you want assistance identifying sources of stress and learning how to reduce it, you can schedule a Hormone Troubleshooting Session and together we’ll tackle stress head on.
Interrupt the Insulin Cycle
There are a number of ways to do this, but one that most people have tried which does not work is to restrict calories for an extended period of time. The reason why low-calorie diets don’t work is because it signals the brain that there is not enough food to fuel your everyday activities. When this happens your metabolism slows down, and you want to rev it up not down.
It also increases cortisol production, your stress hormone, increasing stress, the opposite of what you want to happen. When cortisol levels go up, your body wants to hold onto its resources – fat. You will burn protein as a fuel source before fat when your brain believes there is not enough food around. Again, this is not what you are striving for.
Probably the best way to interrupt your insulin cycle is to practice intermittent fasting. That means you lengthen the amount of time between your last meal of the day and the first of your next day. This allows blood sugar and insulin to lower and over time your body will learn to efficiently burn fat as fuel, because you eat enough to satisfy your brain’s concern over whether there is enough food to feed you.
You can also go on a Keto diet, one where you increase fat intake and lower carb intake low enough for your body to go into ketosis. Ketosis is a state where your body is burning fat as fuel instead of glucose.
The Keto diet has a lot of benefits and can help balance hormones while promoting fat loss. However, there are some drawbacks as well and if done improperly or for too long, can cause hormone imbalance. Not only can adhering to a strict diet be stressful, you still need carbohydrates to produce hormones and regulate many systems within your body.
I do recommend a diet methodology that promotes ketosis, WildFit, but it allows for cycling through seasons which means you have periods when you will have more carbohydrates and burn more glucose for fuel. And when you have less glucose available meaning you are in ketosis. This methodology ensures you have the proper nutrition to support health, and you are not required to count carbohydrates or calories. When you are in a season of ketosis, you’re actually eating a lot of carbohydrates, just not ones that have a lot of sugar.
The way of eating I believe is best for losing weight during and after menopause is to combine the methodology of WildFit and intermittent fasting.
Fasting does more than reset your insulin and WildFit does not limit essential nutrients from your diet or have you counting calories or carbohydrates. Together they are a powerful duo that provides you with all the nutrition you need to live long with lots of energy and vitality.
If you don't know where to begin, I invite you to contact my office. I can help point you in the right direction and provide you with some clarity.
It’s about going in-depth into your health history, looking at your daily life and how you navigate it. It’s about identifying long-standing patterns, so you know not only what needs to be addressed, but also how you can go about it in a way that will work for you.
Whether you are interested in working with me, just curious or want some clarity, click on the button below and schedule your Hormone Trouble Shooting session at a time that is convenient for you.
You can feel like yourself again, lose the menopause weight and enjoy a long life full of vitality and joy by supporting your body naturally in a way that truly works for you.
Your partner in health,
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