By Dr. Maggie Ney
These are my 8 Tips to help you stop menopause weight gain. Estrogen deficiency, the state we find ourselves in once we are in menopause, is associated with insulin resistance and mid center weight gain. Even without changing our exercise routine or diet, women face an increased risk of weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease, just by going through the normal stages of aging. For us women, it can feel that we have lost all control of our bodies. It is my mission to inform all women on the tips and tricks so they can navigate the aging process in optimal health, without weight gain or disease.
What causes insulin resistance and weight gain in Menopause?
Estrogen helps our body respond to a rise in glucose and primes our body to respond to increases in insulin. As estrogen levels start to decline during perimenopause and plummet during menopause, women have more fat deposited around their abdomen and cells start to tune out the directions of insulin to absorb and utilize glucose efficiently. The results are higher blood sugar levels and weight gain which leads to an increase in inflammation, a rise in oxidative damage, more fatigue and brain fog, and a higher risk of dementia, heart disease, and depression.
Is weight gain and metabolic dysregulation inevitable during menopause?
NO! We can age with energy, vitality, and in prime metabolic health BUT how we treat our bodies do need to be modified. We can no longer get away with drinking too much, sleeping too little, or eating a diet that causes blood sugar dysregulation. And, for some women, replacing the hormones lost during menopause is needed to maintain metabolic health.
What can women do to avoid weight gain and metabolic imbalances as they age?
1 – Know your metabolic biomarkers
The following labs give you a baseline of your metabolic health. Any doctor can do these labs. The normal range is pretty wide so be aware of the optimal range. You could have a fasting glucose of 99 and be told you are within normal range. One point higher than that and you are prediabetic so the conversation and awareness needs to begin as soon as you fall outside the optimal range.
- Fasting glucose: normal ranges are 65-99mg/dL. Optimal 65-87mg/dL
- Fasting insulin: normal 3-25 uIU/mL. Optimal < 5
- Fasting triglycerides: normal <150 mg/dL, optimal <100
- HsCRP – measures inflammation. Normal <3mg/L, optimal <1
- HgA1C – normal <5.7, optimal <5.5
- Uric Acid – normal range 3.1-7.9mg/dL, optimal < 5.5
- TSH (one of several important thyroid test) – normal range 0.35-5.50 uUI/mL, optimal 1-2.
2 – Diet Personalization
As we age our bodies become more sensitive to carbohydrate. Yet there is no one size fits all approach to how many carbs a woman can tolerate. We only know by experimenting and assessing how we feel while also monitoring the key metabolic biomarkers in the blood. You can take this a step further by getting a continuous glucose monitor so you can have real time knowledge of how food is affecting your blood sugar levels and how that is relating to how you feel. But going through the following steps can help you understand the best diet for you.
- Start with a 3-week elimination diet or Akasha’s Reset diet. This is essentially getting rid of gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, and all processed carbohydrates like breads, pasta, crackers. You can still include gluten free whole grains like rice, quinoa, and millet. No rice pasta, but the actual rice is ok. Doing this for a solid 3-weeks can affect your weight, blood sugar, insulin levels, and can affect how you feel.
- If you experience your desired results, continue eating this way. Of course, it is ok to indulge here and there but do it with intention and without any guilt.
- If you do not lose weight, if fasting insulin and blood sugar levels do not change, eliminate grains and legumes. Again, at the end of the 3-weeks assess how you feel. Retest your fasting metabolic biomarkers.
- Further tweaks to consider:
- Adding more healthy fat, protein, and fiber
- Intermittent fasting – for women start with a 12-hour fasting window and slowly work up to 16-hours, all the while listening to your body and assessing how you feel.
- Stop eating 3-hours before bed.
- Stick to low carb meals after a workout to keep fat burning and increased insulin sensitivity that comes along with exercise.
Do something you enjoy but move your body and get your heart rate up roughly 5x/week for 30-minutes. During exercise our body burns glycogen, which is the glucose stored in our muscles. Once glycogen is burned, glucose is moved from our blood stream to the muscles to replenish what is lost. The result is lower blood sugar levels and increased insulin sensitivity.
4- Prioritize sleep and maximize sleep before midnight
Even one single night of poor sleep can affect insulin sensitivity in our bodies. Our cells become more insulin resistant with less sleep. With less sleep our bodies also start to make more glucose which can lead to sugar cravings, weight gain, fatigue, and anxiety.
5- Be mindful of stress levels and how stress is affecting your body.
When our bodies experience stress, we produce more cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones increase blood glucose levels which fuel our body to be ready to fight or flee the stressful situation. This is our bodies protective response and helps us to survive stressful situations. Biologically speaking this makes sense – being able to run away from a tiger in the woods or survive long periods without food. However, the chronic stress most of us are under, especially women with their endless to do lists, contributes to insulin resistance and weight gain.
6- Correct nutrient deficiencies
Certain nutrient deficiencies, such as Vitamin D, Folate, and B12 have been associated with more insulin resistance. Get these levels checked and correct them if needed.
There are several nutritional and herbal supplements that can help balance hormones and regulate blood sugar levels. Some of my favorites Maca, Methylated B vitamins, Magnesium, Berberine, and Chromium.
Giving the body back the hormones that are lost during menopause can be the missing link for women to achieve metabolic balance. Lack of estrogen can cause our bodies to use carbohydrates less efficiently and contribute to insulin resistance, increased fat storage, and a more challenging time losing weight. A small amount of bioidentical estrogen can remove that block to weight loss and metabolic health. Estrogen, in addition to Progesterone, Testosterone, and DHEA prime the body’s metabolic processes to respond to insulin, burn fat, and keep you metabolically balanced.
I love diving deep into each of these categories to ensure women continue to age feeling like themselves, or even better than they have ever felt before. Being knowledgeable of the relationship between hormones and metabolic health is essential. Once you understand the relationship between hormones and metabolic health, the confusion of what is happening to your body is cleared. And once you are given the tools to navigate this time you become empowered to make the best choices for your body which can ensure healthy aging without the increase risk of diabetes, heart disease, or weight gain.