Science-Backed Strategies to Lose Weight During Menopause
If you’re finding yourself doing all the things to keep your weight at a healthy place and the scale is still creeping up, know that it’s not in your head. During menopause, your body is doubling the rate at which it stores fat. This means that strategies that worked in the past won’t be as effective today. You need a new strategy, based on how your new body is now operating. We're here to guide you on what you can do.
Why is it so difficult to lose weight when you’re going through menopause?
- During the menopausal transition, your estrogen levels plummet to 1% of what they were. As a result, there is an acceleration of insulin resistance—meaning your liver pumps out increasing levels of insulin in response to eating simple carbohydrates (like sweets, cereals, bread, and pasta).
- Your hormonal changes affect the storage and utilization of fat. Specifically, how quickly fat is stored and how easily fat is utilized as fuel is controlled by hormonal signaling, with insulin as the major driver. Increased insulin production during menopause converts sugar into fat that gets deposited into fat cells.
- As your body pumps out more insulin in response to what you eat, that insulin also drives fat storage. Your fat cells are literally getting fatter.
- To make matters worse, insulin also inhibits your fat cells from exporting fat to be utilized. In other words, fat can be stored, it takes more time for it to be used
So, even though you may be eating exactly how you ate in your 30's, your body is storing more of it as fat, and has more difficulty utilizing that fat for energy. In fact you may be hungrier than your younger self because your body is turning your meals into fat, but then can't use it to fuel your activities.
How to break the cycle
Thankfully, there’s good news: Studies show that there are three major strategies that can you help you break this fat storage cycle, which can lead to safe, healthy weight loss during perimenopause and menopause.
- Restrict carbohydrates. Evidence shows that a low carbohydrate diet, including the Keto and Paleo diets, may help. Here’s how it works: Without carbohydrates to raise your insulin levels, your body won't be driven to pack on the fat, and it will be able to utilize the fat that you've already stored. With this approach, calories still matter, so keeping them in check is key.
- Intermittent fasting (IF). Studies show that intermittent fasting can encourage decreased insulin levels and help your body utilize stored fat for fuel. There are two main intermittent fasting strategies that can work: 1) restricting your eating hours to an 8 hour window each day (for example, starting eating with lunch at 11 AM and concluding with dinner at 6 PM); or 2) not eating two days per week, also referred to as 5:2 intermittent fasting. Most women find that sticking to an 8 hour eating window is doable and flexible—especially since you don’t have to follow the same eating hours each day. What’s more, many report decreased appetite when intermittent fasting. IF isn't for everyone, but if it works for you, it's a great option.
- Hormonal therapy. Clinical trials of estrogen replacement therapy in postmenopausal women have shown to be effective in lowering insulin resistance and reducing plasma glucose levels. That means, less fat is getting stored, and it's easier to burn. Many women also report that they’re able to control their weight better while on MHT (menopausal hormone therapy). MHT can also help improve sleep, which can have a significant impact on metabolic health. At Evernow, women who are on estrogen therapy report a 70% improvement in weight changes by the second month of their treatment. While hormone therapy alone isn't a weight loss solution, it can improve your likelihood of success with changes in how and what you eat.
For maximum effect, any of these strategies can be combined with resistance and weight training to help you maintain muscle mass and keep your metabolism humming.
You know your body best, and Evernow knows menopause treatments. If you choose to try out hormone therapies, we will guide you hand-in-hand through the process to ensure that you are a candidate, and that you have the treatment best suited to help you successfully lose weight and keep it off.
If you’re interested in finding out whether you are a good candidate for hormone replacement therapy, click here.
Reviewed by Alicia Jackson, PhD