How To Take Charge Of Your Menopause Journey!
Welcome to this factual self-help blog. It will give you an insight into what is happening to your body, how it can affect you and the things you need to know if you are to wrestle back control.
Early to mid forties is generally crunch time. From start to finish we are looking at anything between 7-10 years. Unless you are willing to sacrifice yourself to this mean beast, pay attention!
What happens? (in simple terms)
- Muscle mass and bone mineral density decrease
- Metabolic and hormonal changes take place, particularly affecting how we process food (more on that later) and respond to exercise.
- Our cognitive funtion is affected causing neurological changes. You may experience brian-fog, mood swings, volatility and/or depression.
- Hot flushes are very common. Interestingly, they are not yet understood as very little research is available.
- Estrogen levels decrease.
This is a magical hormone. It is protective against cardio vascular disease, depression and diabetes. When our levels drop we lose some of that protective element and become more vulnerable. It is anabolic, like an anabolic steroid (building) so it helps us hold on to bone mineral density and muscle mass.
If you now feel like weeping, hold your tears! It is a common misconception that once lost, we cannot build that bone density and muscle mass back up again. That is simply not true.
Resistance exercises are essential. The process will be slower than when you were younger but it will be effective. Advice from a qualified fitness professional will get you on the right track with this.
Many women will notice that despite eating the same amount and doing the same volume of exercise, weight starts to increase, especially around the middle. Enter the Two S’s — stress and sugar — both play a significant role in the size of our midsection and both are known to play a bigger role during menopause.
Estrogen interacts with insulin and defines how we respond to glucose. When levels drop we become more resistant to insulin and the way our body responds to carbohydrates changes. In simple terms, we store more and use less.
It is not just the hormones, how we process protein changes too and most women don’t eat enough of this anyway. Does that matter? Yes! This will influence our metabolism as the body becomes less efficient at breaking down and absorbing the nutrients in our food.
Quick word on Protein:
It’s the building block of life in a way, so we need protein to help to make new cells, and we need protein to repair damaged cells in the body as well. During the menopause there are so many physical changes going on. All our organs, our skin, our muscles, our hair, and our nails need enough protein.
As a rough guide, 1-2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight will be sufficient. Protein supports our central nervous system, so go too low and that ‘brain fog’ will have a field day!
It is our behaviour in the way we respond to the changes that can be a major factor in how we are affected. We notice the change in our bodies and do what we did in our twenties. Increase cardio and decrease the amount we eat. In other words, walk more, eat less!
When women decrease their calorie intake significantly, unlike men who hold onto their muscle mass, (more weeping) we don’t.
This lowers our resting metabolic rate, which means we burn fewer calories at rest, a second aspect of very low calories diets is the female response to stress.
There is another hormone called cortisol which has an important role in helping our bodies respond to stress. When there is an influx of this hormone it will increase appetite and signals the body to store fat by slowing the metabolism. The Keto diet and some Intermittent Fasting diets should be approached with caution, if at all.
Disaster then strikes when the unsustainable diet ends. Enter, Yo Yo dieting 🙁 and the worst thing is, we now have a lower metabolic rate and less muscle mass than before we started!
Reduce calories moderately and introduce strength training and interval training. Slow cardio still has a place but is not effective in this particular fight.
Individual diets vary tremendously as we are all different, but broadly speaking, women should lower their intake of starchy carbohydrates and up their protein. DO NOT go too low on the carbs, women don’t fare well.
So now what?:
Start getting curious. What are you capable of? Some small changes to your diet and exercise routine could make such a difference. Get the right advice. Avoid getting overwhelmed with all the information on the internet. Speak to someone you know and trust who is a qualified fitness professional. Oh that’s me!!
Everyone’s journey will be different. The only thing all women have in common? We will all go on that journey.
Together let’s make it better.