My younger self listened to middle-aged women blaming their weight gain on the menopause..
‘I used to be six stone wet through, Sandra. Now I can’t breathe near a cake without gaining three stone!’
I deluded myself that ‘mid-life-spread’ wouldn’t happen to me because I’d always been relatively slim. I assumed I’d be one of those skinny old biddies like Dot Cotton off Eastenders, only shorter.
Before I go any further, this isn’t about ‘fat shaming’ because I admire plus size women who are body positive. I follow a few on social media and they look fabulous! They certainly know how to work those curves! However, I’ve also noticed that those women are not of menopausal age and here’s the thing:
Being menopausal and obese is a disease waiting to happen.
‘When you’re over 50 you have to pay attention to your health a bit’ ~ Dawn French
So, Mother Nature has taken the piss YET AGAIN because after tormenting me with 31 years worth of painful periods and psychotic mood swings, I’m now hauling an extra stone around with me every day – most of it around my middle.
I struggle with how being overweight makes me feel and being hyper-sensitive is probably the reason for this.
Why do we put on weight after the menopause?
- Women are generally less active than before so muscle mass turns to fat.
- Menopausal women are more prone to stress which produces high levels of cortisol. This causes us to put on weight around our middles resulting in the ‘muffin top’ effect.
- Metabolism changes at menopause. It’s slower, so we have to put more effort in to burn fat.
- Lifestyle habits such as comfort eating our way through family size bags of Revels and downing five gins a day.
‘So what do I have to do?’
Exercise more, eat less and reduce your sugar intake.
Sugar (and fat) is what makes food addictive. Nobody comfort eats salad, right? However, overdoing it comes at a cost to our health. For this reason, I am concerned about the ‘eat what you want, as much as you want and fuck everybody who says otherwise yolo’ ethos of the body positive movement because it has serious consequences for menopausal women who have lost the protection their hormones once gave them. It in our long-term interests to be (and maintain) a healthy weight.
‘But-but-but I can’t live without five sugars in my tea!’
The current guidelines state that sugar shouldn’t take up more than 5% of our daily calorie intake. I know it’s hard and I haven’t ditched the sugar altogether, but I have reduced it drastically and that’s partly because blood sugar spikes trigger my palpitations.
‘Rightio. I’ll use sweeteners then.’
Sweeteners are an option, yes, but they can have side effects, especially for IBS sufferers, so do your research and see what works for you.
The Educational Stuff
Refined carbs such as white bread, potatoes, alcohol, biscuits, cakes and sugary drinks need to be limited because they make blood-sugar go bonkers and over a period of time this will lead to insulin resistance.
Blood sugar levels are regulated by eating unrefined whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Boring as fuck, but necessary, as complex or unrefined carbohydrates are processed slowly over a longer period of time and require a small amount of insulin for metabolism. Personally, I can’t get as excited over brown rice as I do a plate of chips, but there you go..
So it’s not just as simple as limiting calorie intake. It’s no use eating 1200 calories if there are all refined carbs. This is where the word ‘balanced’ comes in. If we can eat a balanced diet with reduced calories, we will reap these benefits.
- Clearer skin
- More energy
- Better concentration
- Fewer hot flushes
- Reduction of PMS
- Improved sleep
- Fewer mood swings
- Better mental health
- Fewer urges to stab people
- Weight loss
- Muscle mass
- Less bloating
So, I downloaded a calorie counting app on my phone and set my limit to 1200 calories a day for a loss of 2lb a week and the result is that a week later I’ve lost 4lbs!
It’s amazing (not to mention alarming) just how many calories I’ve been shovelling into myself without realising it. It’s no wonder I am a stone overweight!
‘A stone? Big deal!’
I know it may not sound a massive amount, but it’s relative, because I’m 5ft 1 inches small AND I have sensory processing issues. That one stone might as well be five in my world and I REALLY struggle with how it feels!
Would it surprise you to know that I struggled with pregnancy for this reason? I was COLOSSAL with all three of my boys. Needless to say, I whinged throughout each pregnancy.
Again, it was Mother Nature having her little joke because there was no way she was going to allow me (a 6lb baby) to produce 6 lb babies of my own. Oh No. I had to heave 8 and 10 pounders out of my vagina. I mean, ffs!!!
So, everyone has their ‘perfect weight’ where they feel wonderful and healthy and the world is full of unicorns and sunbeams. Mine appears to be eight and a half stone – so that’s what I’m aiming for.
Basically, once menopause hits, we have to rethink our lifestyle or risk the proverbial shit hitting the fan health-wise, and by ‘shit’, I mean heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
That’s the reality.
Yes, some women can eat what they like, drink what they like and smoke 100 fags a day and the bastards will live to be 100, but they are the exception, not the rule. Plus, what’s the point of longevity if you’re too ill to enjoy it?
It’s simple really.
- Do more.
- Eat less.
- Eat healthily
- Don’t skip meals
- Reduce refined carbs
- Stop smoking
- Limit alcohol
- Lower stress levels
The quality (and longevity) of our lives is in our hands now. According to Super Genes: ”Only 5% of disease-related gene mutations are fully deterministic, while 95% can be influenced by diet, behavior, and other environmental conditions.
We can kid ourselves that life is too short while we are scoffing our fourth chocolate digestive in a row and necking treble brandies, but the reality is that we are potentially the ones shortening it by making poor lifestyle choices.
The key word to mid-life health is moderation. A cake once a week won’t hurt you. Nor will the odd glass of alcohol. It’s when they are consumed in excess that the harm is done. Even the smallest of tweaks to our lifestyle will make a difference and one tweak generally leads to another as we begin to feel fabulous, right?
Viva la menopause!