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Ways to Avoid Perimenopause Weight Gain

April 23, 2020

Welcome to Dressed for My Day. Recently I was asked by a reader how I’ve managed to keep from developing middle-age spread. She also wanted to know if I had any tips for dealing with perimenopause weight gain. Well, as I assured her, I have more of a tummy now than I did in my 20s and 30s, so I can’t brag about six-pack abs or wear a bikini. But I think I am doing a few things right, after careful research. And I’d love to share with you gals what I know and what I’ve researched about how to avoid (or minimize) perimenopause weight gain.

Ways to Avoid Perimenopause Weight Gain (1)

Why We SPREAD in Perimenopause

Actually experts suspect that the somewhat typical spread around the middle that many women experience perimenopause is not so much due to hormonal shifts as it is other midlife body and lifestyle changes. The weight gained during this time preceding, during and post-menopause often settles around a woman’s abdomen or middle instead of distributing throughout her body. This emergence of abdominal fat indicates the possibility of insulin resistance. In other words, the body may have become less adept at metabolizing carbohydrates or sugars.

So there’s a lot more at risk than just bulging over your pants a bit. Perimenopause weight gain could also be attributed to a mix of genetics, less activity, decreasing muscle mass, different mid-life eating patterns and changes in sleep quality. And the ramifications of those factors are significant:

  • increased risk of heart disease and other circulatory issues
  • increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes
  • respiratory issues
  • and increased risk of some cancers, such as colon, endometrial and breast cancer
Ways to Avoid Perimenopause Weight Gain
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We definitely need to crack the perimenopause weight gain code! But, like the multiple turns you must make to unlock your gym locker, losing weight around menopause will require more than one quick fix.

To lose weight perimenopause and keep it off, we’ll have to make multiple lifestyle changes and commit to them long term. Consider the following tips, evaluate your own habits, genetics and physical condition, and then decide which you might need to commit to.

#1 – Move More

Not as a result of going through menopause, but more a common side effect of having an empty nest or bringing a career to a close, many of us move less during these years. We can ward off some weight gain simply by increasing movement. Think of ways you could force yourself to move more throughout your day routinely. But healthcare experts also encourage us to get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate cardio (a walk, hike, swim or bike ride around the neighborhood) each week or at least 75 minutes per week of aerobic activity such as jogging, HIIT (high intensity interval training) or Zumba.

Ways to Avoid Perimenopause Weight Gain

#2 – Work Hard to Build Muscle

We automatically begin to lose muscle mass perimenopause. That’s not good. Muscle helps protect our skeletal system, keeps us moving and strong, but also burns more energy or calories. So we have to work twice as hard to build more muscle.

Whereas you used to maintain healthy muscle by lifting moderate weights twice a week, you may need to lift heavier, longer and more frequently now. I suggest finding a good weight training program that incorporates weights, bands and/or your body weight to challenge you and build more muscle. That’s one of my favorite components of FASTer Way to Fat Loss, but there are other programs available, too. Find one that works for you.

I think it’s fair to say, you probably will not ward off the midlife spread if you do not do some sort of weight training to build muscle. If you find that you’re doing the same weight training exercises over and over and using the same weights you’ve been using for years, it’s time to push yourself.

#3 – Eat Plant Based Meals as Frequently As Possible

Eating meals high in fiber and water content will improve insulin sensitivity. The better your body handles insulin, the more likely you will keep off compounding weight around your middle. I try to eat a full plant based meal at least a few times a week.

#4 – Eat Healthy Lean Protein

Your body needs protein to build muscle. So weight training alone is not enough. If you’re not getting enough protein, your body can’t repair and build muscle. Aim for at least 60 grams of protein a day, but preferably 90+ grams. That requires very conscientious meal planning, from my experience.

To get in enough protein, I eat a lot of:

  • eggs (6 grams)
  • turkey (26 grams)
  • chicken (53 grams)
  • lean beef (25 grams)
  • tuna (27 grams)
  • salmon (19 grams)
  • nuts (6 grams)
  • oatmeal (11 grams)
  • cottage cheese (28 grams)
  • Greek yogurt (17 grams)
  • milk (8 grams)
  • broccoli (3 grams)
  • shrimp (20 grams)
  • brussels sprouts (2 grams)
  • seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower (9 grams)
  • lentils (18 grams)
Ways to Avoid Perimenopause Weight Gain

#5 – Eat a More Nutrient Dense Diet

Keeping weight off is not about eating less. It’s about eating more nutrient-packed food and less CRAP – caffeine, refined sugars, alcohol and processed foods. Pardon my language, but that’s just the easiest way to remember the true enemy.

Starving yourself will only backfire on you. Without enough protein you won’t be able to repair and build muscle. Without enough fat, you won’t stay satiated and you lose elasticity and health in your skin, hair and nails. And you even need healthy carbohydrates for energy and joy.

#6 – Limit Alcohol Intake

I bring this up because, like I mentioned, experts attribute the midlife spread more to lifestyle than hormone changes. As our nests empty, our lives slow down and our disposable income becomes more flush, some of us are prone to drink more. But alcohol adds extra calories that have absolutely no nutritional value. So limit alcohol to a rare treat, just as you would desserts.

Ways to Avoid Perimenopause Weight Gain

#7 – Consider Intermittent Fasting

While intermittent fasting or IF has become quite the rage, it’s really nothing new. Intermittent fasting pertains to when you eat, not what. It’s simply a process of limiting your feeding window and then fasting completely during the remainder of your 24-hour day. You can work with any kind of ration of eating to fasting that works for you. I fast for 17 hours and eat for 7 hours (usually 12 noon to 7 p.m.).

Why intermittent fasting? Fasting increases insulin sensitivity, which makes your body better at processing carbohydrates and sugar. Insulin resistance, on the other hand, causes the body to store fat rather than burn it for energy. So to help your body burn fat and process carbs more efficiently, intermittent fasting may be a viable option. It’s certainly worked for me.

Learn more about intermittent fasting from this blog series.

#8 – Prioritize Quality Sleep

As we get older, we tend to sleep less and more poorly. But sleep plays a crucial role in weight management. If you don’t get enough quality sleep, your body produces too much of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. This hormone increases your appetite and makes it hard to manage your food intake.

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See this post. Check out my pajamas.

I’ve done two things primarily to improve my sleep. I use the Abide app to help me get to sleep, but it also makes me rest easier and longer. And I almost always sleep in Soma’s Cool Nights pajamas. Yes, these pajamas really do make that much difference. See my post about my most recent pajamas purchase here.

#9 – Check your medications with your doctor

Some medications do complicate weight management. Sometimes the culprit is medication used to treat menopausal symptoms, such as gabapentin (Neurontin) or pregabalin (Lyrica). Also, anti-depressants, commonly prescribed to women in this age bracket, can add on the pounds. Check with your doctor to see if your medications could be a factor in weight changes and discuss alternatives or a plan of action.

Sundown Sweatshirt in Cascadia Violet (wearing medium) // Ultimate Train Tee (wearing medium) // Hyper Focused Bra In Powervita™ A-C // Elation crop (wearing medium) // Bombas Socks // Running shoes // Sudio Earbuds (use code 4myday for a 15% discount) // Sunglasses

#10 – We gotta chill.

Unfortunately stress also factors into weight gain. Cortisol, produced when we feel stressed, causes fat to store around the mid section. Of course, when we gain weight, we stress about it. So we enter into a cycle of stress -> weight gain -> stress -> weight gain…

FASTer Way to Fat Loss helped me make the connection between eating a healthy diet and doing the basic cardio and weight training workouts for my week and then letting those processes do their job. I had to stop trying to “will myself” to lose weight. That kind of pressure was not burning calories or fat; it was only producing cortisol!

To alleviate stress I suggest having a morning quiet time (I use the First 5 app), meditating sometime during your day (I prefer to meditate on scripture), praying and getting outside for a walk regularly.

What about you?

Which of these lifestyle habits do you need to improve on, adopt or consider? While I try to do all of these things, I know I need to do a little better about eating a cleaner, nutrient dense diet. This COVID-19 social distancing has tempted me to eat more comfort carbs, and I can tell! But I also know how to rein it in. So that’s what I’m focusing on this week.

I’d love to hear from you today. Especially if you have any additional advice that has worked for you.

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Ways to Avoid Perimenopause Weight Gain (1)

Blessed for My Day

Recently I’ve been convicted of my sarcastic words and tone. I realized that I would begin the day with just a little bit of playfulness in my words, but as the day went on they became more and more biting. It was as though I was sliding down a fun piece of playground equipment but then picking up speed to the point that what had been fun and games turned into a runaway nightmare. And other people were often hurt in the process.

So I decided I needed to do something about that. I needed to cut out the sarcasm all together. I had been playing with fire. But I also knew I needed to examine my heart and find out why I had fallen into this bad habit of using biting words with the people I love. I discovered that I was usually doing it to lighten the mood or because I was tired. I determined that instead of using sarcasm to lift spirits or relieve stress or shake off the weight of these difficult days, I need to ask God to infuse my words with grace instead. I also rediscovered the importance of meditating on truth throughout the day – not just at the beginning – and of taking time to pray as the day goes on.

Keep your heart with all vigilance,
    for from it flow the springs of life.~ Proverbs 4:23

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xoxo, Kay
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14 thoughts on “Ways to Avoid Perimenopause Weight Gain

  1. Thank you sweet Kay for all this research. Well, darlin’….the hammer dropped for me almost two years ago ?. Therefore, I guess I am considered post menopause. I was maintaining my weight then until the past six months. Mainly I have noticed my weight gain in my middle area. I have done a lot of what you suggested. I had bloodwork done last fall and all numbers were good. I have read that I need to change up my exercise routine because what used to work for me in the past may not work for me now. On a good note, I would much rather have these little post menopause annoyances than a major health issue or tragedy. We now have the rainy day in NC so I plan to clean more today as I return back to my full time job (rat race routine) next Monday. I am so thankful I have my job to return too. Have a great day. ~?Lisa?~

  2. Thanks, Kay! I never had any problem with weight gain until I retired from teaching a few years ago. I have had to make dietary changes and get moving. I find that I feel refreshed when I eat well and get walking.
    My mom always used to tell me that it wasn’t the words I used but how I said them that was a problem. I have to be especially careful about my tone. I need the Lord’s help often.
    Your lessons are timely as during this time there can be tension and unrest.
    Have a great day,

    1. Hi Suzanne. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your experience. Yes, I’m finding that everyone is experiencing a little angst every now and then these days. And we all seem to have a day here and there where we’re just the worst version of ourselves. Grace. Lots of grace!! ?

  3. Thanks, Kay for the useful information about FWTFL in the past! 2 1/2 weeks ago I joined , and I’m feeling good and starting to see results already! It’s a bit time-consuming to implement all that’s being taught–but worth it. I highly recommend it for those who are serious about developing a healthy and better fit body.
    I also want to thank you for sharing the Blessed for My Day thoughts. They are always edifying, but the last 2 days have been exactly what I needed to hear–the Lord works in wonderful ways! 🙂

    1. Great to hear, Rachel. I’m so glad you are benefiting from the FWTFL. Yes it is definitely work to learn the components but I assure you that if you hang with it they will eventually become more intuitive and easier to incorporate into daily life. Thanks so much for sharing today. ?

  4. As a medical doctor with extensive personal and professional experience with obesity I want to commend you on a well done blog on mid life weight gain. As a child I was close to 100 pounds overweight at a time when childhood obesity was rare. Through hard work, doing much of what you recommend and approaching weight management as a lifestyle I have kept the weight off. I am a petite 5 ft so you can’t eat much extra if you want to be trim size 2-4. Since we all have to eat to fuel our bodies it has to be a conscious decision made repeatedly which can be quite tiring.

    Although in the medical community the jury is still out on the metabolic benefits of intermittent fasting it can be helpful in resetting eating habits. Another factor proven to aid weight loss is recording everything you eat. Doing so makes you aware of what and how much we eat without thinking. You realize you are only sabotaging your efforts when you eat something not consistent with your goals. Our portions sizes have become quite large so initially measuring food can also be helpful to relearn what your body needs.
    A healthy lifestyle that focuses on eating nutrient dense filling foods is the Volumetrics eating plan. Weight Watchers has also been shown to be one of the few diet plans where followers maintain long term weight loss. The goal is not perfection but achieving a lifestyle that increases the chance of success in this area.

  5. Hi Kay! I am guilty of letting the tone of my voice be what it shouldn’t, but I have noticed that getting out of the rat race in metro Atlanta and moving to rural GA has really helped. While we are dealing with the reality of Larry having an incurable cancer, overall there’s a lot less stress in our lives now. I went through menopause twice! Yep, I really did. Part of the reason for that is because I had Cushing’s Disease. My mid section does have excess skin that I used not to have, but since I have started doing Body Groove dance workouts, I am seeing a reduction and feeling better in my clothes. Today GA is dealing with severe weather, which makes the 3rd time in 10 days. Oh boy! God bless you!

  6. Such great advice!! I find you have to do all of them! You look great!

    I love Athleta but it’s pricey, even with sales. With these rough times and a lot of us losing jobs or will lose jobs, can you show some lower cost alternatives? Thank you!!

  7. Great post! I think it’s important for us gals to look at this time in our lives in the multi-faceted way you’ve described. Not one thing alone will keep us healthy or fit. I need to up my protein macros and eat less CRAP! (loved the acronym). I can’t exercise my way out of a carb-filled diet for sure!
    Anyway, love your posts each day. Keep ’em coming as it’s such a bright spot for all aspects of being a woman!

  8. I’m really grateful for the timeliness of this post, Kay. This week I’ve been feeling quite discouraged about the fact that those comfort foods I’ve been turning to more often over the past few weeks are definitely showing up on my scale … sigh. When this all began, I had the idea that I would use the time to get in excellent shape, eating well and upping my exercise game. Unfortunately I’ve gone in the opposite direction and need to get back on track, one day at a time. Starting today off by reading this post has reignited my determination to take good care of myself … hopefully this will carry me through my typical late afternoon carb cravings!
    Oh, and really liked today’s BMD as well … I have a tendency to use humor often to alleviate stress or make a point, and I’m afraid like you I can start sliding into the sarcasm zone as well. A good reminder to me to “…keep (my) heart with all vigilance today… “

  9. Perimenopause combined with breast cancer was a double whammy for me. I beat out the cancer, but average weight gain with the cancer meds I had to take is 20 pounds. I wanted to beat that number, too! I found an inspiring book that helped me implement many of your suggestions. “Younger Next Year for Women” by Chris Crowley makes the point that aging is inevitable, but dry rot is optional. Following the advice of this book, I am in better shape that I was before the illness, and I am determined to make the most of the rest of my life. When is the last time you did something for the first time?!?!

  10. Some of us get through without problems, no hot flashes or anything like that. I was blessed but I had emotional issues. I felt like less of a woman even though I knew that wasn’t true. The physical things are usually dealt with by your doctor but don’t overlook your mental issues. Talk with your older friends and family members. They’ve been there so they can help. Your husband still finds you sexy. Trust me on this.??

  11. Kay, thank you so much for this post! I’m in the throes of perimenopause and the battle is real. I’m petite and have always been very active, but all that activity doesn’t seem to give the same results as it used to. Loved all that you researched and shared. For me, part of it is just accepting the new shape and how God has made me and that I will not have the body I did when I was 30.

    I also appreciate your transparency with your struggles with sarcasm. I, too, am convicted by my tone and responses at times. Good reminder to reign it in and repent!