Understanding what’s happening with your hormones, body and mind during menopause can help you bring compassion to what you’re experiencing and navigate this phase of your life with more confidence and joy.
Here are 10 things you should know along with tips for healthy and happy navigation of menopause.
The phases of menopause
Menopause is actually 3 distinct phases: peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause. It can vary greatly but most women will move into peri-menopause sometime between their late 30s and early 50s, symptoms can include hot flushes, weight gain, mood swings and irregular periods. Menopause is categorised as beginning once you haven’t had a period for 12 months when you then enter post-menopause.
The hormones involved
Hormonally what’s happening is that your sex hormones are declining. For women, your oestrogen and progesterone production is tailing off and it marks the end of fertility. After menopause, your testosterone production ceases.
The effects of hormonal changes
These hormonal changes have a number of physiological effects aside from the cessation of periods: your muscle mass begins to decline meaning that you have less strength and your metabolic rate begins to slow. Your bone density also decreases.
Why do we have mood swings in menopause
Because these sex hormones also play a role in the cognitive function you can experience brain fog and mood swings.
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Why we might gain weight in menopause
Other hormonal changes include a decrease in your satiety hormone leptin that can lead to an increase in appetite, and increased insulin resistance, meaning you become more prone to laying down body fat particularly in the abdominal and upper thigh area.
Lifestyle tips to help reduce weight gain from menopause
The good news is there are lifestyle factors you can address to offset some of these effects: on the physical side to maintain muscle, resistance train at least twice a week.
Muscle is metabolically active meaning the more you have the more calories you will burn, you also want to preserve your strength into old age.
Why you need HIIT
To counter-act the triple whammy of slowing metabolism, decreasing leptin, and increasing insulin resistance, so short bursts of High-Intensity Interval Training (15 to 20 minutes is enough) fasted (before breakfast) 2 to 3 times a week. This will boost your fitness and help manage body fat levels, as well as helping you become more insulin sensitive.
A healthy diet is important
It goes without saying that a healthy diet can help. Limit processed foods, ensure carbohydrates don’t make up more than 50% of your diet, ensure they are the right kind (primarily leafy vegetables) and front load them in the day. Increase your lean protein intake as this stimulates leptin and will help you resist cravings (as well as helping those muscles maintain).
Reducing sugar makes a difference too
Cut out as much sugar as you can from your diet. Sugar is inflammatory to our bodies, high in calories, highly addictive and research has linked high sugar intake with anxiety and depression. It also impacts our gut flora, where many of our feel-good neurotransmitters are made. The same goes for alcohol, it’s not about cutting it out, but cutting it back.
Focus on your mindset
Don’t neglect your mindset! Stress will multiply all the negative effects above, so learning how to manage your stress is key. Aim to start your day by focusing on things you’re grateful for, set yourself small achievable goals, watch what you’re feeding your mind in terms of news, media, social media and do celebrate your wins.
Menopause can be a challenging, time but like anything when we understand it better we can work with what’s happening and make small changes to improve the quality of our life as we navigate through it and beyond. Have any of these things you need to know about menopause surprised you? Do comment and let me know.
More about The Midlife Mentors
Claire and James, the Midlife Mentors, aim to shake up the way we think about our future and prepare people for menopause before it happens. They also help midlifers lose the belly fat, feel good naked and regain control of their lives – without making huge sacrifices.
Find them online at themidlifementors.com
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