It’s not uncommon for women to experience weight fluctuations as they age. Even women for whom weight has never been an issue can see unexpected and unwanted changes in their body fat composition and placement on the body. The culprit is often stress coupled with hormonal imbalance. The good news is that you don’t have to “live with” what’s happening. You can be proactive in restoring your body to a healthier state.
Regardless of your efforts to prevent it, dramatic weight shifts should signal that something isn’t in balance. You may be under physical or emotional stress, which you’re so used to that you don’t even notice it. I find it’s often a combination of circumstances coupled with years of slight imbalances. Over time, these small stresses and imbalances gather steam, keeping your body heightened. Eventually, you see this in your body through weight changes.
Each woman reacts differently to stress. A woman who struggles with unexpected weight change may intuitively know that something is out of balance in her body but may not “hear” what it’s telling her. Social declarations such as, “If you’re gaining weight, it’s because you’re not trying hard enough to control yourself,” add more stress and concern. It becomes a vicious cycle.
For some women, stress and imbalance means weight gain. Women’s bodies often hold extra weight when something is wrong; it’s a built-in protection to ensure survival. In the modern world, survival isn’t usually the issue, but our bodies still react as if it is. Ironically, this “life preserver” can threaten your health.
On a typical day, many clients complain about weight gain even though they feel they aren’t eating differently. They haven’t changed, but their brains may have. As you enter perimenopause, which can occur years before menopause, your brain becomes less sensitive to estrogen due to a slow decline in progesterone, the balancing hormone to estrogen. This is known as estrogen dominance.
This can trigger a cascade of familiar symptoms such as hot flashes, fatigue, depression, changing libido, and, for many women, raging hunger. Estrogen and progesterone affect your brain’s levels of serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine, the neurotransmitters that control eating, mood, and memory. Changes in hormones can devastate your appetite control.
Your brain’s energy thermostat controls your appetite. In your brain, hormones and neurotransmitters signal your need to turn on or off. The hormone ghrelin induces hunger and is produced in the stomach. The protein leptin, produced by fat cells, tells your brain you’re full. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, plays a significant role in motivation, addiction, and reward; it may prompt you to keep eating even though you’re not hungry anymore. Cortisol, a stress hormone, is produced by the adrenal glands and may stimulate hunger when it’s low.
There are some solutions to mid-life weight gain. Here are a few tips to consider:
Redistribute Calories, Don’t Cut Them - To curb your appetite and lift your mood, you want to keep your ghrelin level low and your leptin level high. Eating five small high-protein meals a day will accomplish that. Having mini meals every few hours gives your body a chance to switch over to your reserve fat tank, the fuel stored in fat cells, without feeling as if you’re starving. When you think just a bit hungry between meals, your body and brain will get fuel from your reserve tank of fat. Because you have to wait only another hour or less before you eat again, you can better resist unwanted hunger pangs.
Mix Your Meals - Don’t cut complex carbohydrates from your diet. Doing so can make you cranky, sad, or even depressed.
Fill Up on Endorphins – Your hormone output may be sputtering, but you can still produce plenty of endorphins. You’re less likely to fixate on food when your brain pumps these out. Good endorphin releasers: exercise, laughter, and orgasms.
Get Your Hormones Balanced - This has to be done with hormone salivary testing and expert, experienced help from your healthcare professional.
I can help! Over the past twenty-five years, I have helped thousands of women balance their hormones, restore their lives – and shed unwanted weight. It’s not too late to get your body on the right track toward balance and healthy weight management.