Why Dieting and Menopause Clash

Perimenopause. Menopause. Post-menopause. One thing I’ve discovered all these have in common (other than the word menopause) is that they cause a girl to bulge. Thus, the name of this series (shared with a snapshot of World War II).

If only dieting helped with the battle of the bulge.

Once upon a time about a decade ago, I thought menopause was a destination. My body would go through some changes, and I’d end up in menopause, which dictionary.com defines as “the period of permanent cessation of menstruation, usually occurring between the ages of 45 and 55.

What I’ve learned, is that like many other things in life, menopause is a journey. After all, once you arrived at menopause you will be post-menopausal (although I’m skeptical there truly is such a thing).

My Journey

So long ago now I can’t remember, my doctor told me I was officially in perimenopause. This is the period leading up to menopause during which some of the associated symptoms of the joyful “change” may be experienced.

There was no “may” about it. I was an emotional basket case.

So she put me on hormone therapy, which means I started taking birth control pills. At the time, I was still having migraines fairly regularly and I wasn’t allowed to take my migraine meds while on the pill (huge risk of strokes apparently). So once the manic desire to punch people who said mildly dumb things dissipated, I dropped the pills.

Then came hot flashes and night sweats. Boy, this sure was fun.

And my regular doctor basically told me, “Sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”

Fortunately, about eighteen months ago, I discovered phytoestrogen. Since I started taking these supplements (linking you to the one from doTERRA I take and the one from Better Body Company I recently added mostly for the probiotic weight loss help), the hot flashes were minimized and the night sweats went away completely. There is one caveat. If I eat gluten for dinner or close to bedtime, I am likely to have a middle of the night hot flash.

I also slowly saw my weight creep up. This caused me to do some diets (mainly programs that combined exercise and calorie restriction found on Beachbody), but it seemed that my maintenance program of exercising five to six days a week no longer allowed me to eat whatever I wanted.

Ugh. Apparently, this is thanks to the loss of estrogen levels and the fluctuation of progesterone and testosterone that coincides with the “change of life.”

I don’t hate change. I value it when it’s for the better.

As far as I can tell, menopause is NOT for the better.

In fact, remember how your period didn’t come regularly the first couple years it started? Expect that for the last couple years of perimenopause. I had a couple extremely embarrassing moments that I would never have expected to experience as a fifty-year-old woman.

How it Relates to Dieting

It doesn’t surprise anyone that menopause and weight gain are associated. I’m linking to an article that cites the decrease of estradiol as the major cause. This form of estrogen regulates metabolism and body weight.

The weight gained because of this decrease happens around the mid-section and abdomen. Yes, there is a muffin top that has little to do with eating delicious muffins and much to do with menopause. The worst news? Gaining abdominal weight increases visceral fat which is very dangerous. It’s has been linked to diabetes, stroke, heart disease and even some forms of cancer.

So, we don’t want it. But our bodies are set on padding our tummies.

Even worse news? Dieting becomes a struggle. Restricting calories can backfire. Upping the time or intensity of exercise can also cause your body to rebel.

Apparently, grandmas need to have more to hug. This is what nature is telling us.

I will fight nature on this. And, I’ve found some things that work for me, and they aren’t traditional dieting methods.

What’s Ahead in this Series

Next week, I’ll talk more about how dieting has never worked for me, and how for more than two decades, that was just fine. Because I could exercise regularly and that compensated. I’ll talk specifically about my life as an exercise addict (and possibly convince you that there is ONE good addiction in the world).

After that, I’ll give a detailed recounting of what used to work for me in maintaining a healthy weight. I’ll give some reasons why that’s stopped (thanks to menopause) and a laundry list of what I’ve tried to find a new weight maintenance program.

Beyond that, I’ll have two separate posts about things people try to lose and maintain a goal weight: eating gluten free and intermittent fasting.

If you’re a woman, you will join me on this menopause horror show, but I hope you’ll find these posts interesting and entertaining. Let’s start a conversation.

What has been your experience regarding menopause symptoms? Is weight gain one of yours?

2 thoughts on “Why Dieting and Menopause Clash”

    1. I just faced a ferritin deficiency for the past year to eighteen months without having menstruation. I sure hope “the change” goes easily for you. I am NOT a fan at the moment…but maybe on the other side? We shall see.

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