Updated: Nov 4, 2022
Feel like a stranger inhabiting a new body and want to bust out of it?
You can gracefully manage the start of perimenopause and onset of menopause with nourishing, healthy healing nutrition.
You may be experiencing menopause. You may be experiencing perimenopause weight gain, the effects of menopause and weight gain during menopause. And if you are, it may be time to look at how you can use nutrition to thrive instead of suffering.
Menopause is when your Menstrual cycle PAUSEs—for good.
It’s not a disease to be treated, but rather a normal stage of life. Menopause “officially” starts 12-months after your last period. (That happens, on average, around the age of 51).
This change doesn’t happen overnight, though.
There are usually a few years of the menopausal transition, sometimes called “perimenopause.” Perimenopause often starts in the early- to mid-40s. This is when you may start feeling symptoms like:
● Weight gain—especially around the midsection
● Hot flashes and night sweats
● Difficulty sleeping
Once perimenopause finishes and menopause officially begins, your risks for heart disease and osteoporosis rise.
That scary fact is why it’s more important than ever if you haven’t implemented a healthy lifestyle change and an actual PLAN to consider getting one.
Why does this even happen? Some of the reasons behind all these changes include your changing hormones, metabolism, stress levels, and lifestyle.
Because your body goes through all these changes, its nutritional needs also change. Here are some expert nutrition tips to help you get you through perimenopause and menopause without weight gain and/or to help you lose that peri/menopause weight gain and reclaim your energy while doing it!
5 nutrition tips for experiencing menopause and perimenopause weight gain (and one bonus note!)
Tip 1: Drink enough fluids
As you age, you may slowly lose your sense of thirst. This means you can become less hydrated without even noticing it, through no fault of your own. Plus, some key menopausal symptoms may be improved simply by drinking more fluids. If hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, or bladder infections are affecting you, try drinking at least six 8-oz glasses per day to help hydrate you.
Ideally, that drink is water or herbal tea.
PRO TIP: to avoid those 2 am pee wake ups, start to sip infrequently on water after dinner.
Tip 2: Avoid alcohol
You know that alcohol isn’t the best drink for your health—especially too much. Alcohol can worsen hot flashes and make it harder to stay asleep. It can also increase your risk of getting or worsening many health conditions. Not to mention it can make you forgetful and confused, and can even lead to loss of muscle mass, balance problems, falls, and accidents. Plus, it has nutrient-free calories that can contribute to weight gain.
Here's a great “mocktail” recipe for you!
Tip 3: Cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar
If hot flashes bother you, consider avoiding common triggers like spicy foods and caffeine.
When it comes to sugar, the simplest way to cut down is to replace sugar-sweetened drinks with water or herbal tea. If the thought of cutting out all desserts doesn’t sound fair, try eating smaller portions or even half-sized desserts.
Try what I call the 3-bite dessert.
Take enough of that sweet indulgence for 3 bites. The first bite satisfies your FOMO, the second bite gives you more of that flavor and by the 3rd, you’ve literally satisfied the need to get that initial rush of sugar. A recent study showed that menopausal women who ate more sweets, fats, and snacks suffered from menopausal symptoms more than those who ate more fruits and vegetables.
We’re talking hot flashes, night sweats, muscle and joint problems, and bladder issues were all worse for the dessert-lovers.
Try these sweet tooth ideas that satisfy but won’t do as much damage:
Tip 4: Eat smaller quantities of food
Did you know that at 50 years old you need about 200 fewer calories per day than you did during your 30s and 40s? That’s assuming you were starting at a healthy weight, and you want to maintain a healthy weight as you get older.
This means that by continuing to eat the same amount of food as you did in your 30s and 40s, you’ll start gaining weight. On average, women in their 50s and 60s gain about 1.5 pounds every year.
This is likely also due in part to the loss of muscle mass year over year in midlife if a dedicated strength training program isn’t undertaken. Lean muscle tissue remains more metabolically active than fat tissue. Thus, if you’re losing lean muscle, you’re losing some of that metabolic “burn” each year as well (unless you maintain or build it!).
Eating less food can be really hard!
Try having smaller portions and using mindful eating techniques to help you get used to it.
For example, you could use the “Hunger Scale Booklet” to become more mindful of when it’s actually time to eat – and time to stop.
You could also use the “Immunity Plate” graphic below for a visual idea of how much of each macronutrient is recommend based on a regular sized plate.
Eating at any other time except when hungry is emotional eating, except in cases of ghrelin/leptin hormones imbalance.
PRO TIP: Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime, particularly if you have trouble sleeping.
Tip 5: Eat higher quality foods
Eating less food doesn’t mean you need less nutrition, though. That’s why it’s really important to eat quality foods with a lot of nutrients (i.e., nutrient-dense foods). These include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. When it comes to protein for your muscles and bones, eat legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and/or poultry.
A recent study showed that menopausal women who ate the most greens had the fewest complaints about typical menopausal symptoms like hot flashes.
By eating more nutrient-dense foods like these ones you’ll get more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein—all of which are very important to maintain your health at and beyond menopause.
PRO TIP: Your bones love calcium and vitamin D. Some of the richest sources of these are dairy products, fish with bones, and foods fortified with these nutrients (check your labels). My favorite fortified option is a 1/2 cup of vitamin D and calcium fortified O.J.
BONUS TIP: What about soy and phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen—the hormone that your body slows down the production of during menopause.
Soy is the best-known food containing these phytoestrogens and is often recommended for menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. In addition to food sources, you can also find dietary supplements with high amounts of phytoestrogens. Some women choose to take these supplements instead of hormones.
Research shows inconsistent results when it comes to phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms. That means some studies show a small reduction in hot flashes, while others don’t.
A recent review of 23 studies looked at the effect of phytoestrogen supplements on postmenopausal women. It found that some women (those who had diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol) who took the supplements weighed about 2 pounds more than women who were not taking phytoestrogen supplements. This was the opposite for healthy women taking phytoestrogens, who tended to weigh less about 0.6 pounds less than those not taking phytoestrogens.
If you’re interested in taking these phytoestrogens, speak with your healthcare professional first.
When it comes to nutrition for menopause a few simple changes can help you manage your weight through perimenopause, navigate menopause and reduce your waist size through midlife.
Be sure to drink enough fluids, but not alcohol; cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar; eat smaller quantities of higher-quality food; and have soy if you enjoy it, but don’t expect it to miraculously solve any bothersome menopausal symptoms.
If peri/menopausal symptoms are bothering you and making day to day life more stressful, book an appointment with me to see if my program/service can help you.
📢 STRONGher Perimenopause All-In-One mobile app coming November 2022!
Thanks for reading!
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