Weight loss can be a minefield to navigate, with different diets and regimes pulling women in all directions, and perimenopause only compounds this struggle. Nutritionist Karen Newby spoke to Express.co.uk about what women in this period can do to lose weight for good.
Finding yourself gaining weight during the menopause but don’t understand why?
Many women will say that they are going through the menopause when in fact what they are going through is perimenopause – the years leading up to menopause.
Menopause itself is just one day, exactly one year after your last period, whereas perimenopause encompasses the stage where the body experiences symptoms such as mood swings, hot flushes and irregular periods.
Karen told Express.co.uk: “We put on all this sudden weight because our metabolism changes.”
And while putting on weight round the middle is a male pattern of weight gain, this is increasingly common for women during perimenopause.
The expert continued: “This is really distressing for women, because we’ve always had a waist and suddenly we don’t have one.”
This issue is exacerbated as a woman’s hunger hormone – ghrelin – also increases during perimenopause, and this effects how the body produces glucose.
“So what women find is that these hormonal roadblocks are stopping them from losing weight; you can be doing as much cardio and as much calorie restriction as you used to in your 30s or early 40s, but the weight just doesn’t shift.”
Exclusively for Express.co.uk readers, Karen provided her tried and tested five top tips for easy, sustainable weight loss.
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Tip 1: Stop dieting
Karen stated: “Diets are unsustainable. The weight often goes back on as soon as we come off of them.
“A lot of the premise of dieting is about calorie counting and food restriction and I want people to focus in on more nutrient dense foods – this is what we need during perimenopause.”
Instead, Karen recommended that slimmers think more about vitamin and mineral content as opposed to calories.
Tip 2: Learn to manage sugar
When it comes to sugar and perimenopause, the odds can unfortunately be stacked against women.
Karen explained: “Because our oestrogen is dipping, we can potentially have issues with blood sugar handling, and this can often go out of whack causing sugar cravings.
In order to “crowd out” those cravings, she recommended that dieters seek out protein rich foods.
And in contrast to a lot of the discourse in diet culture, she also recommended reaching out for fats: “Fats are your friend.”
Despite being “demonised”, good, unsaturated fats such as oily fish, nuts and seeds, are hugely beneficial on the quest for weight loss.
But even saturated fats are better for you than sugar, according to the expert.
While saturated fats “anchor your hunger”, consuming sugar is like “pouring petrol on our energy”, causing a dramatic increase before it plummets and leaves us with another craving.
Tip 3: Eat more at breakfast
Karen’s next tip can aid weight loss right from the offset of the day.
She advised: “Eat a protein rich breakfast, that could be eggs any which way, avocado on toast, grilled mushrooms, tomatoes, porridge with lots of ground linseed and blueberries.
“So many women are skipping breakfast or having tea and toast. That’s not sustaining our energy throughout the day and then we get these big sugar crashes where we need more caffeine, we need more biscuits to get us through to lunch, or we get that 2-3pm dip.”
For those who just can’t stomach food first thing, Karen suggested eating dinner earlier, so that they wake up hungry.
Failing this, some fasted morning exercise – “which is great for fat burn” – will soon get dieters feeling peckish.
Tip 4: Cut down on caffeine
According to Karen, caffeine puts us into “fight or flight mode”, sending lots of energy to the brain, the heart and the lungs.
“I recommend you only have caffeine with breakfast.
“Having two coffees or two teas is fine, but to have it with food lessens the hormonal effects of caffeine.”
When it comes to the 3pm coffee craving, Karen suggested reaching for a glass of water or herbal tea instead, as neither of these have the association with chocolate and biscuits that coffee and tea do.
And for those who are genuinely hungry in the afternoon slump?
“Have some protein rich snacks instead.”
Falafel, fruit or seeds are some great, healthy options.
Tip 5: Eat more plants
In order to lose weight, Karen emphasised the importance of stocking up on vegetables.
“For many of us, we need to be more vegan.
“Plants provide us with more fibre and fibre is really important for helping us feel satisfied.”
On the other hand, “ultra processed foods” do just the opposite, as the stretch receptors in the stomach don’t move and create that feeling of fullness.
Meals such as vegetable curries and veggie tray bakes are “naturally low in calorie” as well as being “quick to make”.
Asked if you can never eat too many vegetables, Karen answered: “Absolutely.”