Losing weight is hard….
Losing weight whilst dealing with peri-menopause or menopause, not to mention the stress of having a successful career and a raising a family, is even harder!
It’s no surprise that a lot of women feel like it’s impossible to lose weight in their 40s and 50s.
Hot flushes, mood swings, brain fog, low energy, weight gain – menopause can feel like you’re trapped in a body that’s no longer yours.
But what a lot of women don’t realise, is they actually do have some control over these symptoms. In fact, almost all women can lose weight and tone up even during menopause with the right approach.
Here’s how to achieve what seems impossible to so many – sustainable menopause weight loss:
What Happens During Peri-Menopause and Menopause
First of all, we need to understand what’s going on during peri-menopause and menopause so that we can counteract it.
As women age, their ovaries gradually start producing less oestrogen, progesterone and other related sex hormones.
However, this doesn’t happen steadily and there can be lots of ups and downs, leading to the unpredictable nature of menopause for many.
The start of these hormonal changes is called peri-menopause and it can last a few short years, or over a decade!
Officially menopause occurs when a woman hasn’t had a period for over 12 months in a row.
How Your Hormones Affect Menopause Weight Loss
Hormones are chemical signals that travel around our body telling it to do stuff.
They’re kind of like emails being sent around the office by managers, asking team members to do things.
During peri-menopause and menopause these messages become disrupted which have a range of side-effects on how you feel and function.
Your hormones affect lots of different things:
- Emotional stability
- Energy levels
- Brain function
- Response to stress
- Muscle function
- Body composition (fat & muscle)
Hormones affect how we feel, behave and function, and when our hormones change, we change too.
However, hormones are not just affected by changes during peri-menopause and menopause…
Your Lifestyle Also Has a HUGE Affect On Your Hormones
A lot of people feel powerless during menopause and peri-menopause and feel like they have to just give in to the ageing process, allowing the “middle age spread”, lack of energy and low mood to take over.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way…
The truth is your lifestyle also plays a huge part in affecting your hormones (and therefore menopause weight loss and side effects).
Here’s what else affects your hormones:
- Stress levels
- Hormonal replacement
So what you eat and drink, how active you are, how you manage your stress and many other aspects of your lifestyle are also very important, and these are all things you can control.
In our experience, some of the weight gain women over 40 encounter comes from a shift in lifestyle.
More time being sedentary at work and less exercise, all whilst eating the same diet (often with a bit more wine and chocolate thrown in to deal with all the stress), can easily lead to the weight piling on and gaining 1-2 dress sizes.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way…
Make some simple lifestyle changes and almost all women can achieve significant menopause weight loss, better energy levels, be more productive at work, happier at home and feel more like yourself again!
5 Steps To Succeed With Menopause Weight Loss
Step 1. Improve Your Diet
When we say diet, we don’t mean “go on a diet”, head back to slimming clubs, sign up for shakes or do a juice cleanse.
You may have noticed that diets that used to work just don’t seem to have the same effect any more, and keeping the weight off after finishing the diet is much more difficult.
This is because your body, lifestyle and hormones have changed. Your body is a lot more sensitive now you’re older.
In our experience, people can’t get away with typical dieting methods once they’re in their 40s and 50s.
Even if you stick to them for a few weeks it’s unlikely you’ll see any significant weight loss, or even if you do, the weight will pile back on afterwards – your body simply doesn’t respond the same way any more.
The good news is good nutrition can alleviate or even eliminate many of the side-effects of menopause, plus it’s key for menopause weight loss.
Here’s how to eat around menopause:
- Eat the right amount for you – there is a sweet spot in terms of how many calories will lead to weight loss, and this is different for everyone. Whilst this number is generally lower for those going through peri-menopause or menopause, starving yourself will actually mess up your hormones more, leading to increased cravings for over a year in some cases (even after just a few weeks of crash dieting), so it’s essential you eat enough, but not too much. This is something we have extensive experience calculating for over 5000 clients to date inside our Fit Over 40 programme.
- Get enough protein – protein helps us build and maintain lean muscle, which keeps our metabolism higher (something that usually slows down during menopause). There is a sweet spot for protein that’s also specific to each person, hence why we calculate this for our clients in our Fit Over 40 programme.
- Avoid cutting out food groups (such as carbs) – lots of fad diets involve cutting out whole food groups, such as carbs or fats. There’s no magic to cutting out carbs (or fats) – this is simply a way of reducing your calories, but for most people this lack of flexibility makes it impossible to keep up long term (especially if you have a job where you can’t always control what you eat), so the weight piles back on when they finish the diet. Instead focus on consuming the right amount of calories from a balance of carbs, proteins and fats.
- Avoid sugary and processed foods – sugary foods can seem like a good option for a quick energy boost, but they’re always followed by an energy crash. This is made worse by the symptoms of menopause, meaning you’ll quickly be riding a rollercoaster of sugar highs and crashes (and hot flushes) – not only is this terrible for productivity, but the calories also pile up quickly. Focus on consuming proper meals 2-3 times a day fresh single-ingredient foods whenever possible (meat, veg and slow-digesting carbohydrates) and these will keep your energy levels much higher for much longer, and keep your cravings at a minimum throughout the day.
- Limit alcohol – alcohol is not only high in calories, but your body also becomes less efficient at processing it as you get older. Drinking like you did in your 20s and early 30s (or more), even after a hard week at work when it can feel deserved, will sadly lead to more weight gain and worse menopause symptoms (as well as a higher risk of breast cancer and other diseases). You don’t have to give up drinking, but turning drinking into a calm, conscious choice, which can be done in moderation by working on your mindset and stress levels is a must if you want to achieve menopause weight loss (another thing we do inside our Fit Over 40 programme).
- Stay hydrated – drinking enough water can help reduce breast tenderness, as well as reducing cravings and headaches. It will also help keep your skin better through menopause. Aim for 2-3 litres a day.
- Keep vitamin D in check – there’s some evidence that vitamin D can reduce menopausal symptoms, and it’s very important for energy levels. 77% of women in the UK are vitamin D deficient, since most adults spend a lot of time inside working or looking after the family (and you need a large proportion of your skin exposed to sunlight regularly to get enough). The easiest way to do this for people with an office or home-based job is to supplement it.
- Reduce caffeine – caffeine from coffee, certain teas, energy drinks or painkillers makes the symptoms of menopause worse (especially hot flushes, breast tenderness and migraines). If consumed in the afternoon, it can also make sleeping much more difficult, which is often already a challenge during menopause, and can create a vicious cycle of not sleeping well, over consuming caffeine and then not sleeping because of the caffeine, making you reliant on it. Switching to decaffeinated drinks, especially after noon, is a simple fix that will make everything much easier!
As you can see, there is a lot to think about with your nutrition around menopause (especially if you have a stressful job and busy family life), but get this right and menopause weight loss is pretty much guaranteed.
The good news is that we break the above down into simple weekly steps inside our Fit Over 40 programme, so that high-achieving women with busy careers can still lose 1-2 stone in 12 weeks or less (even when going through peri-menopause or menopause).
Step 2. Exercise With Weights (But Not Too Much)
A lot of fitness plans, gym classes, diets and personal trainers do not take into account the biological changes during menopause (nor the busy lifestyles of high-achieving career women).
In your 20s and 30s you can get away with doing almost any form of exercise and see results.
However, as you get into your 40s and 50s, your body starts to change, and the exercise that used to work becomes a lot less effective.
Your body naturally starts to lose muscle (made worse by crash dieting or shakes), and this leads to a slower metabolism, making it harder and harder to lose weight.
Excessive cardio (especially for 40+ minutes), such as gym classes, HIIT or running actually exacerbates this, as it also burns muscle, hence slowing down your metabolism.
Your recovery also becomes slower and less effective during menopause, meaning intense high-impact workouts, such as many HIIT workouts and gym classes, will be riskier and you’ll be more injury prone.
What works much better is to focus on resistance training – lifting weights, either from home or the gym.
This will counteract the usual muscle-loss during menopause and ageing in general, and build firm, toned muscle, which will keep you feeling as youthful as possible and your metabolism high. It will also keep your bones and connective tissues stronger and more supple.
The good news is you don’t need to do this 5-6 times a week. In fact, just exercising 3 times a week for around 40 minutes is plenty for menopause weight loss, toning up and increasing your metabolism.
Step 3. Manage Stress
Stress at any stage in life makes sustainable weight loss harder, and it doesn’t help during menopause either, when mood swings are more prevalent and it’s easy to become irritable about anything and everything.
Add in the pressures of a successful career – being responsible for a team of people and always being in the firing line – and it’s no wonder so many people struggle to lose weight in their 40s and 50s.
Unmanaged stress can lead to stress eating and drinking, which quickly undoes any hard work in the gym or eating well during the day.
Unmanaged stress also encourages weight gain around the middle – not helpful if you want to lose the “middle-aged spread”.
However, for high-achieving women, stress is inevitable – you can’t just quit your job, go and live in a cave, sing kum-ba-yah all day and leave your family to starve!
So rather than hoping to remove stress from your life, it’s about doing whatever you can to manage it.
- Eliminate things and people that add unnecessary stress to your life e.g. that “friend” or family member that takes takes takes and never gives back .
- Outsource things that cause you stress that you don’t need to be doing e.g. get a cleaner or a laundry person.
- Use daily mindset techniques to help you reduce or deal with stress better e.g. meditation, mindfulness, gratitude or thought-questioning exercises.
Inside our Fit Over 40 programme we teach our clients two quick but powerful mindset tools to manage their stress levels on a daily basis, which not only helps avoid stress eating or reaching for the wine after a tough day, but also helps with productivity and focus at work too.
Step 4. Manage Emotions
Menopause can be an emotional rollercoaster for many women. Add that to a stressful career and hectic family life and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
And what happens when people feel emotionally overwhelmed?
For many, it leads to emotional eating, drinking or saying “f**k it” and giving up on their fitness goals, only to start again next Monday.
But because they keep stopping and starting, they’re constantly undoing any hard work from earlier in the week, and therefore they rarely see any tangible progress, leading to a lack of motivation and ultimately, giving up.
It’s a vicious cycle than many women spend years, if not decades, repeating over and over again. Many actually feel like they can’t lose weight any more and that there’s something wrong with them.
The key to losing weight and toning up is consistency, and consistency requires you to stick to your fitness commitments in spite of how you feel.
Some of this comes from building new habits, which gets easier over time. But mostly it comes down to learning how to manage your emotional state.
Many people don’t even realise it’s possible to manage their emotional state.
They are simply a slave to their emotions, and if they’re not feeling like their “head is in the right place” they give up – this is often what causes yo-yo dieting.
But just consider that feeling after a hard workout. Even if it was challenging, there’s usually an emotional high after the workout, which can last for hours.
So it is possible to change your emotional state, and that’s only one way to do it.
You can also change it using mindset techniques to separate your emotions from your actions. We do this inside our Fit Over 40 programme using a tool called the Thought Transformer, which allows our clients to get their emotions and excuses out the way, so they can feel motivated and get their head in the right place every day to succeed.
Step 5. Sleep & Recovery
We all know we should be sleeping more, and yes most of us are terrible at actually doing it!
It can feel frustrating as a high-achiever with a stressful career and busy family life that you’re supposed to take 7-8 hours a night doing seemingly nothing.
Most high-achievers cut their sleep short, thinking they’re “buying time” for themselves, working late on the laptop in front of the TV (maybe with a glass of wine), and using coffee or other “pick-me-ups” to get through the day.
But it’s a vicious circle, as the less sleep you get, the more tired you become, leading to reduced productivity, later nights, a heavier reliance on caffeine or other pick-me-ups, and it becomes harder and harder to sleep, even without the hot flushes and other challenges sleeping that come with menopause.
And here’s the problem…
Lack of sleep has recently been identified as one of the biggest factors causing obesity. If you look at the result of lack of sleep below, it’s no surprise either.
Lack of sleep can cause the following:
- Increased hunger
- Low energy
- Low mood
- Reduced willpower
- Lack of motivation
- Poor recovery
- Bad skin
- Brain fog
- Faster ageing
- Late night eating
None of those things are going to help with menopause weight loss!
Sleep is the only time your body gets to recover from the stresses of the day, and what most people don’t realise is your body only has a limited capacity for dealing with stress, and everything included in weight loss makes it worse.
Exercise and a reduced calorie diet, both of which are optimal for menopause weight loss, actually increase the stress your body is under.
If you then add lack of sleep to the mix, then you’re body is always trying to play catch up, never able to recover and leading to injuries, illness and that feeling of constant tiredness.
So how can you improve your sleep?
- Practice good sleep hygiene – turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before sleeping, de-stress before bed (meditate, have a bath), make the room as dark and as quiet as possible and avoid caffeine 6 hours before bed.
- Do what you can to reduce hot flushes – improving your nutrition (especially avoiding caffeine, alcohol and processed foods), plus practicing paced breathing exercises.
- Exercise more, ideally in the morning – if you are physically tired, it will make sleep come easier and more naturally. Exercising in the evening can ramp up your body when you really want to be winding down, so exercising earlier in the day usually works better, plus it means you’re less likely to skip exercise due to work or family issues later in the day.
- Get into a proper routine – going to bed late usually means waking up late and tired, relying on caffeine all day and jeopardising the next night’s sleep – it’s a vicious cycle. Getting into a regular routine with exercise, meal times and sleep will work with your body’s natural circadian rhythm so you fall asleep quicker and sleep better.
- Separate bedroom – if you have a partner that makes a quality night’s sleep impossible due to snoring, flailing or duvet hogging, then a separate bedroom may be the best tactic to get a good night’s sleep and the energy you need to thrive in your career, fitness and family life.
Bonus Tip: Have A Support Network
Struggling through peri-menopause or menopause alone, putting into practice all of the steps above, whilst also dealing with the stress that comes with a successful career and hectic family life can feel totally overwhelming for many women…
What can really help is having a support network:
- A network of like-minded high-achieving women trying to achieve the same goals in fitness, family and fun who actually get what you’re going through (especially if your partner and family don’t)
- A nutrition coach to help you make the best choices for you and your body during peri-menopause and menopause
- A personal trainer to ensure you’re doing the right type of exercise to counteract many of the side-effects of peri-menopause and menopause
- A mindset coach to help you deal with the additional challenges, temptation to self-sabotage and wavering belief in your ability to lose weight during menopause so you can stay consistent
- Someone to keep you accountable, give you a kick up the bum when you need it and to support you when you’re struggling
We’re here to help…
Our area of expertise is helping high-achieving woman to overcome everything that’s stopping them being able to lose weight as they’ve got older and as their bodies and lifestyles have changed.
We typically work with women who have tried lots of different diets, slimming clubs, shakes and exercises classes in the past but they’ve not been able to see or maintain their results as they’ve got older.
Inside our Fit Over 40 programme we help women over 40 to get back into healthy eating and exercise habits that fit around their lives and support the changes happening to their bodies.
The aim is for our clients to get to their ideal weight and size in 12 weeks, or be well on their way towards it, but be in a position where they feel quite confident they could maintain that long term.
It’s kind of like having a personal trainer, nutrition coach and mindset coach on board to take all of the stress and uncertainty out of the process.
If you want to find out more about how you can lose 1-2 stone and 1-2 dress sizes in 84 days or less, without having to give up wine or chocolate, click on the button below and we’ll send you all the details: