menopause weight loss tips
Despite the bald head, goatee and “linebacker looking” body, I have developed a reputation as being an expert in female metabolism and especially menopausal weight loss.
The reason for this was very simple. I was in the personal training world and most of my clients were women. I quickly discovered that there was a profound difference in the way my female clients 40 and up responded to diet and exercise compared to the women I worked with in their 30s and 20s.
At first, because I was a twenty-year-old male with an ego the size of a GMC Yukon, I thought these women were not being compliant. I figured they had to be lying about what they were eating. But then I slowly figured out what was going on.
My mom to the rescue
Actually it was my mother who taught me the final lesson. As usual. That woman is always teaching me stuff. Lately she has been teaching me how long a person can stare off into space before replying to a question. The answer? Several minutes. But I digress (love you mom 😉
My mom had always been fairly lean and tiny. But when she hit menopause she started gaining weight. She thought she was in luck because she had my brother Keoni and I, two experts in weight loss. Little did she know we had been waiting for years for a chance to get back at her for naming us as if we were husband and wife, instead of brothers. hahaha Just kidding. We did our best to help her.
We changed her diet by having her eat smarter, especially less carbs and more fat and protein. We had her start weight training. We even got her on several herbs to help with hormone balance like Black Cohosh, Don Quai and Chaste Berry.
But that did not work. So then we put her on bio-identical hormones and did several detoxes with her. Still nothing.
Then one day I happened to stop by her house in the morning. We sat, had coffee and talked. I watched as she ate an entire cantaloupe. Another day, at dinner, I watched her eat a salad that was basically 5 avocados with a few lettuce greens sprinkled over it.
So I asked her, “Mom, tell me what you have been eating? Is this typical?
She said, “Yes, I eat very little carbs. I eat mostly ‘paleo’ like you told me. Plenty of fat, vegetables, fruit and protein.”
I said, “What do you eat most do you think?
She said, “Fruit.”
“What about exercise?” I said.
Keoni and I knew the problem. We made some adjustments. And she started losing weight fairly quickly. She lost about twenty plus pounds over a few months.
Do you know the issue? Two words: cortisol and insulin.
Here is the thing to know. In order to lose weight you need two things. First you need to lower calories.
Second, you need to balance hormones.
Only problem with that is the menopausal metabolism is, by very definition, an imbalanced hormone state compared to what it was in a females younger years.
Insulin is a fat storing and muscle-building hormone. Even if you achieve a calorie deficit, if you have too much insulin around you may lose weight, but that weight will be far less likely to be fat.
Cortisol is a stress hormone and it, along with insulin, causes fat storage around the middle. Even if you achieve calorie reduction, like insulin, cortisol makes it more likely you burn muscle along with fat.
And if you don’t succeed in lowering calories, both hormones almost assure those calories will store as fat and especially around the middle. If you are menopausal you know what I mean.
So here is the deal. Estrogen is a hormone that works against insulin and cortisol. Progesterone has little impact on insulin but does fight against cortisol.
So at menopause, when these two hormones go away, the female metabolism:
- slows down
- is more carb sensitive (due to insulin)
- is more stress reactive.
So my mom ran into problems due to the following reasons:
- She was eating too much fat, making it difficult for her to achieve calorie deficits
- Eating two much fruit, increasing her insulin levels
- Working out too often and too hard, throwing off her cortisol levels.
Ironically, in a younger woman these changes would have worked beautifully. Trading protein, fat, fruits and veggies for starchy carbs would have likely led to both calorie reduction and hormone balance along with fat loss.