MyMT™ Blog

The science behind your changing shape in menopause.

images of different female body shapes during menopause
If you are as confused as I was about your changing shape as you reach your early to mid 50’s, then I have some questions for you to think about:   
  • Can you touch your toes without your belly-fat getting in the way? 
  • Can you breathe easy when you exercise or walk fast? 
  • Are you sleeping all night, every night? 
  • Are you heavier now, than throughout your life?
  • Are you losing muscle tone or you have sore joints and muscles? 
  • Do you feel bloated, ‘puffy’ and tight, especially in your breasts?
  • Do you feel excessively tired after a meal?
  • Do you feel easily frustrated and irritable?
  • Are you on HRT but this isn’t helping your weight gain (or your hot flushes) in menopause?
  • Are you currently exercising a lot, but this still isn’t helping you lose weight like it did in the past?

I thought so. You see, this was me too. At the time, I had no idea how much our weight is influenced by our poor sleep, our current lifestyle, nutrition and exercise advice that isn’t targeted towards women in mid-life and the fact that as we lose oestrogen, we also lose muscle tone and size too. This changes our metabolism and the loss of essential mitochondrial cells, means that we aren’t burning fat the way we used to when we had oestrogen.

All of these factors create the ‘perfect storm’ for weight gain during our menopause transition and it can creep on and on as the years advance. But we can’t ignore it, because if we don’t stop the menopause weight gain mayhem, then this is what leads millions of women into post-menopause heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. 

 

As we go into menopause our levels of oestrogen and progesterone naturally decline. However, what many women don’t realise (as I didn’t either), is that the master reproductive hormones in our pituitary gland actually ‘control’ menopause. These two master hormones, Luteinising Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), take longer to decline as we age, so in peri-menopause (the time before your periods cease in menopause) they are still trying to send chemical signals to the ovaries to keep producing oestrogen. However, during peri-menopause the cells in your ovaries are dying-off. This is a natural part of your biological ageing but what it means is that there are less ovarian cells available to take the messages from your master-hormones, so these chemical messages travel to other parts of your body, where you also have oestrogen receptor cells. This includes your heart muscles, your skin, your liver, your bones and your fat cells – and here’s the thing, women have the most fat cells around our belly, breasts, butt and thighs!

But there’s another reason that we our shape changes during menopause too. We lose muscle size – our lovely muscle has oestrogen receptors too. And when we begin to lose muscle, our metabolism changes, because skeletal muscle has the most effect on our resting muscle rate. Body-builders the world over know that muscle is important for metabolism and because the rate of muscle loss is highest for women during menopause, we don’t ‘burn’ as many calories as we used to either. This muscle loss condition is called sarcopenia.

When this happened to me too I knew that the changing tone and wasting of my muscles was contributing to my fat gain. The reason for this is because muscle is needed to burn fat in our mighty mitochondrial cells. With menopause and as we go into post-menopause (when our periods have stopped for a year or more), one of the greatest changes is our changing metabolism. Muscle tissue has the most effect on our resting metabolic rate. So, holding onto muscle as we go into menopause or doing strength activities and the right type of cardio activity is really important as we age.

But also important for managing menopause weight loss are other factors as well. To improve our fat-burning capability when our hormones are against us, we need to achieve four things:

  1. Sleep all night.
  2. Improve liver and gut function.
  3. Hold onto our muscle tone.
  4. Manage our blood sugar levels and therefore, our insulin regulation.

Managing these factors is crucial for weight loss as we get older, especially sleeping all night.

Menopause has such an impact on our sleep patterns, but so too does our lifestyle, e.g. staying up late, using technology and eating the wrong foods at dinner-time. All of these factors impact on the production of our sleep hormone called melatonin. When melatonin levels are too low before bed-time, then we can experience more hot flushes, night sweats and as many of you will already know, you lie awake. But when this happens night after night, you lose your overnight fat-burning capability too.

Your liver and gall-bladder are also important for your weight loss during menopause. Turning around the health of your liver during menopause is important for fat-loss. The reason for this is because fats are broken-down by bile and bile is stored in our gall bladder. In the past this system has worked well for you – because you’ve had oestrogen. But as we lose oestrogen, we also produce less bile. On top of this is the fact that as women in our early 50’s, we’ve had a lot of different changes to our diet over the years which has possibly impacted on the health of our liver.

A diagram showing the difference between a normal liver and a fatty liver

When inflammation is present in the liver, then it doesn’t absorb the crucial B-vitamins, which we need for our energy, and we don’t turn over the amino acids present in proteins. For many women putting on a lot of belly fat, or if you have the ‘hard-fat’ sitting around your abdomen, then please try to come on board into my ‘Transform Me’ weight loss programme, because I have researched how to turn around our liver health and improve the function of our gall-bladder. It’s also why I don’t promote the high-fat, high protein diets that are popular in the fitness and nutrition industries at the moment. Many of these are not researched for our health during our menopause transition. Read more here … 

I am so passionate about women following a progressive step-by-step process to turn around their weight and their health during menopause. Too many women are turning to crazy diets and exercise programmes when their hormones are changing, but what we need to is to restore the balancing act that our hormones require to pass through menopause. If we do this by improving our sleep, losing excess fat, improving liver health, regulating insulin levels, reducing inflammation in our joints and hold onto muscle, then women’s healthy ageing research consistently reports that we are more resilient to the health changes that occur in older age.

Changing oestrogen levels during menopause, sarcopenia (muscle loss), liver health and insulin resistance are all connected. So, if you are putting on belly fat at a rapid rate and nothing you are doing is working for you, then here are my five top reasons that this is happening (there are a few more reasons, but these are the main ones):

  1. If you have been a regular exerciser and have done a lot of cardio over the years and if you aren’t sleeping, then this combination may be sending you into adrenal fatigue. These two factors combined can lead to low progesterone and due to higher than normal cortisol levels. Cortisol is one of your stress hormones and when we aren’t sleeping and trying to push through our exercise, then our adrenals don’t function very well. It’s led to the very modern condition called ‘Adrenal Fatigue’. The problem however, is that for a generation of women who are used to exercising a lot, our brain is conditioned to this type of exercise and I know from my research, that women report that it helps them to cope better with their day-to-day lives. However, when you don’t sleep, you won’t cope either, so this is the first thing you have to achieve and it’s the first module you will listen to in both the MyMT programmes. But you also need to adjust the type and amount of exercise you do in menopause so that your body holds onto muscle better. Conversely, for those of you who don’t do a lot of exercise, then yes, you have to do more! My brand new exercise-specific 12 week online programme for women in menopause is called ‘Re-Build My Fitness’. [ON SALE THROUGHOUT MARCH, 2019]

2. With oestrogen levels starting to decline, other hormones in your body are affected too. One of these is a hormone stored in your skin called melanin. When oestrogen levels are low, then melanin doesn’t do it’s job of helping to make enough Vitamin D3, which impacts on your calcium levels. Calcium, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin D have a great influence on your ability to maintain, or even build muscle in menopause and therefore, burn fat overnight.

  1. When you aren’t SLEEPING, you aren’t getting enough secretion of two other important hormones necessary for retaining or building muscle.  Not sleeping has the greatest impact on your weight gain in menopause. Interrupted sleep during menopause throws our muscle-building and fat-burning capability out the door. When we aren’t sleeping properly, our insulin and cortisol levels stay high. This counteracts fat-burning and muscle repair. This is why the most powerful thing I do for you when you come on board into the MyMT Transform Me programme, is to get you sleeping all night. If you aren’t sleeping well, then this is the first breakthrough you need to focus on for halting any further fat-gain as well as for helping you hold onto muscle.

  1. If you are putting on BELLY-FAT, then this is a sign that you aren’t turning over amino-acids in your liver. Proteins are broken down to AMINO ACIDS and these are the building blocks for building muscle. That’s where it all starts. But if your liver isn’t healthy and neither is your gut, then would you let me help you turn this around? Because when you do, you will be better placed for breaking down fats in your body and improving your ability to absorb and use nutrients that help you to improve your muscle and your metabolism. When your liver and gut aren’t as healthy as they should be, then proteins are not taken up in our muscles and go to fat cells instead.
    5. Finally, for you to reverse or at least reduce the over-50’s condition of sarcopenia, you need to HALT any more fat-gain. To achieve this, you need to discover how to sleep all night, reduce the inflammation that has been building up over the decades in your liver and your joints and muscles as well as improve the health of your beautiful mitochondrial cells. These are located all over your body and they are the location of oxygen storage and the location of where fats and glucose are turned into energy molecules. When we lose muscle with sarcopenia, then we also lose the number and size of our mitochondrial cells. When this happens we don’t burn fats as well, nor do we have as much energy. We begin to feel exhausted, and how hot flushes then increase as well. I know this, because that was me too.

This is why the MyMT programmes only relate to women in their menopause transition. So many other programmes put everyone in the same basket. However, in a changing hormonal environment that is heralding in our ageing, then we are beautifully unique in our needs!

The first step in your transformation is getting you sleeping all night. Then I teach you how to restore your liver and cardiac health and get your insulin levels re-balanced so that you stop gaining weight. Then you learn how to renew your energy and productivity. All the information that I have for you has been researched through the ‘lens of menopause’. I can’t wait for you to join me when you are ready too. Some of you might also like to get off your Menopause Hormone Replacement Therapy [HRT] and menopause-related anti-depressants too and in both programmes, I have optional modules which explain how to do this in conjunction with your GP as well.

Wendy Sweet, PhD/ Women’s Healthy Ageing Researcher & MyMT Founder & Coach. 

“If you have ever wondered if there was a clear easy plan to follow to sleep all night, reduce hot flushes and prevent or reduce your weight gain during menopause, then ‘welcome’ – you’re in the right place now.”

Discover how either of my two Menopause Transformation programmes might help you too or take my Symptoms Quiz below… 

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