When new research arrived in my in-box recently, with the words ‘menopause weight loss’ and ‘minimal exercise‘ jumping out at me, it got my attention. I hope it gets yours too – especially if you are in menopause or post-menopause.
There’s a common perception in the world of fitness and exercise that everyone has the time, energy and motivation to exercise. In an ideal world, this would be great. But in reality, mid-life women’s physical activity participation data, suggests the opposite.
Australian and overseas data typically report that the main barriers to physical activity participation are the same ones that beset many of us in mid-life – work, care giving, illness and injury (Anderson, R. 2008).
Much of this data reflects my own experience during peri-menopause (despite being an avid exerciser throughout my life), when I felt too sore, too exhausted, too overweight and too busy, to do the type of exercise I had enjoyed for decades.
I find this time and time again with women who join me on the MyMT™ 12 week programmes as well. Many try to navigate getting back into exercise, but find they are sore, tired and too overweight to do the type of exercise that is promoted to us from the ‘no pain, no gain‘ brigade.
But there’s a problem with this approach for those of you not sleeping, feeling overweight and experiencing sore joints and muscles – your body isn’t healing from all the exercise you might be doing to lose weight. In fact, you may even be building up more and more inflammation.
That’s why in order to start my menopause weight loss journey, I cut right back on the type and amount of exercise that I was doing.
I realised that this was just one thing that was adding to the accumulation of stress on my body from inflammation, especially when at the time, the emphasis was being given to High Intensity exercise in the ever-changing marketing of fitness and exercise.
That’s why I love this brand new research – it backs up everything that I was figuring out through taking a lifestyle science approach to the physiology of menopause.
So, before you go on that special diet and jump into (literally) lots of high-intensity exercise, for your New Year weight loss resolutions, perhaps you want to read on, because the question this research explores is about losing weight during and after Menopause with minimal exercise and the Mediterranean Diet.
During menopause, there is a shift in fat distribution and storage from the hips to the waist.
Research estimates that women may gain an average of 1-2kg or more during menopause due to the number of hormonal changes [including lowering oestrogen and progesterone and an increase in circulating androgens (testosterone)], leading many women towards changing metabolic health in post-menopause (Lombardo, Perrone et al, 2020).
In late 2019, women from Rome who, entered into a large nutrition study looking at the role of the Mediterranean Diet on their fat loss during menopause.
Aged between 50-60 years, all were overweight as they entered this stage of life and undertook a range of biometric tests as baseline measures. All participants were placed on a 2 month, moderate-fat, restricted-calorie Mediterranean Diet – exactly the type that I have researched for the MyMT™ weight loss programme called Transform Me.
The main features of the diet for the study participants was that it was rich in plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole-grains. Extra virgin olive oil was used for fat intake along with a handful of nuts.
Cucumbers, grapes and citrus are a feature of the Mediterranean Diet and have a number of compounds which are essential to help with our blood pressure.
Cucumbers have compounds which have lipid (fat) lowering effects and anti-diabetic effects. Grapes have compounds which have strong anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. [Naureen et al, 2022].
Furthermore, as I promote in the MyMT™ programme Food Guide which I have as part of my programmes, the participants were encouraged to lower the amounts of eggs and animal fats that they were eating – [I promote the same approach, as these foods are higher in oestrogen compounds, which we don’t need when we arrive in menopause and post-menopause].
Analysis of the food diaries of the Italian study participants showed that their intake had an average macro-nutrient composition of about 0.85g/kg/day of protein, 25-30% fat (from plant sources) and 52-55% carbohydrate (from fruits and vegetables with some wholegrains).
“The change in lifestyle also brought a significant improvement in body circumference and blood pressure as well as improved lipid (fat) blood values including cholesterol.” [Lombardo, Perrone, et al, 2020].
This study is important for all of us who are entering our post-menopause years. My own studies on women’s healthy ageing reinforced that mid-life is a time when we become vulnerable to health changes with age.
Maintaining muscle and reducing body fat is an important part of managing health as we age, but with many of us too busy, sore or exhausted to exercise, this study shows that we can manage our fat-gain and prevent lean muscle tissue loss when we follow a Mediterranean Diet.
And yes, sleep matters too.
While January brings in new beginnings for all of us, it is also my annual sale for the Transform Me weight loss programme.
That’s why I have taken NZ$100 off the cost of the Transform Me programme and if you choose to, you can bundle it up with $200 off the exercise programme called Rebuild My Fitness. For those of you with sore joints and aching muscles who can’t even think about exercise just yet, I have included the module called Restore your Joyful Joints as well.
I know not all of you put on weight in menopause, and some of you lose weight, and this has its own challenges if you become too thin as you age.
However, as we move into the new year ahead, I’m going to have a focus on your weight and other symptoms in menopause. So, watch out for this month’s newsletters as I bring you the information that will help you to understand what is really going on as we age and move through this important life stage.
- Anderson, R. (2008). Exercise and dietary behaviour change in a sample of midlife Australian women. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.
- Davis SR, Castelo-Branco C, Chedraui P, Lumsden MA, Nappi RE, Shah D, Villaseca P; Writing Group of the International Menopause Society for World Menopause Day 2012. Understanding weight gain at menopause. Climacteric. 2012 Oct;15(5):419-29. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2012.707385.
- Lombardo, M., Perrone, M. A., Guseva, E., Aulisa, G., Padua, E., Bellia, C., Della-Morte, D., Iellamo, F., Caprio, M., & Bellia, A. (2020). Losing Weight after Menopause with Minimal Aerobic Training and Mediterranean Diet. Nutrients, 12(8), 2471.
- Naureen Z, Dhuli K, Donato K, Aquilanti B, Velluti V, Matera G, Iaconelli A, Bertelli M. Foods of the Mediterranean diet: citrus, cucumber and grape. J Prev Med Hyg. 2022 Oct 17;63(2 Suppl 3):E21-E27. doi: 10.15167/2421-4248/jpmh2022.63.2S3.2743.
- Pettee G., Sternfeld B., Colvin A., Stewart A. et al., (2017). Physical activity trajectories during midlife and subsequent risk of physical functioning decline in late mid-life: The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). Prev Med.105: 287-294.
- Zhao CN, Meng X, Li Y, Li S, Liu Q, Tang GY, Li HB. Fruits for Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Diseases. Nutrients. 2017 Jun 13;9(6):598. doi: 10.3390/nu9060598.