INVERCARGILL – I’m heading your way on Tuesday for my brand new WEIGHT LOSS IN MENOPAUSE SEMINAR this TUESDAY, September 10th. I can’t wait to share my research on our menopause weight management with you.
My upcoming trip to beautiful Invercargill right at the bottom of the South Island in New Zealand, is why I’ve got Elizabeth on my mind as well. She is from Southland and a volunteer fire-fighter. Before coming to my seminar last year, she felt overwhelmed with stress, her weight was increasing and she felt exhausted doing her usual training for the fire-fighting she loved to do.
“I was feeling so confused about my symptoms – even some that I hadn’t even connected with menopause! It was absolutely a turning point for me listening to Wendy about the effect of stress on my symptoms and my weight.”
“Everything Wendy was talking about made so much sense. It was listening to her seminar that enabled me to understand what was happening to me. It also gave me so much hope that I could get back to what I loved to do. With my busy job as an Operations Manager at Ocean Shell, I also love the small community where I live near Invercargill, so I work as a volunteer Fire-Fighter. I’m a keen member of the Southland Tramping Club and love the amazing world-class walking tracks that are here in Otago and Southland. But when peri-menopause arrived, I didn’t understand why I wasn’t coping with these activities that I have participated in for years.
My body felt stressed and I was so exhausted all of the time, especially working as a fire-fighter.
Like a lot of us I have always had a busy, full ‘roller-coaster of a life’ but was really struggling for the last few years to make it all work and just feeling more and more unhappy and stressed. Since starting ‘ MY’ menopause transformation journey I have learnt so much. Many small steps added up to hugely, positive changes in my life. That’s why I’m also still with Wendy on her coaching group – her posts keep me updated and motivated. Over the last year since working on the lifestyle changes recommended by Wendy in her MyMT™programme, I’ve lost 8 kgs.
But the best thing is that my cholesterol levels are reduced and I’m feeling so much better physically and mentally.
Since doing the MyMT™ Transform Me programme, I’ve also improved my fitness and cycled the beautiful Otago Rail Trail – 135 km of an old railway that I never thought I would be able to do when I felt so stressed and exhausted. But as I learnt how to manage myself during menopause, my energy levels returned. This is what gave me the confidence to participate in the Firefighters Annual Sky Tower Challenge in Auckland. The race is up 1,103 stairs – in full fire-fighting kit! It’s a major fundraiser for Blood and Leukemia NZ and although I had competed in it before, when menopause arrived, I didn’t think I had the energy to train for it. But this was where the MyMT ReBuild My Fitness programme helped as well. I did this after completing the symptom reduction programme as I realised that I needed to get my fitness back. And I did!
I felt so good on the day and was stoked to improve my time by 8 minutes! Here I am finishing it!
Feeling stressed is a modern-day challenge that we all face.
But during menopause feeling stressed can be particularly challenging. When your nerves and blood vessels are losing oestrogen, feeling stressed from your work, your insomnia and weight gain is hell for your hormones – and I don’t just mean your reproductive hormones. I also mean another hormone called Cortisol. This is one of your stress hormones too.
Most cells in your body have cortisol receptors, so this lovely hormone affects many different functions in your body. Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory. It also has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and therefore, helps control blood pressure. But when we produce too much of it, that’s when we start to have problems during our menopause transition.
We know a lot about over-production of this hormone from sport and exercise science and a condition in athletes called ‘over-training syndrome’. As Elizabeth experienced as well, feeling that my blood pressure, moods and hot flushes were becoming worse when I felt stressed, I was searching for better understanding of the physiology of this and the relation to menopause. I found what I was looking for in the wonderful Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study, published in the 2009 journal Menopause.*
The study confirmed what I was feeling myself – when we are awake in the night, we feel hot and bothered and have increased night sweats. We also don’t recover from the exercise training that we undertake. Elizabeth was training for the Stair-Climb Challenge and not sleeping. This was a cocktail for even more exhaustion, hot flushes and weight gain. According to the Seattle Midlife study, the cause of high overnight cortisol is not just for athletes. It is also due to higher than normal feelings of stress in women, higher testosterone and changing reproductive hormones in menopause. Finally, an answer to what I was feeling myself! I knew that I was feeling hotter than usual and of course, when cortisol remains high overnight, then this also impacts on our sleep hormone called melatonin so we lie awake for longer. Our normal fat-burning mechanisms can be interrupted too.
This is why in the first module that women listen to in the MyMT ‘Transform Me’ and ‘Circuit-Breaker’ programmes, I teach them how to reduce cortisol levels before bedtime. Some of these strategies include:
- Moderating protein intake at dinner because our pancreatic enzymes reduce as we age and we don’t metabolise protein as well overnight.
- Doing some specific mindfulness activities to reduce our blood pressure.
High levels of cortisol can create inflammation and hot flush chaos and women discover that high cortisol means no sleep. This is why we all need to re-address stress during menopause and I have an entire module on this in both programmes – it’s that important.
“I’m feeling so much better emotionally and physically, since I now understand this incredible stage of life called menopause.”