MyMT™ Blog

Still putting on weight in menopause despite all that exercise? Then let me explain why …

For over 30 years I’ve seen the numbers of new members visiting the gym swell in the New Year. With promises of weight loss and improved fitness, Personal Trainers and Group Exercise Instructors would implore those attending to sweat hard for their weight management. When I used to be that young Personal Trainer too and I was motivating my mid-life female clients to work harder, I had no idea about menopause. I also had no idea that if these women weren’t sleeping, none of this exercise mattered for their weight loss. Three months later, it was all back on – an more! I also didn’t know that a good night’s sleep was what was needed instead.  

 I knew none of this until I went into menopause myself. Nor did I understand what was really happening with my menopause belly fat, sore joints, worsening insomnia and endless hot flushes, until I explored the powerful connection between not sleeping, intense exercise and our symptoms in menopause.  The more I researched, the greater the realisation that women going through their menopause transition into post-menopause, are forgotten about when it comes to looking after ourselves with our weight management. Too many women end up taking endless expensive supplements, protein powders and doing all sorts of exhausting exercise routines, until they get to the point where they realise that none of these interventions work into the longer term. I know this because every week, I get emails and messages telling me. 🙂 

When women on my doctoral studies told me similar stories about doing lots of exercise, but not losing weight, I knew I had to examine what was really going on more closely. The hundreds of women who have joined me this year on the MyMT™ menopause weight loss Transform Me programme, are pleased that I did. [Please don’t forget that this programme is ON SALE at the moment whilst we are in lock-down with Covid-19 – I have taken $100NZ off the cost of it making it $199NZ/ AUS$197 or UK£97 with payments over 3 months – access your savings using the promo code MyMT2020]  


They now know that their menopause weight management has nothing to do with hours spent exercising or low carb, high protein, high fat, hard-to-adhere to, popular diets. It’s all to do with sleeping all night.

This means changing your evening routine, nutrition and exercise choices so that you don’t wake up to hot flushes and night sweats at the time of night when our body is supposed to be healing, repairing and fat-burning. This is what I help you understand at first, as well as a condition called oestrogen dominance. 

When you sleep all night, this is the first step to stopping gaining and beginning to reduce a condition called ‘oestrogen dominance’.

I never knew about oestrogen dominance when I went into menopause – neither it seems did the health and exercise professionals, the Keto-diet advocates or the medical experts I went to as well.  I only learnt about this condition when nothing worked for my menopause weight loss, despite being on Menopause HRT, and following the popular diet and exercise advice that I was given and every week, my weight was going up, not down. It was the same too, for so many women who I was interviewing for my women’s healthy ageing studies at the time. When I heard their stories, I knew I had to look into what was really going on in our menopause transition. As Philippa said to me when I interviewed her,

“I’ve been walking to and from work for years, but when my weight kept going up since my early 50’s, I joined the gym. But all the hard-out classes and Boot Camps I’m doing are not making any difference. In fact, I’m feeling even more exhausted and my weight has got worse.” 

The thing was, I was the same as Philippa. Exhausting exercise wasn’t helping my weight – yet for decades, this is what I had done to manage my weight.

I knew I had to get to the bottom of why women like me were suddenly being thrown into increasing weight gain in their 50’s – which can then send us down the slippery slope that our mother’s generation went down towards post-menopause heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and movement-related problems as the weight piles on and the joints become more sore. Needless to say, a lot of this weight can go into breast tissue, causing neck and shoulder problems for many larger women as well. This also makes exercise harder to tolerate.

“How we manage our menopause transition, shapes our health for the rest of our life  said a recent Harvard Health Review. After doing my doctoral studies on women’s healthy ageing, as well as feeling my own health changing, especially with my climbing cholesterol levels, sore joints and belly-fat increase, I couldn’t agree more.

Incredibly, because of our changing hormone levels in menopause, we can add 1-2 kg  a week during menopause when we can’t sleep, with much of this going on our belly and under our diaphragm.

When women come on board into the MyMT Transform Me programme, they go into their private learning hub. In here I’ve got the two most important modules to get them started with the powerful strategies they need for firstly, stopping gaining weight and second, turning around their metabolism, so they begin to lose. The first module is simply called ‘Sleep All Night’ and the second module is called ‘Are you Oestrogen Dominant?‘. I can’t tell you the number of emails that I get whereby women say ‘Wow! This makes so much sense to me now.”   When menopause robs us of our sleep (oh, I so remember those endless nights of waking up between 2 and 4am),  it also robs us of our metabolic ability to fat-burn overnight, no matter our age! 

Why do our fat levels increase when we can’t sleep?

Understanding how our body burns fat and maintains its metabolism as we move into our biological ageing was important for me to understand. I’ve taught university level physiology for years, but none of this has been focused on the ageing female body, so, if you are as curious as I was, then here’s what’s really going on:

  1. Being awake night after night means that a hormone called insulin remains higher than usual overnight. The role of insulin is to shift glucose around your body, especially to your brain, liver and muscle cells where it gets stored in your cells. Overnight, your body likes your insulin levels to be low. This is because high insulin levels interfere with the production of your sleep hormone called melatonin‘. And as we prepare to go to sleep and stay asleep, then melatonin levels should be as high as they can be. This is why I teach women what to do to achieve the right balance between melatonin and insulin as part of the first module they listen to in their private learning area on the 12 week online MyMT Transform Me programme. 

2. We all know how lack of sleep makes us feel don’t we? But how about when this goes on night after night, sometimes for weeks and months?! Whilst some thinner women increase their risk of heart problems, anxiety and depression with the resultant lack of sleep, other women who have a bigger, stronger body-type, like me, (adrenal body-type), end up developing high levels of their chronic stress hormone, called cortisol. Too much cortisol production causes more hormonal chaos during peri-menopause and into post-menopause (when your periods have stopped for a year or more).

Cortisol is one of your stress hormones. When it remains high all day long and into the evening, then it also messes up both insulin and testosterone production (yes, we do have testosterone being produced in menopause). For those of you who have been reading my newsletters for a while, you’ll know that I’m always talking about how all of our hormones are connected and ‘talk to each other’. Well, this is one example of what happens to the hormone chaos when we can’t sleep AND we are going through menopause. It’s why I keep saying that oestrogen and progesterone aren’t the only culprits affecting our weight and our symptoms in menopause! It’s other hormones, such as cortisol, insulin and testosterone that get out of balance too and too much of the wrong exercise can mess up cortisol production as well. 

The result?

Increased fat gain under your diaphragm, around your waist and on your stomach. Very annoying for many of us who have worked hard at our nutrition, exercise and weight management over the years!

However, for women going through menopause and into post-menopause, there is something else affecting weight gain during menopause as well – your loss of muscle density. I call it, the forgotten factor in understanding menopause weight gain.

When we lose oestrogen as a normal outcome of our changing biology, we also lose muscle size and density. It’s a condition called sarcopenia, which is a fancy name for muscle loss.

If we aren’t sleeping, then the muscle loss speeds up as your metabolism changes because you aren’t getting the benefit of muscle recovery overnight, despite pumping weights at the gym. All Body-builders know that to grow more muscle, you need your beautiful sleep. When we don’t sleep however, as I said earlier, one of our chronic stress hormones, called cortisol remains high. One of the outcomes, is that as you lose muscle density, then you also lose the number and size of mitochondrial cells. These beautiful cells store oxygen and this is where fat is burned. In menopause and as a natural part of our biological ageing, we lose precious mitochondrial cells and this wrecks havoc on menopause fat-burning potential. 

All of these factors combined – not sleeping, increased insulin and cortisol and loss of muscle tissue – have the greatest impact on our changing health as we age. It’s also why my first two learning modules focus women on what to do to turn around the quality of their sleep and to prevent insulin chaos and a condition called ‘oestrogen dominance’. When we aren’t sleeping, excess oestrogen that is in the body goes to fat cells, so we must improve clearance of this excess oestrogen from our liver. This is the starting point for improving weight gain.

This is why, the 12 week, online Transform Me programme,  is ON SALE for you throughout the month of April as we all hunker down and do our ‘bit’ to fight the Covid-19 virus. [Promo Code is MyMT2020].

It’s such a challenging time for all of us as so many people rely on us to ‘cope’ but with menopause symptoms and weight gain, the ability to ‘cope’ may also go out the door! That’s why sleeping all night and restoring insulin chaos and the increase in oestrogen dominance is so important for our healthy ageing.

Most other practitioners think that it’s just nutrition and exercise that solve our weight issues in menopause, but this is incorrect. It’s lack of sleep and waking up to hot flushes and night sweats that is the most important issue for many of us to sort out.

Through my doctoral studies on women’s healthy ageing, I’ve discovered that there are simple, but highly powerful daily lifestyle solutions that we can use, instead of sleep medications, hormone therapies or endless supplements that are putting oestrogen back into our body at a time when our liver is trying to clear excess oestrogens.

For example, the women already underway will be discovering that what they eat and drink in the evenings during their peri-menopause transition, seriously affects their ability to get to sleep. This includes how much protein they have for dinner. This is because of the link between protein metabolism, heat production and insulin release in the hours before bedtime. When insulin is too high, then the production of our sleep hormone MELATONIN is reduced so timing and type of food for dinner matters to our sleep. 

But there’s another issue for some women as well. And that’s whether they are overweight as they reach their peri-menopause years. If so, then the high insulin response and resultant lack of sleep, may become worse. Being overweight  going into menopause increases HOT FLUSHES before bed-time and this makes getting off to sleep and staying asleep a challenge.

Why this occurs is because of the complex link between our blood pressure and temperature and changing oestrogen levels, so our thyroid gland works hard to cool the body down in the evening. Do some of you feel that your hot flushes become worse in the evening and then you get night sweats?

This is why knowing my lifestyle solutions in order to regulate your heat overnight is powerful – and it’s why sleeping all night is the foundation to controlling your hot flushes and night sweats too.  

I understand how lack of sleep affects your day-to-day functioning, our energy levels and our moods, because I was that woman too. It’s why I’m so passionate about helping you to ‘Sleep All Night‘ and turn around the symptom chaos and your weight through the evidence that is better suited to our changing hormones in mid-life and beyond.  We don’t have to do exhausting exercise or go on restrictive diets.  It changed my life when I learnt what to do too and now it’s changing other women’s lives around the world as well.

If this sounds like you, then please join me if you can.  Transform Me is a revolutionary programme for women to not only lose weight in menopause, but also to help you to discover how to reduce your symptoms and restore yourself to better health as you age. From now throughout April, 2020, this powerful menopause weight loss programme is ON SALE making the programme and my individual coaching NZ$66/ AUS$65/ UK£33 a month for 3 months. Just use the promo code MyMT2020 in the Buy Now button below.  If you also want to take longer than the 12 weeks, then no problem – there is just a small admin charge of NZ$12.50/AUS$12.00 /UK£6.00 a month to stay with me and continue your access. 

The entire Transform Me programme is now updated with the latest evidence for women in their mid-life transition. There is also a bonus JOINT HEALTH module, MINDFULNESS module and optional modules with lifestyle solutions for those of you on Menopause HRT and Anti-depressants. And you get to download my FOOD GUIDE which has all of your food solutions that I’ve researched specifically for mid-life women. 

 You can also view my VIDEO below as well. Please come and join me if you are struggling in menopause. I know I was too and no other programme had pulled together all of the information that we need to reduce our symptoms and help to manage our weight as we age. I can’t wait for you to join me inside the programme. 

Wendy Sweet, [PhD/ Women’s Healthy Ageing Researcher & MyMT Lifestyle Coach

References:

Brady, C. [2015]. Liver disease in Menopause, World Journal of Gastroenterology, 21(25), 7613-7620

Cabot, S. & Eanelli, T. [2010]. Fatty Liver – you can reverse it. Amazon Publ.

Edwards, B. & Jin Li, [2013]. Endocrinology of menopause. Periodontology, 61, 177–194.

Ford, C. et al. [2017]. Evaluation of diet pattern and weight gain in postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. British Journal of Nutrition, 117, 1189–1197.

Harvard Health, [2018]. Lose weight and keep it off. Harvard Health Online Publications. Boston: MA

Kendall, B. & Ester, R. [2002]. Exercise-induced muscle damage and the potential protective role of estrogen. Sports Med., 32 (2), 103-123

Lerchbaum, E. [2014]. Vitamin D and Menopause: A review. Maturitas, 79, 3-7.

Moudi, A. et.al [2018]. The relationship between health-promoting lifestyle and sleep quality in menopausal women. Biomedicine, 8(2), 34-40.

Rizzi, M. [2016]. Sleep disorders in fibromyalgia syndrome. J. of Pain & Relief, 5:2.

Ryan, M. Itsiopoulos, C. et al. (2014). The Mediterranean diet improves hepatic steatosis and insulin sensitivity in individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Journal of Hepatology, 59(1), 138-143.

Santosa, S. & Jensen, M. (2013). Adipocyte fatty acid storage factors enhance subcutaneous fat storage in postmenopausal women. Diabetes, 62,3, 775-782, ProQuest Central.

Wacker, M. & Holick, M. [2013]. Sunlight and Vitamin D: A global perspective for health. Dermato-endocrinology, 5:1, 51–108.

Woods N. et al. [2009]. Cortisol levels during the menopausal transition and early postmenopause: Observations from the Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study.  Menopause, 16(4): 708–71

“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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