Lockdown weight gain, or Middle Aged Spread
A problem which I am hearing a lot right now is “post-lockdown weight gain”. All of us, with the best of intentions, moved a little less, and indulged a little more, and now, we are wearing the price. For me, I am feeling the double annoyance of both lockdown gym-inaccessibility, plus that most delightful of issues, “Middle Aged Spread”. I genuinely never truly understood this facet of menopause before. Hot flushes? Got them, sorted them out with some effective herbal tonics, and that’s done. Peri-menopausal mood swings? Recognised them possibly a little too late to truly treat, but had been treating symptomatically with herbs, nutrients and exercise. All of those things I was on top of, but the weight gain, specifically around the middle section was a shock to me.
The mechanism of middle aged spread, which is referred in the text books as “increased visceral fat in the subcutaneous area”, is apparently seen as a protective process for future hormone release. As hormones are stored in the fat, it would make sense to increase storage of fat, when we transition to producing less of them. Does this explain why we increase fat around our tummies? No. Read on…
Stepping onto the menopausal rollercoaster is likely due to decreased secretion of oestrogen and progesterone. Oestradiol is useful for helping maintain anabolic activity, such as maintenance of muscle mass. Losing muscle means that you also slow your metabolism, and your ability to maintain weight is affected. This also increases the risk of insulin resistance. During perimenopause, as our oestrogen and progesterone decrease, androgens (testosterone) remains at the same level or higher, which exacerbates the abdominal weight gain. As androgens are important in maintaining libido and muscle growth, we need them, but this imbalance is often a change which we don’t see coming.
Stress also adds to the increased weight as cortisol will store adipose tissue, as a mechanism of the flight / fight response. And do I need to mention that women approaching menopause might have more than the usual amounts of stress? It’s a hard one to avoid – just as you think you have life sorted, your kids turn into teens or uni students, your parents start to decline, your partner has a mid-life crisis, and you stop sleeping. Stressed, much…?
So how do you combat this? There are a few proven and useful methods.
- Low carb eating
- Intermittent fasting
I can go into more detail about each of these, but that is best done in clinic with time to spend discussing where you have come from, and where you intend to be long term. My usual advice for managing menopausal weight gain, is to start getting fitter before you hit this stage – it’s easier to maintain insulin dysregulation and muscle strength if you are starting from a good basis. For those who have missed that mark, don’t fret, it’s all possible, but you need to start with a good eating program, and start exercising. I use the Ultra Lite Low Carb eating program and get amazing results with my clients in Geelong and the surrounding Bellarine Peninsula.
I have got some great herbs for managing sugar cravings, blood sugar regulation, and stress. I can even introduce you to my favourite exercise spot, Geelong’s Gym, for some inspiring exercise classes!
Managing the stress will also be helped by herbs and exercise, but it may be a good time to start consulting with a counsellor or psychologist, in order to check in with some of your triggers for stress and poor sleep. Our mental health is essential to our wellness, and learning tactics for recognising and responding to stress with equanimity is a worthwhile investment in your wellness.
For me, it’s been a good reason to return to exercise and cutting out the carbs. I started around two weeks ago, and with exercise classes (Body Attack, Cardio Box, Pilates and swimming) each week, and eating a healthy low carb diet, I have lost 1.2kg and lost 5cm on my waist. This is a healthy level of change in this time, and over the next four weeks to Christmas, I anticipate that I will lose another two kg. The weight concerns me less than how my jeans fit, to be honest.
So for help with losing the lockdown weight, or addressing the mid-section adiposal increase, please see me in clinic.