Can you lose weight during the menopause? The answer is definitely yes but it can be a struggle. A couple of weeks ago we looked at the complexities of menopause and impact our hormones have on managing our weight through menopause. Although the focus should always be on creating an overall calorie deficit, we also learned it’s not quite as simple as that. You can read more here:
So how do you go about losing weight during menopause? The answer might not be quite what you’re expecting.
It would be easy for me to start saying which foods you should/shouldn’t eat, set meal plans or recommend particular diets but losing weight is about doing the hard work.
1. Identify your goals
This is essential. Why do you want to lose weight? What are your specific goals? Why is this important to you? Are your goals realistic?
You need to be clear on all of these things to ensure you stay motivated when things get tough. Life is busy and menopause throws lots of obstacles in our way. If you’re not crystal clear on what you want to achieve and why, it will be hard to stay on track.
2. Small Changes
Transforming what you eat can be hard. How many times have you said to yourself “Right, that’s it, from tomorrow no chocolate, no crisps, no alcohol. I’m eating salads and vegetables with every meal. I’ll exercise every day etc.” This becomes overwhelming. It so easy to fall short of such high expectations, you then feel like you’ve failed and it’s easy to give up. Transforming what you eat is not about perfection, it’s about making small changes every day and making them become new habits.
When do you make bad food choices? I know for me it’s generally when I’m hungry and have nothing planned to eat. It’s those moments when you roam the kitchen, finding anything that takes your fancy or grab something to go because you’re past the point of making good choices. If you want to manage you weight you have to be willing to be prepared. This takes effort and time but without it, you’re setting yourself up to fail.
4. Mindful Eating
Mindfulness is a term that’s used a lot and has lots of different interpretations. To me, mindful eating is about being present when you’re eating. How many times have you eaten something and you don’t even remember it? Part of satisfying our appetite is allowing our brain to know that we’ve eaten. Sitting down at the table, focusing on what you’re eating, how it tastes and how full you are are all important parts of managing your eating habits.
To me eating healthy should not be focused on restriction. My daughters often ask if a food is good or bad for you. I’m very keen to ensure they grow up with a healthy relationship with food. So my answer is always no food is good or bad if eaten in moderation. Foods high in sugar and saturated fat need more moderation than natural food high in fibre and nutrients but you need variety in your diet and you need to lose the guilt. Going back to point 4, being mindful allows you to really listen to when your body is full. Do you always serve a full plate of food? Do you need that much? Do you feel stuffed after you’ve eaten? All of these things need to be taken into consideration.
6. Don’t Focus on Failures
You cannot be perfect all the time and trying to eat the perfect diet is often not sustainable. Especially if you’ve had a challenging history with food and managing your weight. If you make a bad choice then that’s just one bad choice, don’t let it turn into a bad day. Or if you have a bad day, don’t let it turn into a bad week. How many times have you thought, well I’ve ruined it now so I might as well start again on Monday?
7. Know Your Numbers
How much should you be eating? Do you know? This doesn’t need to be measured in calories if that doesn’t work for you but how much are you eating currently? Are you maintaining or putting on weight? Has this changed? As we spoke about in the recent blog on calories in vs. calories out this can change as we get older and especially as our hormones fluctuate. You need to be really honest with yourself and work out what is and isn’t working for you.
I know it can feel hard to get started and motivated but exercise is essential. There is a huge amount of evidence around how exercise can help with managing menopausal symptoms but it also an essential part in managing weight. This doesn’t mean you need to kill yourself at the gym but ensuring regular physical activity is part of your routine will make a huge difference.
9. Healthy Mindset
So much of our behaviour is driven by our thoughts. How do you think about your body? How much control do you believe you have on your weight? When things go wrong how do your thoughts affect what you eat? Going back to the initial point, it’s so important you revisit your Why – why are you focusing on eating better and nourishing your body?
You may think it strange to include sleep in an article about weight loss but you have to do the work to fix any sleep issues if you want to lose weight. This is what I mean about doing the work. Fixing sleep issues is not necessarily easy but sleep is such an essential part of our well-being that it can be very difficult to lose weight if you aren’t getting enough.
11. Manage Stress
During menopause we don’t deal very well with excess cortisol. Chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight. It can even cause you to add extra pounds. There are more cortisol receptors in your abdominal fat cells than anywhere else in your body. This explains why when cortisol levels are consistently high, it becomes easy to store around your abdominals.
To me this encompasses everything. Managing your weight should be seen as part of self-care and should come from a place of love for your body. Nourishing your body with food that makes you feel good and looks after your body is the best thing you can do for your body. If you want to lose weight – you have to look after yourself.
So what now? Take some time to think through each of these areas, what do you need to focus on?