What is there to say about perimenopause and weight gain … except that it stinks. Even formerly thin women are not immune to the hormonal shifts that cause the scale to inch up. Small comfort to those who have spent a lifetime dieting and still retained overweight. But it's reassuring to know you are not alone. This, along with mood swings and hot flashes, is just about the most common complaint noted by perimenopaal women. A ten pound gain is average.
It may make you feel better to know that fat cells store estrogen, which may help relieve some of the other symptoms you experience. No? Me neither.
So, why do we gain weight in perimenopause?
Well, no one is sure. But you can bet that hormonal changes, in addition to slowing metabolism and decreasing muscle tissue play a part. Not only that, but the weight sees to show up around our waist, instead of our hips or thighs, or our whole shape simply changes, so nothing fits, compounding the discomfort.
By the way, the jury is still out on whether HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) or the Pill makes you gain weight. Many women will swear that it puts 10 pounds on.
Is there something I can do about it?
Yes. Well, the obvious first answer I'm sure you already know. Diet and exercise.
BUT, I am not talking about "Diet," as in something you despise and can not wait to stop, but diet, as in a sane food plan that you can live with a day at a time for the rest of your life. Listen, cutting calories, if you started out thin, will do nothing to stop the inevitable, and may harm your health. You need a certain amount of fat on your body for good bone and heart health.
Note: If you are out of control with food, binging or purging, there are free support groups that can help you. I have a resource page with a list of the best of these groups.
Having struggled with weight, not only through perimenopause, but through my life, I think I've lost close to 1,000 pounds over the years. Against all odds, however, I was able to lose 55 pounds in 1997 when I was just beginning perimenopause, and have kept it off ever since.
I have to admit something to you. I did not exercise when I lost the weight. It was all I could do to keep from binging. I also did not want my weight loss dependent on maintaining an exercise lifestyle I probably would not keep up. Now, I walk because I want to be healthy. But the fact is, I always out-ate my exercise. Exercising my weight down just never worked for me.
Here are a few tips that helped me lose the weight in 1997 (and that I continue to do):
Cut out alcohol. It's nothing but refined carbohydrates and sugar. You might as well just eat a whole pizza and a dozen donuts. Plus, alcohol just makes me want to eat even more.
Get rid of artificial sweeteners. Aside from the continuing anecdotal evidence that the stuff is bad for you in so many ways, fake sugar increases cravings. More importantly, it can cause bloating, which feels like instant weight gain. But be prepared for a hard fall when you get off artificial sweeteners. Expect cravings, mood swings, headaches, and more. It's real drug.
Eliminate sugar and flour. Nobody wants to hear this. But I was a true food addict and those foods were like heroin to me. I have not ate refined sugar or any type of flour since 1997 and I prefer my size 6 body to the out-of-control size 18 that I was. Plus, they are calorie intensive and provide little nutrition.
Salt is not your friend. You'll be retaining water and possibly increasing your blood pressure. But you need to start reading labels, because even purportedly healthy processed food often contains loads of salt.
You do not have to be perfect. There's a Japanese saying "Nine Times Down, Ten Times Up." If you do not keep trying you will never achieve your goal. You do not have to do things perfectly to keep moving forward. That used to send me reeling backwards. If I made a mistake, was not perfect, I'd use that as an excuse to beat myself up with my food plan and blow everything by eating. Few things go as planned. Especially during perimenopause when your body pretty much controls YOU!
Losing weight is never easy. But it's very simple.
And just remember, if you stick to a food plan, and not a diet that you go on and off, this could be the last time you have to lose weight.