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Help – I’m heading for the menopause and I can’t control my weight!

Menopause, something all women have to face. It's a challenging time for most women and a dreadful time for others. Fortunately, we ARE talking about it more and there IS help out there in the form of menopause specialists such as Dr Louise Newson, GP and menopause expert, and Sally Norton GP.

Among the many changes we can encounter; our lower energy levels, our mood swings, our self esteem, our brain fog, our sense of loss etc, weight gain and the sometimes seemingly futile efforts to lose weight and keep it off can make us feel depressed and hopeless.

FIT is a tool that really can help to turn that around, to see making good choices as something enjoyable, empowering and an effective and simple way to take us to our ideal selves. Using the techniques that FIT teaches, along with person centred counselling (MI), clients report a changed mindset, sustained weight loss, and a healthier, balanced life. Sally Norton reflects on some of the challenges menopause can bring and reminds us that there IS something we can do about it!

This article has been written by Sally Norton, a UK-based medical doctor and weight-loss consultant.

With two-thirds of us overweight or obese, and all of us ladies facin g the menopause at some stage, the double whammy of weight-loss struggles and menopausal woes is going to face a lot of us. Many women feel that their weight gets harder and harder to manage the older they get…and yet, several scientific studies show no convincing link between weight gain and the menopause itself.

After 15 years as an NHS weight loss surgeon, managing hundreds of women who were really struggling with their weight. I noticed a pattern. Many of them were women in their 40s, starting to run into trouble sleeping, thinking straight, multitasking, or generally just coping with life. And they were increasingly depressed with their weight loss struggles after years and years of failed diets.

A fair number had been started on anti-depressants – but these were women who just couldn’t understand why they were losing their normal joy in life, their superwoman ability to manage everything that family, work and life in general was throwing at them …and they put it down to their weight.

I thought there was more to it than just their weight and general low mood, so I started investigating the link between weight, hormones and the peri-menopause.

Whilst studies don’t show a clear link between the menopause itself and weight gain, I believe there are 9 reasons we struggle with our weight at just about the same time that the peri-menopause and menopause hits us…..

  1. Many of us have been on and off diets for years. In fact, 65 % of us have tried to lose weight in some way and a whopping 2 million women are going on fad diets in any one year. But studies show that fad diets rarely lead to long term weight loss.Your body keeps thinking you are starving, every time you crash diet, and so it thinks it is doing you a favour by stockpiling a lot of fat-storing energy! Then, repeated failures leave us feeling demoralised, gaining more weight than we lost …plus causing long-lasting harm to our bodies and minds. So maybe those years of yo-yo dieting are catching up on us? The point is, that we approach the menopause already struggling with our weight, having tried and failed to get it under control for years and then IT JUST GETS EVEN HARDER. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?!

  2. We move less, as our joints become a bit stiffer – which means we burn up less energy anyway. And the menopause can play havoc with our bladder control as the pelvic floor loses its strength and the change in hormones gives us the feelings of urgency, cystitis and loss of control…and that can put some women off exercising.

  3. Our body needs less energy than growing energetic teenagers, or when we were pregnant, breast-feeding or running around after young children… and yet we often carry on eating the same! Studies show that we may need around 200kcals less a day than we did in the past…and it’s very easy to eat 200kcals without noticing it!

  4. What’s more we lose muscle too – a condition known as sarcopaenia – at around 8% per decade after 40. Muscle is more metabolically active – that means it burns more energy – helping us to lose weight even when we are sitting on the sofa! Yo-yo dieting leads to more muscle loss too. So, less muscle = less calories burned = more weight gain.

  5. There is some evidence that lower levels of ‘fat-burning’ brown fat may contribute to the middle-age spread too….an area being heavily researched at the moment.

  6. Changing hormones around the menopause can also affect the way we store fat – around the middle rather than on the hips ……where men traditionally put on their fat, in fact. Making you more of an apple than a pear shape. Fat around the middle is more likely to be associated with heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and more so is worth avoiding if you can.

  7. And don’t forget the psychological reasons too – maybe we have less to occupy our time as kids leave home. Or we may be busy caring for older relatives as well as stroppy teenagers. That puts extra pressure on many of us at a time when our energy may be low and our irritability high!

  8. We may be over-stretched in high-pressure jobs (and the peri-menopausal brain-fog does nothing to help, of course!) or worrying about our own health or finances – all of which can cause stress and over-eating.

  9. And we may be starting to lose our self-esteem –focusing more on the increasing wrinkles than our increasing life-experience. Some women who have prized their looks may find it difficult, even subconsciously, if they are watching their daughters blossoming as they feel they are sagging.

When you look at everything that’s going on at this time of life, it’s surprising that anyone manages to control their weight at all, to be honest!

But don’t despair. Once you realise there are many reasons why the weight creeps on, you can do something about it.


Click the link to read about some solutions Sally proposes and contact me for an initial chat about your unique circumstances and how FIT can help you.


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