I have to be honest. I think I raised my cortisol levels trying to write this article. Hormones are so simple and yet so complex at the same time that they could make you nuts trying to understand and explain it all.
But truth be told … Cortisol is an intricate part of the hormone dance. Its balance is critical to maintaining balance to all your other hormones, particularly during the years that surround menopause.
I’ll try and keep this to the point.
As you may already know, your adrenal glands share the task of making steroid hormones with your ovaries prior to the menopausal years. What you may not realize is that as you transition through the “change of life” your adrenal system plays a bigger role in all your steroid hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and cortisol.
Are you following me so far? Good, cause now I’m going to get into why your health, particularly your adrenal health, is so important.
More likely than not you associate how you look in the mirror or how your clothes are fitting to your health. If you’re comfortable with your clothes and your reflection then your health must be in fairly good shape, correct?
Well, your body may disagree with you!
If you’ve been living a high-stress lifestyle (and I think it’s fair to say all women live high-stress lifestyles simply due to trying to manage all we have to manage), have yo-yo dieted to keep your weight in check, over-exercise, consume a lot of sugar or highly processed foods, then although you may have been able to maintain your pant size your body is starving for nutrients.
And guess what? Peri-menopause & menopause is when this all starts to catch up to you. You see, up to this point your body has been able to get along. Whether you realize it or not, you may have been self-medicating any adrenal fatigue or hormone imbalances that you were suffering from prior to menopause.
You may have unknowingly reached for things like caffeinated beverages, a couple of small chocolates or a bag of popcorn to help correct a hormonal imbalance that sets in due to adrenal fatigue, developing insulin resistance or high cortisol levels. Or maybe you hit the gym or exercised obsessively. The adrenaline released from exercises would make you feel better and mask any imbalances you may have been suffering from.
One way or another you got through the day. And you were able to keep your reflection or your dress size within a comfortable range. But now something is different. Now your body has expanded beyond your comfort range and you feel it is completely out of control.
What happened is that whatever imbalance you were suffering from, caught up with you. Whether it was adrenal fatigue, insulin resistance, chronically high cortisol levels, overexposure to toxins or what have you.
Now if you live a high-stress lifestyle or have been unknowingly self-medicating a hormone imbalance with food, caffeine or exercise prior to this time, your body is going to find that all of sudden it doesn’t have the nutrients, energy, or biochemicals available to manage all of this. And it’s going to start storing fat as a way to compensate. After all, your fat cells are capable of making both major & minor hormones like estrogen and dehydro-epiandrosterone (DHEA).
And if your body is struggling to make estrogens, maintain bone density and you are eating a low-fat diet and under a lot of stress your body needs that fat to survive! After all, as you already know, life is about more than the reflection in the mirror or your current pant size.
But, here’s the good news:
You are capable of turning this all around. But it starts by healing the body. Not starving the body or over-exercising it. It starts by following a simple, yet balanced nutrition plan (I can help with this ) that will provide the body with balanced meals and the nutrients it needs to heal and support itself.
Once the body’s healed and is in a happy place, the weight you’ve gained will start to come off. If you are pre-menopause and haven’t gained any weight yet, now’s a good time to start healing your body to ensure you make a healthy and radiant transition through menopause.
The second thing you need to do is incorporate the proper amount of exercises. This would entail 2 – 4 days of resistance training per week. And, possibly, 2-3 cardio days depending on your individual biochemical needs and current stress levels.
Either way, if your desire is to shed the unwanted weight gain due to menopause you must start by healing the body. Do this by eating balanced meals that are comprised of protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, and non-starchy veggies. Start incorporating resistance training.
Once you have your diet dialed in, a good supplement regime will help fill the nutritional gaps and provide support to your endocrine system. But supplements should only come into play after you’ve established a solid nutritional foundation that you can stick with day after day, month after month.
Oh, one more thing…
There are so many things that impact your overall health that while diet and exercise is important. If you are not addressing your stress, lack of sleep or other emotional issues your current diet and exercise program may not be able to compensate for the drain you’re placing on your body.
After 40, fat loss has less to do with calories and more to do with hormones and hormonal balance. As a pharmaceutical chemist that has helped thousands of women reclaim their bodies and their lives during & after menopause, I can assure you more cardio alone is not going to get rid of the muffin top for most women.