For many of my female clients over 40, it can a nightmare once menopause hits. You find yourself frustrated, confused, unsure of your purpose and often experience a dip in overall joy and self-confidence.
You feel like you have to eat less and exercise more yet still put on weight, especially around your waistline.
In addition, the hot flashes, disrupted sleep and mood swings, can make life feel unfair. You feel like you are living in someone else’s body and wonder what the heck is going on?
What you are experiencing is what I like to call hormonal burnout and it can wreak havoc on your female hormones and metabolism. The good news is that research shows there is a clear way to reverse its effects and reestablish hormonal balance.
While I do see clients in their 20s and 30s experiencing hormonal burnout, it is something that affects all women as they mature through menopause. It also affects many women even years earlier. Risk factors for hormonal burnout include life stressors and changes like; changes in relationships, new baby, new career, new home, financial pressure, surgery, infections etc.
Hormonal burnout is 100% impacted by stress and caused by declining levels of estrogen and its sister-hormone, progesterone. For women with “normal” periods estrogen and progesterone are in opposition. They go up and down naturally like a see-saw. When estrogen is high, progesterone is low and vice versa. However, by age 40 (or earlier if you are not in optimal health), as ovulation slows, hormonal burnout begins.
Here is what happens:
- Progesterone which is often already too low in women continues to decline even more…
- Then estrogen starts to drop dramatically. There is also an issue of too much “bad” estrogens from environmental toxins vs the “good” estrogens that are protective.
- And then fat gain around the middle kicks into high gear and as many women know is very difficult to lose.
When hormonal burnout strikes, your metabolism becomes vulnerable due to two main reasons. If this is not corrected you may fall victim to the trap of eating less and exercising more which is NOT what I recommend.
ISSUE #1: You Become More Carb-Sensitive (1-3)
Firstly as your healthy estrogen declines, you become unable to process carbs as effectively. This is due to the fact that estrogen helps your body manage blood sugar. The Coles Notes are; less estrogen leads to higher blood sugar and higher blood sugar turns into fat, especially around the abdomen. Abdominal weight as a side note is not purely a cosmetic issue, it increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke so it is something to take seriously.
This inability to process carbs as effectively is why an evening bowl of pasta or cereal can result in your pants feeling very fight in the morning.
So, should you eat fewer calories and completely remove carbs? Absolutely not. That is a recipe to stresses out your metabolism even more. Carbs are important for thyroid function and to fuel the development of lean muscle. Remember the amount of lean muscle you have directly determines your metabolism.
This leads us to issue number two…
ISSUE #2: You Become More Sensitive to Stress or Less Resilient to Stress (4-6)
Some research suggests that once you’re through menopause, your stress-hormone cortisol spikes and your body is less resilient to stress in the environment (6). In the same study showed that estrogen appears to blunt the stress-induced response. These hormonal changes are unfortunate, as a woman’s metabolism is already more sensitive to stress than a man’s. In addition to making weight loss difficult, rising cortisol level in women during this time may influence the risk of cardiovascular disease, vasomotor symptoms, mood, cognition, and bone loss.
In addition to the drop in estrogen, and rise in cortisol, lower levels of progesterone makes matters even worse. That’s because less progesterone means less of the brains “feel good” molecules, serotonin and GABA. These molecules help you stay happy, relaxed and sleeping well. That acts like a shield, protecting you from the damaging effects of stress.
So with a weaker stress shield (due to lower estrogen and progesterone), you’re much more vulnerable to cortisol:
- It can break down collagen in your skin and reduce elasticity making you appear older and predisposing you to fine lines and wrinkles.
- It can break down muscle and bone, lowering your metabolism and increase your risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
- Worst of all, I like to call it the “Miracle-Gro” for fat growth, especially around the midsection. And that’s not the kind of miracle women are typically looking for.
Here Is The Solution…
Fortunately, there is a way to conquer these dual threats: Turn your natural hormonal rhythms into a metabolic advantage. This something women can do… but men can not!
By using your hormones to your advantage instead of working against them, you can burn more fat during exercise and have more control over where that fat is stored.
And when this advantage is combined with a special type of exercise, it can really help your mid-section slim back down. Furthermore restoring estrogen balance, in particular, has been shown to reduce cellulite which is NOT just a cosmetic issue affecting 9 out of 10 women (more on this topic in another blog post).
But every woman has a unique set of hormonal rhythms. So to tap into this advantage, the first step is to understand your how your hormones work. Next, it is time to discover how diet, lifestyle and perhaps supplements can help you achieve your goals and maximize your nutrition and exercise efforts.
This is everything I teach in the Wild Side Wellness. My program is based on a fundamental framework developed over the last 2 years and combines the latest research with the experience of tried and true methods to restore hormone balance. Over 100 women have gone through the program and are seeing results because they understand:
- What are the best foods to eat and when (the right amount of carbohydrates at the right time is critical)
- Simple yet important daily habits to manage cortisol so you can keep burning fat
- How to combine effective workouts with nutrition to maximize efforts and target areas that are commonly resistant to fat loss (midsection, thighs, and buttock).
This is a holistic plan designed to help you look and feel your best while protecting you from the dual metabolic threats we discussed above.
Let me help you feel what it’s like to work with – instead of fight against – your hormones.
I hope you enjoy and I will see you on the Wild Side!
- Davies, Michael J., et al. “Effects of moderate alcohol intake on fasting insulin and glucose concentrations and insulin sensitivity in postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial.” Jama 287.19 (2002): 2559-2562.
- Walton, C., et al. “The effects of the menopause on insulin sensitivity, secretion and elimination in non‐obese, healthy women.” European journal of clinical investigation 23.8 (1993): 466-473.
- Mauvais-Jarvis, Franck. “Menopause, Estrogens, and Glucose Homeostasis in Women.” Sex and Gender Factors Affecting Metabolic Homeostasis, Diabetes and Obesity. Springer, Cham, 2017. 217-225.
- Woods, Nancy F., et al. “Increased urinary cortisol levels during the menopause transition.” Menopause 13.2 (2006): 212-221.
- Rideout, Candice A., Wolfgang Linden, and Susan I. Barr. “High cognitive dietary restraint is associated with increased cortisol excretion in postmenopausal women.” The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 61.6 (2006): 628-633.
- Lindheim, Steven R., et al. “Behavioral stress responses in premenopausal and postmenopausal women and the effects of estrogen.” American journal of obstetrics and gynecology167.6 (1992): 1831-1836.