Will You Be Fat For Life …. After Menopause?

Weight Loss During Menopause

I cant seem to lose this ….. no matter how much exercise I do

Maybe you will be fat for the rest of your life …. after menopause …. and maybe you wont. It will be determined by the choices that you make …. and not by menopause.

On average, women gain 12 – 15 pounds during menopause. Many woman gain much more.

However, weight gain during menopause is not inevitable. Menopause does not cause weight gain, despite what you may think. See below.

Whats more, many woman have achieved weight loss during menopause … and they keep it off. These woman lost weight by changing their diet and exercise routines….in addition to doing one other thing.

I have heard so many of my patients say something to this effect

I have not changed my diet or exercise routines during menopause…but I have gained weight

The reason they have gained weight during menopause is precisely because they have not changed their diet and exercise routines. You need to change your diet and exercise routines … not keep them the same … to achieve weight loss during menopause. If you keep them the same, you will continue to gain weight.

There is one other factor that, that you probably are not aware of, that contributes to weight gain during menopause …. stress. It needs to be reduced, or you will not lose weight ….even if you exercise for an hour every day and eat well.

If menopause does not cause weight gain, what does?

Most women think that menopause causes weight gain. It does not. A comprehensive review by the International Menopause Society has found that going through the menopause does not cause a woman to gain weight. However, the hormonal changes at menopause are associated with a change in the way that fat is distributed, leading to more belly fat. Prior to perimenopause, women tend to store fat on their hips and thighs. During perimenopause, and after it, women tend to store fat around their mid-section.

Two events — menopause and the natural aging process – coincide at this time. Menopause merely becomes the suspect because it happens, as many women notice weight gain. The actual cause of weight gain during menopause is aging. However, the symptoms of menopause do contribute to it.

Aging is associated with a slowing of the body’s metabolism

  • your metabolism actually starts to slow down sometime in your 30s
  • the reason for this decrease in your metabolism is a decrease in your muscle mass
  • you tend to lose a 1/2 pound of muscle a year after the age of 30. Between the ages of 30 and 70, you are likely to experience a 40 to 50% reduction in your muscle mass
  • loss of muscle mass decreases the rate at which your body uses calories
  • as you lose muscle mass, you gain weight in fat. If you do not change your eating routines, the same caloric intake is not going to burn off. Those unburned calories will be stored as fat

If you continue to eat as you always have and don’t increase your physical activity, you’re not likely to experience weight loss during menopause.

How do your menopause symptoms contribute to weight gain?

A majority of women experience protracted periods of stress and disturbed sleep during menopause. Stress and disturbed sleep have a significant impact on your weight.

When you are under stress, your body produces cortisol ….known as the stress hormone. Protracted stress results in high levels of cortisol in your body. High levels of cortisol in your body causes your body to store more fat. It also prevents your body from burning fat. In the presence of high levels of cortisol, regular exercise will not burn fat and you will not achieve weight loss during menopause.

Protracted disturbed sleep leads to insulin resistance. It also leads to high levels of cortisol. High levels of cortisol brings about insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance, is a condition where the cells of your body become insensitive to insulin. Insulin is the key that unlocks body cells to allow glucose inside. Glucose provides your cells with energy. Your body makes glucose from the food that you eat. When your cells won’t ‘open’ for glucose, the glucose gets stored…..as fat. Insulin resistance also prevents fat loss. Even if you exercise daily, you will not lose weight.

How to achieve weight loss during menopause

At the risk of sounding trite, weight loss during menopause does come down to diet and exercise, plus stress reduction. However…….you have to know HOW to diet and HOW to exercise. While diet does involve what you eat, another major component of diet is HOW you eat

  1. include a stress reduction technique in your life. Do yoga or meditation, or some other stress reduction technique, regularly. This will help to modulate the cortisol level in your body. It will also help you to sleep better
  2. eliminate all processed food from your diet. They contain sugar, which exacerbates insulin resistance. Eat only real food. Real food does not need labels – ie – unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables. You will find real food in the outer aisles of your supermarket. Stay away from foods in the inner aisles. They are the processed foods. Try to eat organic as much as possible
  3. time management of eating – do not eat 3 meals per day. You should be eating something every 2-3 hours, during waking hours. Eat a smaller breakfast, lunch and supper, than you have been accustomed to eating. In between each meal, and also after supper, eat a healthy snack…ie a piece of fruit, nuts, yogurt etc
  4. do not eat double carbohydrates in any meal. Do not eat bread with meals containing potatoes or rice or pasta. Eat just 1 of those carbs per meal. Another no – no is cereal and toast for breakfast. Just have one or the other
  5. reduce your consumption of alcohol. Keep it to a minimum
  6. do at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity/exercise every day. It is best to do it in the morning, if your schedule permits it. To achieve weight loss, the intensity level MUST be moderate. Do not do high intensity exercise for weight loss. You will lose more weight faster, if you can fit in 2 daily sessions of aerobic activity/exercise …. even if the second session is only for 15 minutes

You must adhere to each of the 6 points above, to achieve weight loss during menopause. If you only implement 1 or 2 of them, you will not lose weight.

Good luck!

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How To Prevent Menopause From Being A “Hell On Earth” Experience

Menopause Symptoms

women who exercise tolerate their menopause symptoms better

Menopause is a “hell on earth” experience for many women. It is the worst thing, by far, that has ever happened to them. But….it doesnt have to be that way.

Scientific and medical researchers have conclusively found that menopausal women who

  • eliminate processed food from their diet
  • exercise daily
  • do a stress reduction technique regularly

experience less severe and fewer menopause symptoms.

Each of these actions can reduce specific menopause symptoms. If you do 1 or 2 of these actions you can reduce some of your symptoms, but not all of them. If you want to reduce all of your symptoms, you need do all 3 of these actions.

This post focuses on the effect that daily exercise has on your menopause symptoms.

Exercise…..you must be kidding

You may have the following thought right now

Give me a break! With the way that I feel, exercise is the last thing that I want to do. I am exhausted …. I have no energy and my body aches

However exercise reduces these menopause symptoms and many other symptoms as well. Here are some of the menopause symptoms that can be reduced by exercise

  • mood swings
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • anger
  • rage
  • irritability
  • inability to fall asleep
  • inability to stay asleep
  • memory loss
  • inability to concentrate
  • fatigue
  • exhaustion
  • weight gain
  • joint aches and pains
  • weaker bones (osteoporosis)

The word exercise has different meanings for different women. For some women it may evoke images of profuse sweating; for other women it may evoke images of moderate or mild sweating.

If the word exercise has a negative connotation for you, it may be helpful to think about doing physical activity instead of exercise. Physical activities can include doing housework, doing chores for your children or elderly parents, working in your yard, walking to your local store, strolling in a local park or forest or countryside, dancing, engaging in a sport that you enjoy, or any number of other activities in which you exert yourself physically to some degree.

I will use the term exercise, or aerobic exercise, in the remainder of this post, but you can think in terms of physical activity … if that helps you.

Stress, your brain chemistry, and your menopause symptoms

During menopause, women experience an increase in physical and emotional stress. When you experience stress, your body automatically goes into a hardwired inbuilt survival mechanism called “fight or flight”. It produces increased amounts of the hormone cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone. Increased levels of cortisol in your body exacerbates your menopause symptoms.

Stress also triggers a disruption in an entire chain of biochemical activity in your brain, which in turn affects the production of mood-regulating chemicals, including serotonin and endorphins. The end result of this also is an exacerbation of your menopause symptoms.

Exercise reduces stress by increasing the brain’s production of serotonin and endorphins, the feel good chemicals. This reduces the severity and frequency of your menopause symptoms.

The effect that exercise has on specific menopause symptoms

  • Studies show that 30 minutes of aerobic exercise improves sleep. By lowering stress and cortisol levels, it reduces sleep disturbance
  • Exercise replenishes depleted neurotransmitter levels that are involved in regulating mood. Researchers recommend that 30 minutes of aerobic activity every day is the best dose of exercise to relieve depression, and mood swings, and keep them at bay
  • Here is what the Mayo Clinic says about exercise and joint pain

    Though you might think exercise will aggravate your joint pain and stiffness, that’s not the case. Lack of exercise actually can make your joints even more painful and stiff. That’s because keeping your muscles and surrounding tissue strong is crucial to maintaining support for your bones. Not exercising weakens those supporting muscles, creating more stress on your joints.

  • Researchers have found that exercise boosts blood flow to the brain area involved in cognitive function. Regular exercise releases brain chemicals that are key for memory, concentration, and mental sharpness
  • Researchers reviewed 70 studies that examined the effect of exercise on 6,807 subjects who were fatigued. 90% of the studies showed that exercise reduces fatigue by as much as 65%. They found that exercise increases energy by 20%
  • If you do weight-bearing exercise, it will help to prevent osteoporosis. It makes your bones and muscles stronger and helps prevent bone loss. Walking, jogging, playing tennis, and dancing are examples of weight-bearing exercises
  • To lose weight, do at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity/exercise every day. It is best to do it in the morning, if your schedule permits it. To achieve weight loss, the intensity level MUST be moderate. Do not do high intensity exercise for weight loss. Combine this with a diet that is based on real food. Real food does not need labels – ie – unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables

Dr Wulf Utian, M.D. and executive director of the North American Menopause Society, says this about exercise

Women who exercise seem to tolerate the symptoms of menopause better; I think it’s that they have a better self-image and sense of well-being

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Why Dont Women Do These Things To Reduce Their Menopause Symptoms?

Menopause Symptoms

Could the foods that I eat worsen my symptoms?

Scientific and medical researchers have conclusively found that menopausal women who
  • eliminate processed food from their diet
  • exercise daily
  • do a stress reduction technique regularly

experience less severe and fewer menopause symptoms.

Each of these actions can reduce specific menopause symptoms. If you do 1 or 2 of these actions you can reduce some of your symptoms, but not all of them. If you want to reduce all of your symptoms, you need do all 3 of these actions.

This post focuses on the effect that processed food has on your menopause symptoms.

What is processed food?

Processed food is natural food that has been stripped of its nutritious, raw and fibrous elements to give it a longer shelf life. It has preservatives added to it, to make it last even longer. It has coloring added to it to make it look better and added sugar to make it taste better. All foods in cans, plastic containers or plastic packaging are processed foods. The majority of the shelves of your supermarket contain processed food. When you fill your shopping cart, chances are that it contains mostly processed food.

Why is sugar added to processed food?

Sugar is used heavily in processed foods to make them taste better. Sugar has been added to 75% of the 600,000 processed foods available in supermarkets in the US. It is found in breads, cereals, soups, crackers, hot dogs, salami and other packaged meats, juices, sodas, sports drinks, peanut butter, ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressings to name a few foods ….. not to mention cakes, cookies, candy and a Starbucks cappuccino.

Reading food labels will help you find out how much added sugar is in the foods you eat. The names of added sugar on food labels include

  • Brown sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • lactose
  • maltose
  • Malt sugar
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • Sugar
  • syrup

Be particularly wary of low fat and no fat foods. The fats in food gives it its taste. Food that has had fat stripped from it, tastes bland. If you look at the ingredients labels of such food, you will see that sugar has been added to give it flavor.

How much sugar is added to processed foods?

This WebMD article reveals how much sugar has been added into everyday foods. It may shock you. The added sugar content is expressed in grams. To put it in perspective for you……4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar.

The average 12-ounce can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. A typical 20-ounce soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar. If people thought about eating 17 teaspoons of sugar, they’d become nauseated.

What is the link between processed food, sugar and menopause symptoms?

Added sugar in the diet is the major cause of insulin resistance.

Your body secretes insulin in response to the foods you eat. Insulin breaks down the food you eat into glucose, which is commonly called blood sugar. It also enables the cells of your body to receive glucose. Glucose provides your body with energy, without which it could not function.

Your body can be either insulin sensitive or insulin resistant. If it is insulin sensitive, insulin is doing the job it is intended to do. If it is insulin resistant, your body will not be getting the energy it needs.

Your body does not process the large amounts of added sugar in processed food …. efficiently. Your body secretes increasing amounts of insulin in an attempt to energize the cells of your body, but this fails. Insulin becomes ineffective. When this happens frequently, the result is the condition known as insulin resistance.

Which menopause symptoms are affected by the consumption of processed food

The consumption of sugar is a trigger for hot flashes. When you ingest sugar, there is a spike in blood sugar which then elevates your body’s temperature. In addition, sugar has a vasoconstriction effect. Vasoconstriction is the narrowing (constriction) of blood vessels by small muscles in their walls. When blood vessels constrict, the flow of blood is restricted or slowed, which increases your blood pressure and your heart rate. This increase in body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate triggers hot flashes.

Added sugar in processed food increases the severity and frequency of mood related menopause symptoms. There is a direct link between sugar consumption and depression, irritability, anxiety, anger, rage, feelings of panic, and aggression. The added sugar will also make you feel tired. Eating lots of sugar is going to give you sudden peaks and troughs in the amount of glucose (blood sugar) in your blood. Since your brain depends on an even supply of glucose, it is no surprise that it brings about these symptoms.

Added sugar in processed food exacerbates joint aches and pains. These become more severe when blood sugar levels are high.

Last but not least, you do not need me to explain the effect that sugar has on weight gain.

How to eat to reduce your menopause symptoms

Eliminate processed food from your diet. Base your diet around real food. Real food does not need labels – ie – unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables. You will find real food in the outer aisles of your supermarket. Stay away from foods in the inner aisles. They are the processed foods. Try to eat organic as much as possible.

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Are Your Symptoms Caused By Menopause Or By An Underactive Thyroid?

Underactive Thyroid

Is it menopause....or my thyroid....or what?

Did you know that many of the symptoms of menopause are also symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)? Did you also know that 26% of menopausal women have an underactive thyroid condition?

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include

  • Exhaustion
  • Brain fog
  • Poor memory
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Low energy level
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • Sleep Disturbance
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Heart Palpitations

In addition, heavy menstrual flow, irregular menstrual cycles, low libido, and fluid retention are also symptoms of low thyroid function.

It is no wonder that many women can’t figure out whether they are coming or going during menopause.

What is the relationship between menopause and an underactive thyroid condition?

Women in their 40s and older are actually the group at highest risk of developing an underactive thyroid condition. Of course, this is also the age when women are experiencing menopause.

Prior to perimenopause, your hormones work in harmony by co-existing with one another in a certain ratio. This keeps your body healthy and functioning. During perimenopause, your ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone. While estrogen levels fall from their premenopausal levels during perimenopause, progesterone levels fall further. In terms of the ratio between them, there is greater percentage of estrogen in your body, relative to progesterone. This not only disturbs the balance between estrogen and progesterone, but it disturbs the balance between all the hormones in your body….thyroid hormones included.

Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism. Think of your metabolism as the “boiler room” of your body. As such, these powerful hormones affect nearly every cell, tissue, and organ in the body.

The changing ratio between estrogen and progesterone affects the functioning of your thyroid. It causes it to be less effective and your metabolism slows down. When thyroid functioning diminishes, it brings about the condition known as hypothyroidism. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid condition often worsen during the onset of menopause, due to hormonal shifts.

Rather than suspecting thyroid problems and getting the proper tests and evaluation, however, women are often being given estrogen and progesterone hormone treatments (HRT), antidepressants, or sleeping pills — which miss the real problem entirely, or even make symptoms worse. When HRT is given to a woman with hypothyroidism, it causes further hormone imbalance and destabilizes the thyroid even further.

How can I tell if I have an underactive thyroid?

The following checklist has been compiled from details provided by the Merck Manual, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and the Thyroid Foundation of America. It will help you to determine if you have an underactive thyroid.

____ I am gaining weight inappropriately
____ I’m unable to lose weight with diet/exercise
____ I am constipated, sometimes severely
____ I have hypothermia/low body temperature (I feel cold when others feel hot, I need extra sweaters, etc.)
____ I feel fatigued, exhausted
____ Feeling run down, sluggish, lethargic
____ My hair is coarse and dry, breaking, brittle, falling out
____ My skin is coarse, dry, scaly, and thick
____ I have a hoarse or gravely voice
____ I have puffiness and swelling around the eyes and face
____ I have pains, aches in joints, hands and feet
____ I have developed carpal-tunnel syndrome, or it’s getting worse
____ I am having irregular menstrual cycles (longer, or heavier, or more frequent)
____ I am having trouble conceiving a baby
____ I feel depressed
____ I feel restless
____ My moods change easily
____ I have feelings of worthlessness
____ I have difficulty concentrating
____ I have more feelings of sadness
____ I seem to be losing interest in normal daily activities
____ I’m more forgetful lately

I also have the following additional symptoms, which have been reported more frequently in people with hypothyroidism:

____ My hair is falling out
____ I can’t seem to remember things
____ I have no sex drive
____ I am getting more frequent infections, that last longer
____ I’m snoring more lately
____ I have/may have sleep apnea
____ I feel shortness of breath and tightness in the chest
____ I feel the need to yawn to get oxygen
____ My eyes feel gritty and dry
____ My eyes feel sensitive to light
____ My eyes get jumpy/tics in eyes, which makes me dizzy/vertigo and have headaches
____ I have strange feelings in neck or throat
____ I have tinnitus (ringing in ears)
____ I get recurrent sinus infections
____ I have vertigo
____ I feel some lightheadedness
____ I have severe menstrual cramps

What to do if you think you may have an underactive thyroid

If this checklist leads you to believe that you may have an underactive thyroid, ask your doctor for a TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) test. The conventional normal values are between 0.35 – 5.0. When the TSH levels are within this normal range, it is assumed that the thyroid gland is healthy and functioning normally.

However, this “normal” range of health is often considered too broad. Some physicians suggest that TSH results of less than 1, combined with the presence of the above symptoms, shows that there is a thyroid dysfunction, which may require treatment.

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Why Grandma’s Menopause Was Easier Than Yours

Added Sugar

hmmmm....I dont pay enough attention to the ingredients in the food that I eat

Chances are that in your life, you have enjoyed a higher standard of living than your grandmother experienced. However, despite the fact that your grandmother may have lived through the tough times of the great depression years, followed by World War ll, she probably ate more nutritious food than you eat now. She ate more natural food than you eat. You very likely consume more processed food, more junk food and more sugar.

Unfortunately processed food has become a staple in most of our lives. It has increasingly become part our lives since the 1950s. Processed food is natural food that has been stripped of its nutritious, raw and fibrous elements to give it a longer shelf life. It has preservatives added to it, to make it last even longer. It has coloring added to it to make it look better and added sugar to make it taste better. All foods in cans, plastic containers or plastic packaging are processed foods. The majority of the shelves of your supermarket contain processed food. When you fill your shopping cart, chances are that it contains mostly processed food.

It is harder to find a definition for the term junk food. Generally it means food that is low in nutritional value, but high in caloric value. Most people agree that candy, pretzels, chips, soda, ice cream, donuts, cookies and cake are junk food. Many people would also include fast food as junk food.

The most significant difference between grandma’s diet and yours has to do with added sugar in the food that you eat. In the decade between 1950-1959 USDA says that annual per capita consumption of sugars was 109 pounds. By the year 2000, USDA said that per capita consumption of sugars was 152 pounds.

What is sugar?

There are 3 forms of sugar. The form of sugar you may consume as table sugar, cane sugar, or white sugar is called sucrose. Then there is glucose. This type of sugar comes from eating carbohydrates such as such as rice, pasta, grain, and potatoes. Your digestion process converts these foods into glucose. Lastly there is fructose. The main food source for fructose is fruit. All fruits contain fructose. Fructose can also be made from corn. This is an important fact, as you will see.

Why are you consuming more sugar than your grandma did?

Sugars are used heavily in processed foods. Sugar has been added to 75% of the 600,000 processed foods available in supermarkets in the US. It is found in breads, cereals, soups, crackers, hot dogs, salami and other packaged meats, juices, sodas, sports drinks, peanut butter, ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressings to name a few foods ….. not to mention cakes, cookies, candy and a Starbucks cappuccino. Reading food labels will help you find out how much added sugar is in the foods you eat. The names of added sugar on food labels include

  • Brown sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • lactose
  • maltose
  • Malt sugar
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • Sugar
  • syrup

Why has sugar been added to processed food?

In the 1970s, medical researchers ERRONEOUSLY determined that the major cause of escalating cardiovascular disease (heart attack and strokes) was saturated fats in our diet….. much of which comes from the process food that we eat. Processed food manufacturers then embarked on a campaign to reduce and eliminate fat from their processed foods….hence fat free and reduced fat foods.

However, low fat food tastes like cardboard and the food industry knew it. It wouldnt sell. So what did they do? They developed an added sugar from corn, known as high fructose corn syrup (hfcs). Hfcs was sweeter than sucrose, which appealed to the sweet palate of Americans, it costs less than sucrose, and it lasts longer.

What does this have to do with my menopause?

Added sugar in the diet is the major cause of insulin resistance.

Your body secretes insulin in response to the foods you eat — particularly the carbohydrates. Insulin breaks down the food you eat into glucose, which is commonly called blood sugar. It also enables the cells of your body to receive glucose. Glucose provides your body with energy, without which it could not function.

Your body can be either insulin sensitive or insulin resistant. If it is insulin sensitive, insulin is doing the job it is intended to do. If it is insulin resistant, your body will not be getting the energy it needs. Your body does not process large amounts of fructose efficiently. So when the added sugar takes the form of hfcs, which is used extensively in processed food, insulin becomes ineffective. Your body secretes increasing amounts of insulin in an attempt to energize the cells of your body, but this fails. When this happens frequently, the result is the condition known as insulin resistance.

It is estimated that 25% of Americans are insulin resistant.

As you know, all of your menopause symptoms are caused by hormone imbalance – particularly imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. The way to relieve/reduce your symptoms is to re-balance those hormones. You cannot re-balance them, when the condition of insulin resistance exists. You must first address insulin resistance.
You do this by eliminating junk and processed food from your diet and basing your diet around real food. Real food does not need labels – ie – unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables. You will also improve the balance between estrogen and progesterone, if you eat real food.

A series of posts will follow soon about how sugar affects specific menopause symptoms.

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Weight Loss: Why Diet, Exercise, And Willpower Is Not Enough

Hunger Hormones

Too full to eat any more

Have you been experiencing any of the following signs?
  • weight gain around your middle
  • abdominable fat that wont shift with a healthy diet and exercise
  • low thyroid symptoms
  • sugar and food cravings
  • stress eating
  • late night eating
  • yo-yo dieting

If you have, you may be interested to learn the real cause of these signs.

Weight gain, and difficulty achieving weight loss, is primarily caused by hormones in your body known as hunger hormones, and the effects that they have on your major hormones …. insulin, thyroid and cortisol.

Ghrelin and leptin are the most important hunger hormones. They manage your appetite.

When you havnt eaten for a certain amount of time, your stomach secretes increasing amounts of Ghrelin. Ghrelin makes you feel hungry. It is the cause of your stomach growls and hunger pangs. I have already covered ghrelin in another post.

Leptin is your appetite suppressor. After a meal, leptin signals to the brain that the body has had enough to eat. Increased amounts of it are secreted from the fat cells of your body, telling your brain that you have enough energy stored in your fat cells to engage in normal metabolic processes. It tells your brain when you are full and that you do not need to eat any more food.

Of the two hunger hormones, leptin appears to be the bigger player in weight control and in the energy management of your body. It may be helpful to think of your body as a car and the level of leptin as your gas gauge. The gas gauge in a car lets you know how much fuel the car has. Leptin levels signal to your brain how much energy is stored in the cells of your body. Your two hunger hormones work together. When your brain detects low levels of leptin, your stomach secretes increasing amounts of Ghrelin to get you to eat….to replenish your body’s energy stores. Ghrelin exists to help you to maintain an appropriate level of energy in the cells of your body.

One expert on hunger hormones considers leptin to be the king of hormones. Dr Jack Kruse, a neuro surgeon and a leading researcher of the bio-chemistry of the body, says that leptin controls all energy production by regulating all the hormones in the body. He says leptin

controls all the other hormones in the body as well. So if it is not working well you can bet that the rest of your hormones are going to show clinical problems as well.

This will be the subject of another post.

Recent research has found that 80% of weight loss attempts fail….people fail to achieve weight loss that is permanent. This is not due to a poor diet program, although many of them are bad. It is not due to the lack of exercise, although exercise is certainly a necessary part of permanent weight loss. In many cases, it is not due to a lack of willpower, although in some cases it is.

The way in which your hunger hormones work together, explains why it is so difficult to lose weight permanently. If you go on a diet, you will reduce the number of calories you consume. This results in fat loss. Fat loss reduces the level of leptin, as leptin is in your fat cells. With a fall in your leptin level, your stomach secretes increasing amounts of ghrelin. This stimulates your appetite…you feel hungry. The more fat you lose on the diet, the hungrier you will feel.

With due respect to your level of willpower, there is a limit to how long you will go, before you satiate that hunger. This is why people regain weight after dieting.

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to manage your hunger hormones. The good news is: if you’ve failed at diets in the past, it was likely because you failed to regulate your hunger hormones and doing so can help you finally make lasting changes. I will discuss how to do this in another post.

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Ghrelin: A Hormone That Makes You Feel Hungry

Hunger Hormones

I'm starving

I dont know about you …. but a hormone that stimulates my appetite is not of great interest to me. My appetite is more than healthy. However, I sure am interested in a hormone that could help me curb my appetite.

We have hormones in our bodies that stimulate our appetite and curb it. They are known as the hunger hormones….ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin makes you feel hungry, while leptin makes you feel full. The two are interconnected. You cannot derive the benefits from leptin, without understanding ghrelin and how it works in conjunction with leptin.

Ghrelin is the hunger hormone generated in your stomach. It tells you that you are hungry and that it is time for you to eat. You will be familiar with ghrelin as the “stomach growl” or the hunger pang you experience, when you have gone too long without food. It is thought to have served humans well, protecting us from famine for millions of years. In times of famine, this hunger hormone kept us focused on finding food to survive. Ghrelin also helped us to survive during famines, by causing fat to be stored in our abdomen.

Now ghrelin is thought to play a significant role in obesity. Because people are not familiar with its existence and how to regulate it, they have high levels of it. This stimulates their appetite, causing them to eat more food than their bodies require. Ghrelin, along with other hormones, causes the body to store excess food, as abdominal fat.

Ghrelin levels increase prior to meals and decrease after meals. Research suggests that ghrelin responds to your “normal” meal times – meaning the times when you normally eat your meals. If you are accustomed to having lunch at 12PM and circumstances have conspired for a later lunch, ghrelin levels will be high from 12PM until you eat. If you were accustomed to eating 5-6 small meals a day and you change your eating pattern to eating to just 3 meals a day, ghrelin levels will rise at the previous meal times. It is thought that it takes approximately 2 weeks for ghrelin to adjust to a change in eating pattern.

The two hunger hormones – ghrelin and leptin – are interconnected. I will cover leptin fully in another post. However there is an interconnection between ghrelin and your body’s major hormones – cortisol, thyroid and insulin.

In the presence of stress, your body produces increasing amounts of ghrelin, as well as cortisol. When stress is chronic, as it often is during menopause, excess levels of cortisol affects the functioning of your entire body, often resulting in the conditions of insulin resistance and hypothyroid. Stress is associated with eating. Higher levels of ghrelin stimulate your appetite, and you will eat more. High levels of cortisol, like high levels of ghrelin, causes fat to be stored around the mid-section.

A study has found that high levels of ghrelin slows your metabolism. This means that ghrelin interferes with the functioning of your thyroid hormone. A less than optimum functioning thyroid is associated with weight gain.

Both hunger hormones have a significant influence on the functioning of insulin. Ghrelin levels are high during times when your body is getting a reduced amount of food, like when you are dieting to lose weight. The decreased amount of food, brings about a drop in insulin levels, because the amount of insulin released depends on the amount of food you have eaten. The low insulin level causes a rise in ghrelin, which makes you hungry and you makes you want to eat.

Sleep patterns affect the levels of your hunger hormones. Your ghrelin level is low when you have a good night’s sleep. It is high when you dont sleep well. A study found that sleep deprivation was associated with an increase in the level of ghrelin, appetite, and hunger, when compared to a ten hour sleep. By and large, women do not sleep well during menopause. A sleep survey of 900 menopausal women showed that 79 percent of them said that they have trouble staying asleep, and 63 percent struggle just trying to fall to sleep. If you are experiencing disturbed sleep, your ghrelin level will be high.

What does all of this mean to you? If you want to lose weight or keep your weight from going up, you dont want to have high levels of ghrelin. You will have to learn how to manage the levels of hunger hormones in your body. I will discuss how to do this in another post.

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Hunger Hormones: What Do You Know About Them?

Hunger Hormones

I never heard of hunger hormones

Chances are that you are more familiar with hormones now, than at any previous time in your life….because menopause is all about your hormones and the affect that their changes are having on you.

I would be surprised, if a menopausal woman was not familiar with estrogen and progesterone. But did you know that your body produces more than 60 known hormones….and that new hormones are being identified regularly?

Every physiological process in your body, that is responsible for all of your physical, mental and emotional experiences, can be attributed to one or more hormones. Hormones are messengers that tell the cells in the different parts of your body what to do. They are like software programs, directing your bodily processes. Eating is a bodily process. It should not be surprising then, that there are hormones that send a signal to your brain that you are hungry. Nor should it be surprising that there are hormones that send a signal that you are full.

There are two groups of what are referred to as hunger hormones. Broadly speaking, one group of hunger hormones signals to your brain that you are hungry; the other group of hunger hormones signals that you are full. The most important hungry hormone is called ghrelin. The most important satiety (condition of being full) hormone is called leptin.

These hormones work in conjunction with a part of your brain – the hypothalamus – that receives signals that control hunger and satiety. The hypothalumus contains a cell that is your hunger cell. It also contains another cell that is your satiety cell. When you feel hungry, ghrelin is produced by your stomach and travels to your brain, where it turns on the hunger cell and turns off the satiety cell. When you feel full, leptin is produced by the fat cells of your body and travels to your brain, where it turns on the satiety cell and turns off the hunger cell.

These hunger hormones have a significant influence in weight management. Weight management is a topic that most menopausal women are interested in, as

  • 90% of menopausal women gain some weight during menopause and many women gain a great deal of weight
  • there is a tendency for women to continue to gain weight after menopause, because your metabolism slows. After age 30, metabolism slows by about 2% per decade, thanks to a loss of muscle mass. We lose as much as 50% of our muscle mass between the ages of 20 and 90, and the rate of loss is especially pronounced from ages 50–70. We tend to lose 1/2 pound of muscle a year after the age of 30. After the age of 60, this muscle loss doubles. As we lose muscle mass, we gain weight in fat

In a recent post I discussed the interdependency of the hormones in your body – particularly the major hormones thyroid, insulin and cortisol. Ghrelin and leptin have a significant impact on the functioning of these hormones.

In my next posts, I will discuss these hunger hormones in more detail and the affect that they have on the functioning of the major hormones of your body. I will also discuss what you can do to manage ghrelin and leptin to prevent weight gain and even lose weight.

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Pear To Apple Body Shape – Part 6 – How To Lose Stomach Fat

Apple Body Shape

I'm eating well and exercising .... but I cant shift the stomach fat

OK….so maybe your body didnt exactly look like J lo’s prior to menopause, but looking back on it now …..I would bet that you would gladly have your pear shaped body back now.

Most women experience a change of body shape during menopause. Women are generally pear shaped up until menopause. During menopause, your hormones start to fluctuate and change. Basically, estrogen decreases by around 35% and progesterone decreases by around 75%. Both hormones decrease, but the balance changes. This condition is known as estrogen dominance. The change in ratio between these two hormones, disturbs the balance between them and thyroid, insulin, and cortisol, which are hormones that regulate major functions in your body. As a result, these hormones function less than optimally. This disturbance has been responsible for the change from a pear to an apple body shape.

The less than optimum functioning of thyroid, insulin and cortisol, causes your body to produce and store fat. Estrogen determines where that fat is stored. Prior to menopause, it causes fat to be stored on your thighs, buttocks and hips. After menopause, it causes fat to be stored in and around your mid-section….giving you an apple body shape look.

As the change in your body shape is caused by hormone imbalance, the first step to take to halt the storage of fat around your waist is to get your hormones tested. Hormone tests reveal the treatments that will re-balance your hormones. While you are taking these treatments, you can expedite the re-balancing of your hormones by adjusting your diet, according to the hormone deficiencies revealed by your tests.

If you do not re-balance your hormones, neither diet nor exercise can help you to lose your apple body shape.

Dietary advice for estrogen dominance

The general dietary advice to help you to lose your apple body shape that is triggered by estrogen dominance is

  1. stay away from processed foods
  2. try to eat organic food as much as possible
  3. eat lean meat and poultry
  4. eat fish a couple of times a week
  5. eat lots of fruit and vegetables
  6. eat whole grain breads, cereals and pasta products

The specific advice is that there are foods that help to help remove excess estrogen from your body and thereby fight hormone imbalance. These include

  • Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts all contain a chemical called DIM, a compound that naturally binds to estrogen and removes it from the body
  • Citrus fruits – they contain flavonoids that help regulate hormones

Specific dietary advice for under-performing thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism)

Thyroid requires 2 crucial minerals to carry out everyday functions….iodine and selenium. Some iodine rich foods for hypothyroidism include iodized salt, seaweeds and seafoods, salt water fish, sushi, nori rolls, and Celtic sea salt. Some selenium rich foods for hypothyroidism include meat, chicken, salmon, tuna, whole unrefined grains, Brazil nuts, dairy products, garlic, and onions.

Specific dietary advice for insulin imbalance (insulin resistance)

  1. Stay away from processed foods (refined carbohydrates) and sugary foods. They cause your blood sugar levels to surge, which triggers insulin secretion
  2. Eat foods that take time to digest. They allow for a more gradual, gentler rise in insulin levels. These foods include foods with higher fiber content such as whole grain breads and brown rice, non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, green beans, asparagus, carrots, and greens, fibrous fruit like berries, apples, pears and citrus fruit, and lean protein like fish, skinless chicken and turkey, and lean meat

Specific dietary advice for high cortisol

High cortisol levels are caused by stress. You can reduce your level of stress by regularly doing a stress reduction technique like yoga, meditation etc.

However, the cells of your body can experience stress as a result of the way you eat. If you do not eat often enough, your blood sugar levels will fall. When this happens, your body secretes cortisol. To prevent this from happening, eat something every 2-3 hours. Have a small to moderate sized breakfast, lunch and supper. In between each meal have a healthy snack like a piece of fruit or nuts.

Certain foods have been found to lower cortisol levels …. foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin c. Some foods rich in Omega 3 are salmon, halibut, almonds and walnuts. Some foods rich in vitamin c include citrus fruits and dark green leafy vegetables.

To lose stomach fat and your apple body shape, it is essential that you also do at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day, while making the necessary dietary adjustments.

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Pear To Apple Body Body Shape – Part 5 – Hormone Tests

Apple Body Shape

I've tried diet and exercise....but it is not shifting my stomach fat

I dont know about you….but I do not like to be told that there is nothing I can do about an unwanted condition. When I am told that by an “expert”
  • I refuse to believe it
  • it is my view that the “expert” does not have a solution for my unwanted condition
  • I will leave no stone unturned in my search for an expert who may have a solution for my unwanted condition

If your body shape has changed from pear to apple during menopause, there is something you can do about it.

The change from pear to apple body shape during menopause, is caused by a change in the balance of your hormones. The two main hormones that bring about all menopause symptoms, including weight gain around your waist, are estrogen and progesterone.

Prior to perimenopause, estrogen and progesterone work in harmony by co-existing with one another in a certain ratio. This keeps your reproductive system healthy and functioning. During perimenopause, the ratio of estrogen to progesterone increases. While estrogen levels fall from their premenopausal levels during perimenopause, progesterone levels fall further. In terms of the ratio between them, there is greater percentage of estrogen in your body, relative to progesterone. This then disturbs the ratio between them and other major hormones – in particular insulin, thyroid, and cortisol. The disturbance of the ratios between these hormones is the reason your body shape has changed from pear to apple.

Doesnt it make sense to you that if hormonal imbalance has brought about your apple body shape during menopause ….. that if you were to re-balance these hormones it could re-adjust your body shape?

The primary hormonal changes, in terms of importance and sequence, were those of estrogen and progesterone. This brought about the condition known as estrogen dominance. The concept of estrogen dominance was expounded by Dr. John Lee, a Harvard educated medical doctor. This concept found that menopause symptoms are caused by too much estrogen, relative to progesterone. The solution is to reduce the amount of estrogen or increase the amount of progesterone.

This solution is in opposition to the thinking of conventional medicine, which preaches that menopause symptoms are caused by insufficient levels of estrogen. The favored treatment advocated by conventional medicine is HRT, which increases the levels of estrogen in a woman’s body – to replace the estrogen lost during menopause. Increasing numbers of gynecologists have embraced the concept of estrogen dominance and are treating their patients accordingly …. Dr Christianne Northrup is probably the most well known one.

Estrogen dominance has affected your thyroid gland. It causes your thyroid hormone to function less efficiently. It also has affected the levels of insulin and cortisol in your body. These changes have increased the amount of fat stored on your body, which has contributed to your apple body shape since menopause.

Apart from the part it plays in estrogen dominance, estrogen has contributed to your apple body shape during menopause in several ways. It has many functions in your body. One of those functions is helping your body to manage fat. Prior to the onset of menopause, it helped your body to breakdown fat and dispose of it. The fat your body required, was deposited below the waist…..resulting in a pear body shape. As estrogen levels fall during menopause, less breakdown of fat and less disposition of fat occurs and the fat that used to be deposited below your waist is now deposited around your waist.

Before you can reverse the apple body shape you acquired during menopause, you need to know the levels of each of the hormones I have discussed in this post. I recommend that you begin with a free online hormone assessment. One is available here.
After you answer the questions, go to Woman’s Answers for an evaluation of your answers. It recommends specific hormone tests to take according to your answers. Another free hormone assessment is available here. After completing the assessment, you will get instant access to your hormone profile and recommendations for hormone tests to do.

You can do the hormone tests with either of the above sites. Alternatively you can ask your doctor to arrange for the tests. Here is a directory of labs that do hormone tests in the US. It is important to have the test results interpreted by a hormone expert.

Once your test results have been interpreted, you can remedy the hormonal imbalances that have caused your body shape to change from pear to apple.

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