Perhaps like many of you, I always looked upon middle-age as a time of life when my body would develop a mind of its own and I wouldn’t really have much to say about it.
I would see round, fluffy, middle-aged women and assume that one day I would be like that too and well, that’s just the way it is.
But, that was before I actually became middle-aged. Well,
scratch that. That was before I went through perimenopause.
While I wouldn’t exactly call perimenopause my friend, I will say that it has taught me a few things. One of those things is that weight gain in middle-age is not a given.
Yes, managing your weight becomes more of a challenge once you enter perimenopause and middle-age. But, it is a challenge that you can meet head on and do something about.
And ladies, if there is anything that The Perimenopause Blog is about, it is empowerment. You don’t have to take any of this lying down.
If you’ve been struggling with perimenopause weight gain, there is something you can do about it. But, before you can, it’s important that you understand what actually causes it. Then, as the poet, Maya Angelou says, “once you know better, you can do better.”
Estrogen Dominance in Perimenopause
Thanks to Dr. John Lee, MD., author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause: The Breakthrough Book on Natural Hormone Balance, and pioneer in the field of bio-identical hormone replacement, the term “estrogen dominance” is becoming more mainstream.
Prior to Dr. Lee’s groundbreaking work, women simply accepted the fact that when they entered perimenopause, they would need to put back what their body was no longer producing – estrogen.
While it is certainly true that declining estrogen is a part of perimenopause, what women didn’t know is that declining progesterone is an even bigger part.
In fact, once a woman enters her mid-thirties, progesterone declines a whopping one hundred twenty (120) times faster in her body than estrogen (Randolph, 2008).
Think about this one, ladies. As we get older, the reason we experience more miscarriages is because our progesterone levels are plummeting. Progesterone is a vital part of fertility and pregnancy.
If you do not have adequate progesterone in your body, not only will you have difficulty conceiving, but, you will have an even tougher time holding onto the pregnancy if you do. It’s vital.
But, let’s be clear, estrogen dominance does not mean you are producing too much estrogen.
It means that your body is not producing enough progesterone to balance estrogen. It’s just that simple.
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
Hearken back, if you can, to the days before you were in perimenopause, the days when you had regular menstrual cycles, and oh yeah, PMS.
Do you know what actually caused the symptoms of PMS ? Estrogen.
Each month, just before your period began, your progesterone levels went down. This is why women experience changes in mood and food cravings right before they are scheduled to get their period.
So it is with perimenopause, ladies. Progesterone levels plummet and estrogen dominance turns our bodies into a hormonal wasteland causing an entire host of symptoms, including weight gain.
Estrogen Dominance Turns Your Body into a “Fat Magnet”
Make no mistake about it. Estrogen dominance causes weight gain in perimenopause, and here’s how:
- Too much estrogen circulating in the body produces body fat. Fat tissue produces and stores more estrogen. Body fat contains an enzyme that converts adrenal steroids to estrogen. The body fat continues to produce estrogen. More estrogen in your body means more fat and the cycle continues.
- Too much estrogen compromises your body’s ability to metabolize fat, which means that no matter how much you diet or how little you eat, the fat will not go away.
- Too much estrogen inhibits your body’s ability to distribute fat and so it tends to store it around your middle, hips and thighs. Hence, the pair-shaped syndrome that so many of us are afflicted with. ( Estrogen is also the culprit in the male spare-tire syndrome)
- Too much estrogen inhibits good thyroid function, which in turn, causes your metabolism to slow down.
- Excess estrogen causes your body to release insulin more rapidly which can trigger hunger faster and cravings for sugar. Cravings for sugar can trigger sweet eating binges, and well, you know the rest (Randolph, 2008).
So What to Do?
Certainly, exercise and diet is a vital part of combating middle-age weight gain. But, so is balancing your hormones. Without hormone balance, it doesn’t matter how much you exercise or how well you diet. You will be fighting a losing battle.
- Begin by understanding estrogen needs to be balanced by progesterone. If you are looking for a good brand, you can find a list of recommended brands at the back of Dr. Lee’s book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause. You can also try the brand I use and highly recommend here at The Perimenopause Blog, Oasis Serene. (You can read about it here at their website)
- I would highly recommend that you purchase Dr. C.W. Randolph’s book,From Belly Fat to Belly Flat: How Your Hormones Are Adding Inches to Your Waist and Subtracting Years from Your Life — the Medically Proven Way to Reset Your Metabolism and Reshape Your Body. It is an excellent resource that explains how hormone imbalance is affecting your body, specifically, your waistline. There are also recipes in the book that are designed to target hormone imbalance. You can find many of those recipes here at The Perimenopause Blog as well.
Perimenopause Really Isn’t Forever!
Finally, ladies, it is important to understand that hormone imbalance is not one dimensional. It is a cumulative effect of a sum total of many things. In order to feel better you will have to tackle the problem from many different angles. Diet, exercise, hormone therapy, sleeping well, and supplementing with vitamins and minerals if necessary, are some of the things you can do.
It is also important that you remember perimenopause is not a “forever condition.” It is a transition. How you approach it and what you are willing to do for yourself is going to play an enormous role in how you feel and ultimately, your health.
Now, more than ever, it is important that you become a determined advocate for yourself, your health, and your wellbeing. It is a gift that will literally keep on giving by returning a lifetime of wellness dividends.
Randolph, C.W., MD., (2008) From Belly Fat to Belly Flat: How Your Hormones are Adding Inches to Your Waistline and Subtracting Years from Your Life. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.