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10 Best Ways to Get Fit and Shift Weight During the Peri-Menopause

Oct 12, 2018

You might have noticed how it’s much more difficult to lose weight or stay in shape when you’re in your 40s and 50s.

Even though you could easily control your weight with an aerobics class and sensible eating in the past, those old weight loss tricks don’t seem to be working as well anymore. Sadly, you actually seem to be gaining weight, instead of losing it when you try your old tricks.

So what’s going on? How can you stay in shape and control your weight during the peri-menopause and beyond? What new approach do you need to take? Here are my top ten suggestions as to how you can stay in control during the peri-menopause and beyond.

1. Get Moving

If you want to lose weight, stay in shape and maintain your youth, you need to make exercise a part of your life.

Even if you’ve always hated exercise, now is the time to make the effort because it really does work magic. For starters, exercise helps to keep your skin looking youthful, boosts your circulation, helps rebalance your hormones, improves your metabolism, helps you shift excess weight and also works to reduce those peri-menopause symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and mood changes.

Aim for at least 30 mins of exercise three times per week, the type where you get out of breath. (See my next point for more on this.)

2. But...don’t overdo it

Having said that, resist the temptation to over-exercise or do hours of cardio every week in an attempt to burn fat.  It just doesn’t work like that, and in fact, all that exercise could have the opposite effect to the one you’re after.

Too many hard workouts which last too long can push up your cortisol levels, worsen any hormonal imbalance, worsen your menopause symptoms and encourage your body to store more fat in the areas we like it least, such as around our tummies. That's right- the drive to burn fat will actually cause you to put fat on.

Instead of cardio, we want to focus more on building muscle, as this is what will help us to lose excess fat and stay feeling strong and healthy for as long as we can.

Always limit your workouts to a maximum of 30 minutes if you’re getting hot, sweaty and out of breath.

3. NEVER skip meals

When you’re hoping to lose weight, it can be tempting to skip one of your meals in an attempt to ‘save’ calories (and perhaps save them for an indulgence later in the day!)

However, this never ever works.

You’ll only end up struggling to ignore your rumbling tummy and find yourself more like to reach for the biscuit tin or binge eat. You’ll also feel tired and grumpy and you’re more likely to store extra weight.

It’s much better to take a holistic, wholefood approach to eating (notice that I don’t ever use the word ‘dieting’), take pleasure in your food and eat regular meals to help stabilise your blood sugar levels.

4. Rethink your dinner plate

Running on from the above, healthy weight loss during the peri-menopause isn’t about depriving yourself or going on a diet. It’s about filling your body with plenty of nutrient-rich foods so that you feel healthy, energetic, youthful and strong.

Here’s an outline of the approach I always recommend to my clients:

  1. Eat more plants. Plants contain a wide range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytonutrients that will help your body glow with health. Be sure to include all the colours of the rainbow and include plenty of green leafy veggies.
  2. Optimise your protein intake. Make sure you’re including healthy protein with each meal, such as chicken, turkey, eggs, flaxseeds, beans and pulses such chickpeas and lentils, beef, lamb, nuts, and seeds and oily fish.
  3. Go for complex carbs. Avoid those highly processed white carbs such as white rice, white pasta and white bread as they’re largely devoid of nutrients. Instead choose sweet potatoes, starchy veggies, brown rice, quinoa, etc. to keep your fuel tank running on high!
  4. Remember those healthy fats. Fats are essential for hormone production and the health of the nervous system plus they help keep us feeling satisfied after a meal, so make sure you include them in your daily diet. Avocados, nuts and seeds are all great choices.
  5. Practice mindful eating. Slow down when you eat! Enjoy each mouthful and chew it well. Be present there at the table and pop your phone out of sight. It can wait...

5. Don’t try to spot reduce

The bad news is that, no matter how much we dislike that ‘middle-aged spread’ or tummies, we won’t get them to vanish by doing a ton of sit-ups. It just won’t work.

Not only is is impossible to spot-reduce like this, but we could also actually end up doing more harm than good by damaging our pelvic floor in the process and increasing our chances of suffering from sexual dysfunction and incontinence.

It’s far more fun and much more effective to exercise in a way that improves your overall health and strength, and targets your entire body instead. Include full body exercises such as squats with a shoulder press, forward or sideways lunge with bicep curl, press ups, jumping jor high knees as an example. 

6. Remember to work on your balance too

Getting fit, shifting weight and feeling at your best during the peri-menopause and beyond isn’t just about working out. It’s also very important to work on your balance stay independent, stay flexible, avoid falls and reduce the risk of breaking a bone as you get older.

Yes, it might seem very early to be talking about it now, but making an effort now will really pay off in the future. Yoga is one of the best ways you can improve your sense of balance.

7. And include weights too!

Strong muscles are also important during the peri-menopause and beyond as they help us burn fat and protect us against so many age-related changes too. Lift weights and you’ll prevent age-related muscle loss, keep your bones strong, balance your hormones and also give your metabolism a nice boost too.

My clients often worry that lifting weights will cause them to get bulky or start looking like a man, but there’s no need to be concerned. You’d need much more testosterone to do that (and even then men often struggle in this respect!).

8. Set yourself realistic goals

Goals will help keep you motivated when it’s hard to stay active, such as when it’s raining outside and you really don’t fancy exercising. Or you just can’t be bothered with making yourself a nutritious meal and you’d much rather get a takeaway instead.

Set yourself those goals and you’ll help yourself transition through the peri-menopause in the best physical and mental shape.

Be sure to break your overall goal into smaller, more achievable steps, and keep track of where you’re at with a method that best suits you, such as how your clothes fit or how well you’re sleeping. This also helps you monitor your progress and see how far you’ve come so you can give yourself a nice pat on the back!

9. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep

It might surprise you to know that getting enough sleep is also a very important part of losing weight.

If you’re not getting enough shut-eye, your body simply can’t function at its best and you’ll feel like a frazzled, irritated, hormonal mess. You’re also much more likely to make poor food choices or binge eat when you’re in this state and there’s no way in the world you’ll feel like dragging yourself through a workout.

So show yourself some love and aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, or more if you can.

[Struggling with insomnia, night waking or simply want to improve your quality of sleep? Have a read of this article.]

10.  Listen to your body

Most importantly, more than anything else you’ve read on this page or anyone has ever told you, I want you to do one thing. Listen to your body.

Pay attention to your sleep and energy levels on the day you exercise and a few days afterwards to check how it’s affecting you. If you feel exhausted or that your sleep is affected, it’s time to adjust your workout or even forget them altogether and opt for something more gentle like walking or restorative exercise instead.

I remember when I’d go to the gym after work and then the next day my colleagues would tell me how tired I look. I’d say, ‘Oh, it’s because I was at the gym last night’ or, ‘It’s because I went for a run’. Never did I associate it with the fact that it just wasn’t right for me and was actually burning me out.

Don’t worry about your weight loss if you do stop exercising. You might actually lose weight without exercising like many of my previous clients. I’ve not exercised properly for years and I’ve not put on weight either!

 

As you can see, working out and losing weight during the peri-menopause will require you to take a slightly different approach. Be kinder to yourself, listen to your body and prioritise whole body health. I promise you’ll soon see those positive changes!

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