Do you ever feel like things get out of hand before you have a chance to even get a grip what’s going on? I guess this happens with many things in life. You get married before you realize he’s not the right guy for you. You have children before you fully comprehend how difficult it is to raise them. You get a tattoo on your abdomen before you consider the effect that stretch marks will have on how it will look years later.
It can be so frustrating at times. Before you gain a grip on what’s going on, it’s already well on its way to gaining a grip on you.
And such is the case with weight gain at the time of menopause.
We’re all used to a little fluctuation in our weight over the course of our lives. And as young, reproductive women, we can easily figure out our tendencies. We get used to getting a grip on how much we can eat before having to cut back and get back in shape. We know the effect of various foods on our figure. If we gain a grip on too many carbs, we’ll be coming to grips with being able to grip our love handles.
We even have a whole host of names for weight gain: Muffin Top, Love Handles, Jelly Belly, Thunder Thighs, Saddlebags, Thigh Gaps, Cankles, Beer Belly, Bingo Wings, Jiggly Bits, Armpit Cleavage, Bra Hangover, Grandma Flaps, Underboobs.
Of course, these names are but a way of minimizing our true sentiments about weight gain. The fact is that we’d rather not gain weight. And while we make fun of weight gain, there’s nothing fun about it. It’s not like we just can’t wait to gain weight!
After years of getting a grip on our weight, we enter menopause … and our weight gets a grip on us, so much so that we have a real gripe about our weight.
So, what is it about weight gain during menopause? It seems that it just creeps up on you, little by little, with no sign of stopping. None of your previous tactics for weight control work anymore. It’s as if your body is completely resistant to down-sizing.
It isn’t even consistent with logic. I mean, if weight gain is associated with hormones, and if we gain weight with higher hormone levels at puberty and higher hormone levels during pregnancy, then why don’t we lose weight with lower hormone levels at menopause?
How can it be that we gain weight rather than lose weight if weight gain at menopause is hormone related?
Well, here’s what’s happening:
Menopause is a time when three different things conspire against your ability to gain a grip on your weight gain.
The first is that menopause causes your metabolism to slow down. Think of your metabolism as the pace at which your body processes food. It’s like a disposal.
If you have fast metabolism, your body grinds up food and processes it rapidly. As fast as you finish a meal, your body has it churned through your digestive tract and on it’s way out the other end gabapentin dosage. There’s no time for it to hang around, collect, or get deposited anywhere. Your body is efficient. It chews up the food and spits it out.
Alternatively, if you have slow metabolism, you body is sluggish at processing food. As it slowly works on processing one meal over may hours, you’re already eating another. As the food slugs its way through your digestive tract, there are stalls and delays, allowing the food to sit idol in your system. As it does so, it starts to decay. That decay releases all sorts of toxic substances that make your metabolism even more inefficient. It can take days before you’re able to eliminate something from your digestive tract.
In a way, we “train” our body to have either a fast or a slow metabolism. We do this over the years as we adopt our typical eating patterns. If you eat frequently, you train your body to use food quickly. You body knows it will get fed on a regular basis, so it gobbles up the food, uses it, and spits it out.
Have you ever noticed that thin people eat all the time? Do you think, “How can they eat constantly without gaining weight?” Well, contrary as it may seem, the reason they can eat constantly is because they’ve always eaten constantly. And their bodies are trained to metabolize food quickly.
But, if you eat infrequently, you train your body to hold on to food. It’s as if your poor body has no idea when it might get fed again, so it’s careful not to get rid of any food quickly. And while it holds on to food, it stores as much of it as possible … in the form of fat fat. And that’s because fat is an energy storage method. Fat is your body’s insurance against starvation. If you eat infrequently, your body stores food as fat to protect itself against the possibility of having to go for long periods without food.
Have you ever heard a morbidly obese person say, “But I only eat once a day!” They do! And that’s precisely why they’re morbidly obese. They’ve trained their body to store fat … all by eating only once a day.
Go back to basics. How often did you eat when you were a baby? I’ll bet you answered, “Every two hours.” My next question is, Why did you stop eating every two hours? And you’ll probably answer, “Because society made me do it.”
The human body was designed to eat frequently. But we’ve adopted eating patterns that are inconsistent with what nature intended for us. The fact is, there is no other animal on earth that can eat frequently and doesn’t. And those animals that eat frequently are not fat. Our human habit of eating only every five or six hours is completely unnatural. It slows down our metabolism and makes us gain weight.
The second reason we gain weight at menopause is all about estrogen. Of course, you know we lose estrogen when we go through menopause. What you may not know is that we have three different types of estrogen in our bodies before menopause: estrone, estradiol, and estriol.
Each of these estrogens has a different function during our reproductive years. But at menopause, when your body stops producing your main reproductive estrogen (estradiol), it’s replaced with estrone. And of the three estrogens, estrone is the one we dislike most. It’s produced by your fat cells. And it functions to redistribute your fat and to make you fat. It’s the estrogen that makes your pear shape turn into an apple shape. It makes your tone belly turn into a Jelly Belly, and gives you a Muffin Top, Love Handles, Thunder Thighs, Saddlebags, Thigh Gaps, Cankles, a Beer Belly, Bingo Wings, Jiggly Bits, Armpit Cleavage, Bra Hangover, Grandma Flaps, and Underboobs.
Despite estrone’s “generosity” in giving us all these no-so-lovely things, we’d all rather keep our pre-menopausal estradiol and the nice girly figure that goes with it.
A third reason we have trouble gaining a grip on weight gain during menopause is because of testosterone. As our estrogen declines, a larger proportion of our hormone pool consists of testosterone. And testosterone is associated with weight gain. Think about how much more men weigh than women. Much of that difference is due to testosterone. So menopause boosts your testosterone-inducing weight gain.
And as if all this weren’t depressing enough. We still haven’t talked about where you gain weight at menopause.
No matter where you used to gain weight, weight gain at menopause is pretty much universal in terms of location. You gain weight in your belly. So you really do get a Jelly Belly, a Muffin Top, Love Handles, Saddlebags, a Beer Belly, Jiggly Bits, and Underboobs. And no matter what you call it, it’s very difficult to get rid of it. So, unfortunately, it’s easier to get a physical grip on it than it is to get a mental grip on it. And while you’re waiting to gain a grip on it, you’re gaining more weight!
Nevertheless, we have a highfalutin, medical term for weight gain in your belly: “Truncal Obesity.” Since your belly is part of your trunk, and since your belly gets obese, we call it Truncal Obesity. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think this term is better than any of the other terms for a fat belly. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just weight gain. And I just can’t gain a grip on it mentally. The last thing I want is to be able to gain a grip on my belly physically.
This article, written by Dr. Barbara Taylor, was first published on http://justvibehouston.com/, on December 26th 2016.