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How To Lose Weight In Perimenopause

If you’re frustrated by what feels like overnight weight gain in your 40s and wondering how to lose weight in perimenopause, you’re definitely not alone! In my last blog post, I explained what you need to know about perimenopausal weight gain. Have a read of it here if you haven’t yet, as it’s helpful to know the WHY before you get the HOW. In this post, I’ll explain how to lose weight in perimenopause.

The GOOD NEWS is that you really CAN leverage nutrition and lifestyle habits to prevent, manage or reverse perimenopausal weight gain. Although weight gain after 40 becomes more likely, it needn’t be inevitable.

Here are 7 ways to lose weight in perimenopause!

1) LIFT WEIGHTS

Lifting weights (also known as strength training) builds muscle, and healthy muscle mass is ESSENTIAL for fat burning. From around age 35, muscle mass declines at a rate of 1-2% per year, contributing to a slowing of metabolism and increase in body fat. Simply put, the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate and the easier it is to keep body fat in check.

The biggest mistake many women have been making (through NO fault of their own) is foregoing weights for the cardio machines, spin classes, and running. Focus on exercise that build muscle versus types that increase stress hormones whilst NOT supporting muscle growth.

Strength training has been found to have a favourable effect on your hormones, helping to improve and support hot flushes, memory and cognition, mood, blood sugar balance and insulin resistance and bone density.

If you are completely new to strength training/lifting weights, you can start with your own body weight. Exercises such as lunges, squats, press ups, and planks are great. Once your own body weight becomes to easy you’ll need to progress to some kind of weights, such as kettlebells or dumbbells. You can then start to add exercises such as deadlifts and bench press. Once the heaviest kettlebells and dumbbells become to easy, you’re ready to move onto barbells.

Two to three 20 to 40 minute weight lifting sessions per week has been found to be beneficial. Uphill walking, running and sprinting are also helpful and don’t forget to add some gentle yoga and daily walks into your week.

2) EAT MORE PROTEIN

I often get asked “what should I eat in perimenopause?” but the truth is there’s no such thing as a “perimenopause diet plan”. there are however various dietary habits that all women would benefit from implementing as they move past age 35.

The BEST thing you can do for your hormones, body composition and ability to burn body fat is eat optimal amounts of protein every single day, with every single meal. According to Dr Donald Layman, a professor in human nutrition, the biggest impact on metabolism and energy expenditure involves protein’s role in both muscle building and muscle maintenance.

How much protein should you be getting?

An optimal daily protein intake is between 120 and 130 grams per day, or about 1.5 grams per kg body weight. Research shows you need at least 30 g of protein in one meal to stimulate muscle building.

According to Dr Layman, positive protein balance only lasts about three hours after eating, therefore it’s important to eat enough protein throughout the day. Your first meal of the day is the most important meal to get an optimal dose of protein. The other two meals also matter but breakfast is the KEY meal to focus on getting right first. Then you can start to ensure the other 2 meals are also protein optimised. The average person’s protein intake falls short at breakfast. In my ten years of practice, I am yet to see a client who is getting more than 5-10 grams of protein from their breakfast.

Getting a minimum 30 gram dose of protein at breakfast can be easier than you think. The first step is to change your mindset from the typical fruit, carb or sweet focused breakfast to savoury options instead. Breakfast should never have been given it’s own rules. Yes, for most people breakfast is the meal they need to take the least amount of time over, but we need to flip the script on this and start to make time for this crucial meal.

Think ‘dinner for breakfast’ from now on! Here are some examples:

  • Last night’s dinner
  • Chicken breast or thighs with salad or cooked vegetables
  • Omelette containing chopped vegetables, smoked salmon, silken tofu, chicken or turkey
  • Poached eggs with smoked salmon, silken tofu, chicken or turkey and avocado
  • Homemade chicken liver pate on toasted rye and scrambled eggs
  • Tinned sardines or mackerel on toasted rye with rocket and watercress
  • Homemade protein smoothie (blend a big scoop of good quality unflavoured protein powder, frozen berries, ground flaxseed, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, coconut oil, and some leafy greens with some tinned coconut milk and water)

3) CHANGE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CARBS

Whether it’s due to a slower metabolism, increased fat to muscle ratio, being less active or more stressed, we just can’t handle carbs like we used to in our 40s! Sigh. x§Your 40s (and beyond) is not a time to be relying on white flour products such as wraps, bagels, breads and pasta, or cereal-based breakfasts. Diets high in refined carbs like these play havoc with blood sugar balance more than ever before now that your cells are more prone to being resistant to insulin.

Switch the focus over to ‘complex’, fibre-rich carbohydrate sources that break down slowly into glucose and keep insulin under control. This supports/promotes insulin sensitivity. Go for 1 fist size serving per meal of sweet potato and/or other root/starchy vegetable, quinoa, brown or wild rice or buckwheat pasta or noodles. Or 2 fist size servings of beans and lentils. Always balance your carbs with protein and fat. If using bread/toast, use German dark rye or spelt sourdough and keep it to one slice.

4) EAT A NOURISHING, BLOOD SUGAR-FRIENDLY DIET

Perimenopause is NOT a time to restrict calories or specific foods, especially proteins and fats. It’s a time to be really well nourished with ENOUGH calories coming from:
Proteins: chicken, turkey, fish, red meat (grass fed, organic where budget allows), eggs, tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds. 30g + of protein with all 3 meals.
Healthy fats: olive oil, avocados, oily fish (omega 3), coconut, nuts, seeds
Slow-release carbs: root veg, beans, lentils, whole grains
Fibre + plant chemicals: colourful vegetables, berries, flaxseed, herbs, spices, green tea.
Your body needs a constant supply of many important nutrients, including the omega 3 fats DHA and EPA from oily fish, iodine, zinc, B vitamins especially B12, B6 and folate (B9), vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin A (as retinol, which is only found in animal foods), choline, selenium and zinc.

5) MANAGE STRESS

Chronic stress, unmanaged (e.g. where you are not supporting your nervous system to handle it better and keep your stress hormones at bay) means chronically raised cortisol, which means more belly fat storage. Implementing some simple daily habits that counteract the stress response (rebalance cortisol levels) is key now more than ever. Examples of such habits include walking mindfully in nature, 3-5 minutes of deep breathing each morning and night such as the 4:6 or 4-7-8 breathing practices, yoga, qi gong and being aware of things you’re grateful for each day.

6) SUPPORT + PRIORITISE YOUR SLEEP

Sleep isn’t as easy to come by in your 40s as it was in your 20s and 30s. This is in part due to the hormone changes I’ve already mentioned. Low progesterone impacts our ability to fall asleep and or stay asleep, as well as the quality of our sleep. Implementing a completely screen-free hour before heading to bed each night can be game-changing for your sleep. Keep the lights dim and do some relaxing yoga poses or stretches and focus on your breath instead. Read a book (under dim light), or do some gratitude journaling or ‘brain dump’ of your day and to-do list for tomorrow.

7) REDUCE (BETTER STILL AVOID) ALCOHOL

Alcohol needs to be detoxified immediately once it hits the liver and it pushes its way to the front of the queue, shoving oestrogen to the back. Studies have found moderate alcohol consumption to be associated with elevations in oestrogen, which increases body fat. So, really consider whether that extra glass of wine or G&T is worth it or not. For me, alcohol just isn’t worth it and I’ve chosen to go without completely. I understand that this isn’t for everyone, but even a small reduction and just being more mindful, can make a big difference.

In summary, weight gain in your 40s needs a different approach to the typical (and old school) ways of addressing weight loss. Simply exercising more and eating less aren’t going to cut it and in fact are likely to have the opposite (and a detrimental) effect. If you’ve read my previous blogs or if you’re part of my Instagram or email community then you hopefully understand and appreciate this already. I hope these 7 points bring you a sense of clarity and direction. Pick the point that resonates with you the most right now, the one you just KNOW you need to start working on first. Once you’ve mastered it (don’t rush it), move onto another point, and so on. You may be able to tick one or more of them off as mastered already, which is great!

Hi, I'm Francesca

I’m a Registered Nutritional Therapist who helps womens in their 40s find vibrant health and vitality, and thrive through perimenopause and beyond.

With nearly 10 years of experience working with hundreds of people, I empower and support women to support their bodies and hormones for a smooth and happy ride in their 4os.

Through our work together, clients have improved their energy, their periods and cycles, their mood, sleep, brain fog and digestion, and learned how to better manage their weight.

I am here to help you get back to YOU so you can have a fantastic time in your 40s.

My signature nutrition and lifestyle coaching approach to supporting women with their health and wellbeing is refreshing, down-to-earth and realistic.

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