No Wellness Wankery

39: Menopause and weight gain. What's the truth?

November 29, 2022 Lyndi Cohen
No Wellness Wankery
39: Menopause and weight gain. What's the truth?
Show Notes Transcript

Menopause with its seriously un-fun hot flushes and dodgy hormones highs and lows is a huge time of change in the body. It's hard to dodge.

But guess what we don't need?

The fear mongering content as we approach this change around weight gain.

As with most wellness wankery, the content around weight gain and menopause is rooted in some source of truth. But does this mean this information is helpful?

And more importantly, what should we be doing instead of introducing more control, more restriction and more dieting?

Let's dive into our listener question from Pru and find out.

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 Hello, this is the No Wellness Wankery podcast where each week we look into the wellness industry and see if there's wankery nonsense or things we should be listening to.

 Hence, there is, there's lots of it.

 There's lots of it. My name is Jenna D'Apice and I'm joined by Lyndi.


 I'm a dietitian and nutritionist and I'm here to help you rid yourself of all the wankery. Thank goodness for that. Today we're talking about a really important one,

 metapors and weight gain. Yes, so Lyndi's Instagram, nude underscore nutritionist, if you'd like to ask a question, her inbox is filled with so many amazing questions and we had one come through from Prue. She had a quick question for your podcast, if you think it's suitable. Prue, we do. We do. This is important. Thumbs up. Thumbs up. I'm 48 years old and approaching the big M. And from what I read and see, weight gain appears to go hand in hand with middle age and menopause.


 Is it a given that we need to eat less as we get older so we do not fall victim to the middle age spread? Would love to know your thoughts on this, please.

 Ah, yes.

 Oh, what a time. So I think what's really interesting is once you start to hit perimenopause and menopause, oh my goodness, do you get inundated with fear-mongering content about how your body is suddenly going to change, how weight gain is going to be so much more likely, your metabolism slows, you lose muscle mass and like hell, what a scary time this is. And I think what all of that content does, and I've seen it, it's all around, what it ends up doing to you is it makes you feel like I need to go more rigid on what I eat. I need to control it more to try and counteract what's going to happen when I'm going through menopause. And I think all this does is it gets us more and more into that diet mindset, which we know relates to...


 Restricting, leading to overeating later, which is kind of that compulsive snacking, and then we try and be good the next day, and we get stuck in that vicious dieting cycle again, which we know statistically that leads to weight gain.

 Do you think a lot of it is symptoms that then people then cause this dieting cycle which makes them gain weight, or do you think they're actually real forces in the body that things are changing?

 Okay, so great question. Yes, there are things that are happening in the body. So your hormones are shifting around big time, and that's causing your metabolism to, yes, slow a little bit, and for you to lose muscle mass. And it can kind of change the way that you store body fat. How big a deal this is, I think is grossly overrated and over-talked about so that you start to think that this is firstly going to be a huge impact and it's going to be something I need to completely counteract, when really what you'd benefit from doing is maybe doing a little bit more strength training, a bit more impact training to help your bones and your joints, to be making sure that you've got that muscle mass to help. That's gonna tick so many of the boxes.

 We should be doing that all the time anyway.

 Exactly, and fundamental to being able to do that is for having a healthy relationship with food. And now once we get to menopause, right, we're at a, maybe you're, if you're getting to menopause around now, you're of a certain generation that was hit really hard by dieting stuff. So you may be still coming in being like, I don't have the best relationship with food. I've been dieting my whole life and this is kind of adding fuel to it. And all this can do is all that unhealthy relationship with food stuff can come to the surface along with all the pressure that you're putting on yourself to lose weight and prevent yourself from gaining weight. So yes, to answer, is biologically there are some changes, how much of an impact does this really have on your fundamental weight? Not nearly as much as it's given time to. And I think the fear mongering we have around it is contributing to much more weight gain and weight issues and struggle with food than had we simply not been given this information and we just existed the way we always existed.

 Because if you're already stuck in the cycle of dieting and you have been for a long time, and then someone tells you, because of menopause, you need to kick that up even a further notch, and the dieting you're doing already wasn't

 working, you get further and further back. Exactly. So that's what we need to avoid, as opposed to thinking... So almost, you kind of need to see this information and see it as misleading and unhelpful and diety, because even though it's rooted in some truth, it is unhelpful. And so much wellness wankery is rooted in truth. For example, Himalayan pig salt does contain slightly more minerals than a normal salt. But does that mean you should pay almost twice as much for a normal salt? Is having salt as a source of minerals in your diet even something you should even think about? No. It's a normal thing. You really don't have to think about that. So an example of wellness wankery. So yes, it's rooted in truth, but should we really be doing it? No. It's like the whole, you have to avoid carbohydrates. Well, if we just had high sugar processed foods all the time, it wouldn't be great for our blood sugar levels in our bodies, but does that mean we need to avoid it? No. All wellness rancour has a root of truth in it. This is no exception to that. I think though it's creating way more issues than it's actually helping. So what should we be doing instead?

 What should we be doing instead? What would be the first step if you think you're pre-menopausal and it's coming?

 Yeah, perimenopause, if you're going through menopause, if it's all just happening, you're feeling those symptoms come up, firstly, you want to have a really good doctor that you can speak to about this. There are some things that you can be doing because menopause can really mess with so much of your life. It's not just like the hot sweats, it impacts on sleep and your heart rate and it creates these uncomfortable situations when you're out and about trying to live your life that I think can be quite impacting for your body image as well and I think having a really good doctor is at that port-a-call. I think that's really key. Personally, I don't think you should actually change what you're eating so much. I think working on your relationship with food and just doing the same thing I'd say to a 20 year old, you know, working on building in those healthy habits, creating a healthy relationship with food so that you're able to eat when you're hungry and you stop when you feel full. Now the whole idea behind intuitive eating is this idea that we're able to eat within our energy requirements. So if you eat when you're hungry, you're much more accurately able to eat how much your body actually needs compared to like sticking to a diet or something. So if you're naturally burning less energy because you have less muscle mass, because you're not moving as much, because your hormones have shifted, if you simply just eat when you're hungry, you're still going to be eating the right amount of food for your body. And that's the beauty of intuitive eating. So there's no fear, I need to pull back on portion sizes more or change what I'm eating. So much is simply just practicing that intuitive eating and still crowding in those healthy foods, the foods that make you feel good. But we're not focusing on all the foods we have to cut out of our diet. If you ever see those silly Pinterest tutorial things that's like, these, now that you've hit menopause, you're not allowed sugar, this food, gluten is particularly bad for you. That's nonsense. That is not true. We had Dr. Joanna McMillan on the podcast, which the episode may or may not be out yet. And in that, she explains how when you're my age and fertility years, that's when you kind of want a little bit more of a higher protein cut diet. But as you get older, having a slightly higher carbohydrate diet can be beneficial for you, so not having too much protein. So I think we shouldn't be cutting out of carbohydrates. We shouldn't be fearing about those kinds of things. And we should only be doing stuff that we actually feel like we can stick to and we can maintain for the rest of our lives. So our appetite will give us exactly what we need if we listen into it. If your body is changing through menopause it will then shift

 what you are eating and craving? Yeah. If you're really in tune with it?

 Yeah, I think one of the challenges as well you're going to have is because when you're going through menopause it can really mess with your body image and when you have those, when I say that, you wake up and you're like, I hate how I look, I hate my body, that is dangerous territory because I think it can drive you to want to go on a diet, and I think that's what we need to try and avoid the most. But if you're simply, yes, eating however much according to your hunger, you are going to be able to eat well within your hunger requirements. Sleep will be disjointed during menopause, it's another shitty side effect. And just seeing how you best can prioritize it. And I think whenever you're getting those symptoms flare ups, it's being really gentle with yourself the next day. You know, just looking after yourself better than you've ever looked after yourself. It's kind of like when you're pregnant and you're like, somehow it's easier to look after yourself because you know you're caring for someone else. You're kind of going through this huge transitionary period in your life. And ideally, you're able to look after yourself in the same way that a pregnant woman's like, hey, I've got to like really take care of your body. It's the same thing. You need to have compassion. Your body is changing. It's hard to watch your body change in a way and see things that are different. If you need to buy different bras, different clothes, things that fit you to make you feel good, that's what needs to happen. Jenna and I are big fans of the closet cleanse.


 So that when you open your cupboard, you see clothes that actually fit you, that make you feel good. Instead of having that sense of, I don't have anything to wear because you're perpetually buying clothes that you need to lose weight to fit into.

 Or things that are not comfortable or things that you have to fix the straps of or things that you can't wear a bra with without seeing the straps and then you don't want to wear it. You don't need any of that. You need to be comfortable. It's so funny that clothes are just made to protect us from the elements as we live our lives but we wear them that prohibit us from living our life.

 Oh yes, I like that.

 So you've gone to the doctor, they can look through the symptoms, see if the doctor can help them in any way.

 What else would they be doing?

 I mean, I would be increasing your strength, kind of training, finding exercise that you enjoy doing it because you like the way it makes you feel. There's that healthy intuitive relationship with exercise because that's going to help with the muscle mass. We still want to be moving our bodies. The other thing that can happen as we're kind of getting older is we lose energy, have less energy, so we maybe move less. And that's what we do want to kind of like, how can we counteract that? Because it's funny that when you exercise more, the more you want to exercise. So sometimes we get into the habit, like, I feel really low in energy, I don't feel like exercising. So we're just going to try and make sure that we're still moving our bodies. So if you have never worked with a personal trainer, you can find one who doesn't buy into the weight loss is the only way kind of approach. That'd be great. Joining a gym, going down to the park, doing some push-ups, some body weight exercises, some squats, some things that, I don't know, could be for fun if you're putting on some good music. Or even if it's just going for a walk, it's going to be better than absolutely, you know, than avoiding exercise.

 So I think the biggest takeaway in Prue's question is, yes, these things are true. Your body is changing, your body is shifting, but it's not as big a deal as people make it out to be and it's not something to be scared of.

 Don't turn it into a bigger deal than it is. Don't let, physiologically there are changes, but don't let the psychological aspects make it a much bigger problem than it actually is. It is what it is. You can just eat intuitively, move intuitively, and you're gonna be just fine. This is a really hard period you're going through. Have compassion for yourself as you're doing it and for the love of goodness, do not cut out whole food groups and all you want to be doing is crowding in more of those healthy foods, the foods that you know make you feel good. Being mindful of alcohol and how it can kind of mess with you. You're probably at the point though where you probably can't have binge drink the way you used to in your 20s. Thank goodness for that. So just be mindful of all those kind of stimulants and depressants as well.

 That's a good question. If you have any other questions, please send a voice note. We'd love to hear it or even just a little message to nude underscore nutritionist and

 we'd love to answer it on the podcast.

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