Would you like to say goodbye to weight gain, muscle loss and energy drain?
The perimenopause and menopause stage of a woman’s life does not have to be all gloom and doom. In fact, there is so much potential to harness this beautiful stage of life that all women go through. In the Self-Care Goddess podcast episode #79, Barb Hawken an expert menopause fitness coach believes that when it comes to transforming the middle-aged woman’s body, making simple tweaks in the kitchen and gym can improve health and confidence. In this podcast we talk about how to lose weight, gain muscle and avoid energy drain that can accompany menopause.
This blog post summarizes just a few of the golden nuggets from our insightful conversation, for the full details listen to the entire episode here or on your favourite podcast platform by searching for the Self-Care Goddess podcast.
Why Does The Body Change So Rapidly For Most Women In Midlife?
Every woman goes through menopause and experiences the resultant hormonal changes and loss of muscle mass. Perimenopause starts with loss of estrogen and happens very quickly. This is why most women are unaware of this phase until they are fully into menopause. It takes 2 years into menopause for all hormones to reach their low tipping point. With the loss of estrogen comes more fat gain, redistribution of the body and muscle loss. When estrogen and progesterone are low, it affects all hormones. A complete blood / hormone panel can identify bodily changes especially thyroid (which is a great regulator), vitamin D and sex hormones. If one of these hormones is too low or high then all hormones are technically unbalanced. Bioidenticals can help balance hormones. They can help with dementia / Alzheimer gene and influence the brain for reducing certain cancer risks, diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis. If you intend to take bioidenticals, start taking them when you start menopause and not in your advance years. However, recent scientific literature states that if you already are on bioidenticals before the age of 60, then you can continue taking them into your 60’s as well.
Would you like to learn 5 Ways to Kick Start Your Self-Care Journey at Home? Listen on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
Why do we see a pouch or belly fat during menopause?
With the loss of estrogen, body fat will accumulate around the central area to protect vital organs like the liver. A lot of women don’t eat enough in middle age as a result of the skinny culture and unstable diets. When we consume insufficient food, the body tends to hold on to fat. Consuming seed oils and the dine out culture also causes layers of bloat on the belly. To enjoy an outside meal during travel, be disciplined with your food at home and eat only non-processed foods so that when you do eat out occasionally it does not burden your body. Most middle-aged women decrease their activity and stop moving their body. This lack of exercise along with the switch in the hormones leads to belly fat.
Practical Tips to Avoid Belly Fat Accumulation
- Become more active. The lockdown made everyone used to less activity with more people working online. Get 12,000 steps a day. If you’re only getting 3000 each day, then add 1000 or 2000 per day for a week and see how you can manage that in your lifestyle. Then the next week add another 1000 each day. During menopause a lot of women have joint pain. Walking every day (morning and evening) can help relieve pain.
- Weight training is super important because bone density decreases in menopause with the loss of estrogen. Lift heavier weight, work out with a barbell or increase your dumbbell weight in a “progressive overload” pattern. For example, if you are using eight pounds for bicep curls, after a month consider being able to lift 10 pounds as an upper body goal. Progressive overload can also mean reducing rest times, being more intense and lifting heavier weight while training to avoid the natural loss of muscle during menopause.
- Remove any processed foods because they’re detrimental to our health and very toxic.
To know more about our body metabolism, listen podcast episode #11 with Jane Durst Pulkys titled “Nutritional & Lifestyle Tips for Increasing Your Metabolism”, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast
Cardio / High Intensity For Midlife Women
During menopause high intensity (HIIT) is not the best route. 4-5 minutes a week of high intensity workouts is all we need. Barb recommends that all menopausal women should walk regularly for however long time permits because walking does not cause any injury. Weight lifting is also important. Research on risk of stroke and heart disease proves that lifting and cardio are equally beneficial. However, for building muscle and keeping bones strong, lifting outweighs cardio. Cardio will shrink the middle age body and not sculpt or change it for the better. The body will take muscle for energy if required to keep you healthy. For example, if you’re running a lot, the body feels “this girl really needs some oxygen for the muscle on her, I’m going to unload some of that muscle so she can breathe easier.” This is why we see extremely thin runners. Today’s running athletes also lift weights so that they’re shapely and strong – not long & lanky like the runners of the 70s. Studies have shown that long HIIT classes hinder longevity pertaining to all ages. HIIT will tire menopausal women so much that they won’t be able to sleep well for recovery. Recovery is very important for which we must eat enough and sleep for 7-9 hours at night. If you’re exhausted or not eating enough (at least maintenance calories) then you will have trouble with recovery and muscle building.
On episode #53, “Everything YOU Need To Know About Melatonin: Beyond A Sleep Aid”, Scott Bayer shares some amazing tips for good sleep listen on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast
Barb’s Training Mantra
During menopause women must “Eat like you want to get big and bulky & Train as if you are big and bulky”. Especially in menopause muscle loss particularly the upper butt and the quads is very strong.
- This is why we must up our training and lift heavier weight so that we are able to build muscle.
- Eat plenty of protein, at least one gram per pound of body weight to build muscle. This way, although the fight is against us, we can definitely win!
Track and measure your food intake. Identify the reason for your bloat by asking these questions:
- Are you eating different foods?
- What is your activity level?
- Do you balance training and sleep?
- Are you consistent?
The number one thing is to be consistent. A lot of women are overzealous to start something and then 10 days later they lose the enthusiasm. So, it’s better to work out four days a week than six days; but maintain that routine.
For an interesting tip to avoid stress watch my YouTube video here.
Foods For Midlife / Menopause
Nutrition is extremely individual and also depends on gut health. Food must remain the same for all ages and shouldn’t change with menopause. Start eating right in your teens and 20s. No processed foods, no BHT, no food dyes and nothing in a package. Eat completely clean and avoid seed oils. Do not consume any sauces because that’s where the hidden seed oil is. Ensure you’re getting all your protein to keep the brain healthy. Avoid any meat with preservatives & nitrates, (processed meat) because it is the #1 cause of cancer. Cutting out processed fake foods also includes saying no to protein powders and shakes that many women consume. Barb believes that the powder is not real food, she recommends taking an egg yolk in the car or at work that will replace these shakes. Red meat has 100% of the required micronutrients and is a super food for bodybuilders. Red meat is not carcinogenic according to a Harvard study published in November, so she recommends eating more red meat. However, she also supports vegetarian sources.
Read this very informative blog post “10 AYURVEDA Tips for a Healthy Gut”.
Barb has a list of 15 foods or a “foodmap”, which is her secret tip to remain bloat free. These 15 foods are the same foods every day that most people in the fitness world or busy entrepreneurs eat. These 15 foods include meat, fruit, veggies, whole milk dairy like Greek yogurt, whole chicken, fish and full fat food along with some complex carbs. Initially when we eat a lot fruit or even drink milk, water is being absorbed around the fruit and it might expand your belly for a few days until the body gets used to it. Allow your body 10 days to ingest any new food. Technically it cannot make you fat because you’re eating only maintenance calories. Because the 15 foods are from all the food groups you can maintain the microbiome diversity in spite of always eating the same food. When it comes to fasting, Barb does believe that it does have some benefits for longevity. The best way for midlife women to fast is to avoid eating your meal three hours before bed. In the morning eat breakfast after a few hours of waking up to get 14 hours of fasting. That way when you sleep, your brain can work on recovery because it is not trying to compete with the digestive system.
For amazing breathwork information listen to podcast episode #30, ‘Conscious Breathing Your First Pillar of Self-Care’ on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast
Take Home Message
The most memorable advice for all women is “Never let yourself go”. Everyone looks great on their wedding day so stay true to that. Once you get yourself in shape, you can manipulate and try different things like lifting weight and eating the 15 super foods to sculpt your body continuously even in menopause. Walking is the best exercise because there is no risk of an overuse injury. Do conjugate style training with different reps and sets, and vary attachments like bars and bands that change every few weeks. Base your accessories around your weaknesses, particular in women – hamstrings, hips, lower back and triceps are very weak. Lift heavy weight to keep your bones strong. Approach training with the aim to build strength and muscle for developing a lean body mass.
Connect with Barb:
For free guided meditation videos and Breathwork demonstrations subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Listen to the full podcast episode #79 on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
I look forward to connecting with you and learning more about your story and your health and wellness goals. Schedule a FREE introduction call here.