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As we age, there are several things that happen to promote perimenopause weight gain. One is estrogen and progesterone levels start to change, another is poor digestion and nutrient status due to years of bad eating habits, and another is poor thyroid function.
As estradiol, a form of estrogen that your body makes, goes down, your body is more likely to gain weight, because estradiol affects thyroid function, muscle mass, insulin sensitivity, serotonin (a mood regulator), and many other functions that help you maintain a healthy weight. Even if your estradiol is not declining yet, progesterone rises in perimenopause, which will cause an imbalance between the two types of hormones. Progesterone increases fat storage. The result: perimenopause weight gain.
As we age, the bad habits we got away with in our younger days catch up to us. Poor eating habits over many years will cause poor digestion, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and malnutrition.
If you aren't getting the nutrients into your cells, you will have cravings. You don't have cravings because you are weak-willed. You have cravings because your body needs some nutrient and is trying to get it whatever way it can.
Your thyroid hormone production slows as you age, and thyroid disease is epidemic today, especially for women, and even more so for older women. If you have a low-thyroid problem, it will be much more difficult to lose weight.
Here are seven things you can do to avoid perimenopause weight gain.
1. Check Your Thyroid Function
If your thyroid is not functioning well, you may not have the energy to eat right and exercise, and even if you do, you may not lose weight – or, you may lose it so slowly that it evaporates your motivation and resolve.
You can begin by taking your underarm temperature in the morning, before you get out of bed. It should be between 97.8 and 98.2. Take it over several days. If it is lower than that, you probably have a thyroid problem. Get to a doctor and get a blood test.
2. Check Your Adrenal Gland Function
If you are under chronic stress, (and most of us are, these days) it is likely that your adrenal glands are exhausted. If your adrenal glands are burned out from too much stress, you will do whatever you can to have more energy and feel better – including eating sugar and other carbs to try to feel better.
If you have a thyroid problem, you will not be able to fix it until you fix your adrenal function, because those glands support your thyroid. The adrenal glands also take over production of estrogen and progesterone during menopause, so if they aren't working well, you could have a difficult time during menopause. (Believe me, you don't want to go there!)
If you crave coffee and other stimulants, get your adrenals tested. You can find a saliva test online. Then find a doctor to interpret the results. This will usually NOT be a traditional MD. Naturopaths and other alternative docs are more likely to understand this problem.
3. Check Your Estrogen and Progesterone Status
For the reasons stated above, if your reproductive hormones are out of balance, you will have a tendency to have perimenopause weight gain. You may be able to balance out your hormones with bioidentical creams or herbs that help balance hormones in menopause, such as vitex (chaste berry), wild yam, and black cohosh.
4. Check for Food Sensitivities
You may have hidden food sensitivities – even if you didn't before. This could be because of the way food is processed. For example, dairy products are a problem for many people. Pasteurization makes milk and other dairy products harder to digest because it destroys the natural enzymes in the milk that help you digest it. So after many years of eating or drinking products that have had their digestion-helping substances destroyed or removed, your stomach, liver and other digestive organs are worn out.
If you are sensitive to certain foods, one of the symptoms is weight gain, and an inability to lose the weight. The top seven foods that people have trouble with are wheat, milk, sugar, soy, corn and eggs (Haas & Stauth, 2000).
5. Improve Your Digestion to Decrease Cravings
Poor digestion becomes more common as we age, and it can lead to numerous problems. Without good digestion, nutrients do not get absorbed. You can be eating very well, and taking lots of supplements, but without good digestion, you could have nutrient deficiencies that lead to cravings, low energy, and weight gain. Ways to improve digestion include taking a high quality probiotic or digestive enzymes supplement, taking herbal bitters before meals, and eating lacto-fermented foods.
6. Eliminate Refined Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are widely misunderstood. First of all, they are promoted as a health food. Bread, pasta and other refined carbohydrates are staples in modern dietary and health advice. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although you may (and I do mean MAY) need carbohydrates in your diet, you do not need refined carbohydrates, and depending on your constitution, these may be speeding you to your death.
Unrefined carbohydrates are foods like bananas, sweet potatoes, grapes. Fruit and vegetables. Not fruit juice. And if you can tolerate them, whole grains. By whole grains, I do not mean whole wheat pasta. That is not a whole grain. A whole grain is brown rice. Wheat berries. Millet. Quinoa. Not the flakes. The whole grain. Amaranth.
There are some who say that grains are not good for us, and you shouldn't eat them at all. I think this is an individual thing. If you are a protein type, you probably will not do very well with grains. Now I'm not saying you can never eat bread or pasta again. But if you're serious about losing weight, and your health, these foods will become occasional treats rather than staples in your diet.
7. Determine the Right Amount of Protein, Fat, and Carbs FOR YOU
Some of you will need more protein and less carbohydrate, and others will do best with a few more carbohydrates and less protein. It is a very individual thing, and once you figure it out, you will be much more successful avoiding perimenopause weight gain and other health issues. For a simple test to discover which type you might be, visit
Taking these seven steps will start you on your way to better health as well as avoiding perimenopause weight gain.
Haas, E., & Stauth, C. (2000). The False Fat Diet. New York, NY: Ballentine Books.Return from Perimenopause Weight Gain to Menopause and Weight Gain