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Why does it take so long for certain people to lose weight when others can drop 10 pounds in a week? It’s frustrating and irritating, particularly when you feel like you’re doing everything right and still seeing only a fraction of the results.
This happens particularly often with menopausal women, who often struggle to lose weight in comparison to their peers and their pre-menopausal selves. That said, there is good news: menopause weight loss is certainly possible.
So before you give up, here’s what you need to know.
In this article:
The Problem: Muscle Atrophy
Not all women struggle to lose weight ever - and many women can maintain a healthy weight and muscle mass even when they’re going through menopause. That’s because the inability to lose weight isn’t an unavoidable fact of life. Instead, weight loss becomes difficult during menopause as a combination of fat and atrophy.
So what is menopause-related atrophy?
Atrophy is not a little thing. It’s actually a major problem that’s almost similar in equivalence to osteoporosis, where you actually have a thinning of the bones. What’s happening with atrophy is that you’re actually losing muscle fiber, so you don’t have as much muscle there anymore. Then, there’s a combination of inflammation, loss of collagen, fibrous tissue and scar tissue. If your muscles are inflamed and full of scar tissue, they can't support your body - and they certainly can't work with you as you try to keep up with your weight loss.
So if you go into this thinking that it’s a minor problem and you just need to exercise and strengthen it, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. The reality is that this condition takes quite a bit of time to recover from.
In fact, it can take even take months or years. Even then, getting it right requires some knowledge of what’s going on with your body and how to address it correctly.
What Causes Menopausal Atrophy?
There are a few main things that tend to cause muscular atrophy. These include:
- Too much cortisol: This is the adrenal stress hormone. Think of it as the body’s built-in alarm system: it helps control mood, motivation, fear, and the body’s fight-or-flight response The problem arises when there’s consistently too much of the hormone, which happens to people who are dealing with a lot of stress without sleep.
- Inactivity: Let’s say you haven’t really worked out for 30 years. That’s a long time without physical activity, and it might take some months to get that back. If you want to reverse atrophy due to inactivity, you have to be consistent. You also have to make sure that - when you do exercise - you get a sufficient recovery time and you never over-train.
- Insulin resistance: When your cells have insulin resistance, it basically means that they won’t let the insulin breakthrough their membranes to lower your blood sugar. This leads to a vicious cycle of too much insulin and too much sugar that basically goes unresolved. The problem, as it relates to atrophy, is that insulin also controls the protein in the cell. If you’re pre-diabetic or diabetic, and you can’t allow the insulin to go in there, which could be the reason why you’re actually not improving your atrophy or achieving weight loss. So we want to handle insulin resistance and steady that to resolve lingering atrophy symptoms.
Now, those are the causes of atrophy in general - but what about atrophy during menopause in particular? More than anything, the condition of menopausal atrophy is brought about by a huge shift in adrenal stress in the body.
Here’s the short version: during menopause, your ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing hormones. Your adrenal glands have to compensate. If your adrenals are weak or fatigued, they don’t produce enough estrogen and progesterone. On top of that, the little progesterone that they do produce is actually converted to cortisol.
Why? The adrenals main function is to combat stress. So, if they’re not functioning at 100%, they’ll use all the power they have to do only that. Which means they’ll rob the progesterone and turn it into cortisol.
This complex of issues causes the majority of troublesome menopause symptoms, including:
- More belly fat and weight gain
- Loss of collagen
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Bone loss
- Sleep problems
- Decreased tolerance to stress
- Facial hair
It also exacerbates atrophy symptoms and makes it really difficult for women in menopause to recover.
What Can You Do?
Treat Insulin Resistance
If you suspect that insulin resistance may play a role in your muscular atrophy, then the first thing you need to do is treat that insulin resistance. This can be done effectively with the keto diet plus intermittent fasting.
Now, you may be thinking why keto? Shouldn’t I do a more low-fat “healthy diet" to lower my blood sugar and stop more weight gain?
Well, fat is the only food group that doesn’t really spike insulin. If you’re not eating as frequently and you’re consuming more fat together, then you’re going to drop insulin and resolve insulin resistance really quickly.
Remember, to get to this point, you need to drop your sugar down to the point where your body is looking for fuel and it can’t find it. That’s what’s going to get your body to go after the fat. If you do this correctly, it’ll take three to four days and you’ll be 80% in ketosis.
Sometimes it takes longer, but the point is that it’ll happen somewhat gradually.
Support Your Adrenals
Next, you have to support your adrenals and build them back up so they can stop creating cortisol and start creating the hormones that women are supposed to have post-menopause.
How? Well, here are three viable solutions for adrenal support:
- Adrenal Support Formula: One of the remedies that I use is called adrenal support formula. It supports the gland directly and helps recover it.
- Isoflavonoids: If that doesn’t work, I will recommend an isoflavonoid. It helps balance the good estrogen hormones. It doesn’t give you any side effects like cancer, but it supports all the good effects of estrogen. One of the good sources of isoflavonoids is clover. Get some cloverleaf if you need to do that. But I start with adrenal and work down here.
- Sea kelp: If nothing works I’ll use sea kelp. It has the iodine and a lot of times that will help balance the estrogen situation because there’s a huge relationship between estrogen and iodine. That actually takes some stress off the whole system.
Finally, if you have insulin resistance and fatigued adrenals, you probably also have estrogen dominance during menopause. This goes back to the issue of adrenal fatigue. Both estrogen and progesterone hormones decrease during menopause. That said, progesterone levels drop more, which means that the ratio of estrogen becomes much higher than progesterone as women enter the transition. Plus, as we said, the progesterone that is produced turns into the stress hormone cortisol. This leaves many women going through menopause in a state of estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance can come with its own host of troubling symptoms, including:
- Anxiety and irritability
- Breast tenderness
- Weepiness and depression
- Joint pain
- Acne and cystic acne
- Weight gain in the hips, thighs, and stomach
- Low libido
To fix this aspect, you have to reduce the amount of estrogen in your body as much as possible. You can do this by consuming:
- Organic vegetables
- Hormone-free meats
- Aromatase inhibitors: cruciferous vegetables, iodine (from sea kelp), DIM, nettle root
- Chaste tree/black cohosh
- As a last resort: progesterone cream
- Cortisol support
And, of course, don’t forget to eat a calorie deficit and to get moving. Try to fit some exercise in a couple of times a week. The ideals are strength training or some type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) - though any activity is a great starting point This will help with weight loss and allow you to jump-start your metabolism.
Things to Avoid
Hormone Replacement Therapy
A lot of times, people will take straight HRT (hormone replacement therapy) as a solution. The reason HRT works effectively is that it bypasses everything and goes right to the brain. It tells the brain “I got your message, I heard you, release the egg” thereby essentially turning off the hot flash and creating an artificial hormone balance.
The problem, though, is that hormone therapy can give you side effects down the line, including breast cancer, stroke, and other serious problems.
Treating the Symptoms
Alternatively, most people try to treat the symptoms directly, and that quickly gets out of control. Think about it: if you’re taking a pill for collagen, bone loss, hot flashes, sleep, etc etc - you’re taking a lot of pills without actually fixing or improving the function that drives the adrenals.
Remember - hormone replacement therapy is hardly ever a good idea.
Questions? Let us know below!