From the age of 45, women seem to gain weight much more easily especially around their waist area. It doesn’t seem to be a diet issue as even a healthy diet doesn’t seem to show any benefit. So what causes this fat, why is it important to target it and how do we bring about ‘balance’ again.
We know that ‘middle aged’ women have a lot to deal with on a daily basis. From raising their kids, having jobs, looking after their elders as well as community responsibilities all fall on the shoulders of these women. According to Richard Sutton, South Africa is the second most stressed out country in the world, so it’s no wonder if SA women are up there as well. Also, as a result of slowing down of certain hormones coupled together with stress and not so great lifestyle habits, we know that this group of women will always have more than one hormone that is off balance and more than one contributor of weight gain.
Most importantly, we need to always remember that hormones are a SYMPHONY. When they’re in perfect balance you hear sweet music. But, even if one hormone is out, you will hear noise.
Causes of weight gain
Cortisol: Stress releases cortisol which can easily turn to cortisone in the body. Women can even present with burnout in these states.
Insulin: Cortisol stimulates insulin resistance which increases belly fat, which in turn worsens the insulin resistance and inflammation, which in turn worsens estrogen dominance, which in turn worsens leptin resistance resulting in weight gain.
Thyroid: Whether it’s from ageing or from an autoimmune condition, thyroid function may decline over time. So it is imperative to get it checked yearly.
Estrogen dominance: The first hormone that usually declines as we age is testosterone, the second progesterone and estrogen happens after that, around menopause. These hormones have to be in a certain ratio with each other. However, as we age, once the first two decline, we are left with high estrogen levels (relative to the others) resulting in estrogen dominance. This alone can result in weight gain, increased inflammation and then more belly fat.
Leptin: Is a hormone secreted by our adipose tissue which controls our hunger. Raised insulin levels blunts leptin sensitivity which means we can’t stop eating when we should.
Chronic medication: Our medication can deplete certain nutrients making it harder for the liver to process toxins. Some medications can even disrupt the gut microbiome, causing weight gain. If you are on any medication, check the package insert and check if weight gain is a side effect. Also, google your medication and check what nutrients it depletes.
No matter what you implement, you need to understand that the process of weight loss, especially belly fat is a process. If it’s taken you years to put on the weight, you want slow weight loss coupled with your lifestyle changes/supplements. Deep restorative sleep, increasing movement, stress management, fasting, diet changes and joy inducing activities are some of the ways that help with the process.
Patient specific medication, supplements and hormones are the next step.