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7 common mistakes made by perimenopausal women

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

The trouble with perimenopause is that it sneaks up on you unawares. It's only several months or even years down the line that you realise that you are in perimenopause and have been doing all of the below. So if you are over 40 and have noticed changes in your mood and energy, are struggling with brain fog and have noticed your jeans are a little tighter than they were, try and avoid these common mistakes:

1. Counting calories to address weight gain.

Weight gain in perimenopause is caused by the shift in hormones that alters the way your body responds to certain foods. One of oestrogens many functions is to keep insulin in check and when oestrogen levels fluctuate and then decline, insulin is left to run amok leading to insulin resistance and subsequent weight gain.

Cutting back calories can lead to a sharp decrease in food intake which can trick the body to thinking there is a food shortage and activates mechanisms designed to help you survive periods of food scarcity. These mechanisms reduce the basal metabolic rate of the body and help the body to hang onto calories. Restricting calories can also leave you feeling tired and depleted and undernourished. This way of eating is not sustainable and eventually leads to blow outs and binge eating. Now you’re your metabolic rate has been reduced and you need fewer calories, this leads to rebound weight gain (often to more than initially had).

The trick to avoiding weight gain during perimenopause is eat foods that do not have such an impact on insulin. This involves avoiding the simple carbohydrates found in crisps, biscuits, cakes, potatoes, white rice and pasta and instead focusing on whole foods, fresh fruit and veg and quality protein.

2. Getting less than 7 hours sleep a night.

Sleep is essential to reset your body and maintain your circadian rhythm. Our hormones perform a complicated dance together in which levels of one hormone affect the level of another. This dance is co-ordinated through the circadian rhythm. Cortisol is one of the master hormones and follows a diurnal pattern in which levels peak in the morning and then declining throughout the day and are lowest at night. When this rhythm is disrupted then there are downstream effects on other hormones including your sex hormones.

Having a routine that includes going to bed at the same time each night, getting up at the same time in the morning and getting 7-8 hours sleep a night helps to maintain the circadian rhythm and keep the hormones working in sync.

3. Using alcohol to chill out.

We’ve all done it. At the end of a stressful day, all you want to do is curl up on the sofa with a nice bottle of wine and binge watch Netflix. However, even drinking 1-2 glasses of wine a night impacts your sleep as it impairs the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and puts additional detoxification pressure on your liver (which according to Chinese medicine is most active between 1AM and 3am – waking at this time may indicate an overwhelmed liver).

Instead of reaching for the bottle, try a calming herbal tea. It may not quite hit the spot initially but if you have one every evening it will soon become a habit. Also an Epsom salt bath is a great way to chill out and relax.

4. Following a low fat diet

Fat is not your enemy. In fact, dietary fats are essential for good health. They are the building blocks for your sex hormones (these are all made from cholesterol), they are a key part of the structure of every single one of your cells and are critical for brain health and function (over 60% of the dry weight of the brain is fat). The biochemistry of fats is complicated. There are short, medium and long chain fats, there are saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and then there are complex fats such as cholesterol. However, including healthy fats such as those found in nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and oily fish is essential for good health.

5. Not practicing self-care

It’s unfortunate that perimenopause occurs at the same stage of life when many women are juggling young families, careers and looking after elderly parents. Having people depending on you who are not able to look after themselves means that self-care becomes the last thing on your list of priorities. The irony is that for most people taking a little time out to look after yourself will make it much easier for you to look after everyone else.

6. Eating the same diet as you did in your 20’s.

Your body, your metabolism in your 40s is a completely different ball game to that of your 20 year old self and as such it is a lot less forgiving when you feed it the nutritionally void foods you may have survived on in your 20s. You may find that you cannot tolerate the same level and type of carbohydrates in your diet (this goes back to declining insulin sensitivity caused by fluctuating oestrogen), you may find you need more protein and anti-inflammatory foods such as colourful fruit and veg and oily fish.

7. Excessive cardio exercise

The spin and HIIT classes that kept you in shape in your 20’s and 30’s may not actually have as great a benefit in your 40’s. Intensive, strenuous exercise may actually increase your output of adrenaline and cortisol and put added pressure on your adrenals. Furthermore, after 40 muscle mass starts to decline. Switching out some of your cardio with strength training can help support your adrenals as well as slow down the loss of muscle to help support your skeleton and prevent injuries and falls in later years.

You can download your FREE copy of the 7 secrets to a happy, healthy menopause below for some general tips on how to thrive through perimenopause. However, if you need a more personalised approach, please book a free health and energy review session with me and we can chat about how you are doing and how I can help you.

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