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Help! I’m a menopausal woman and I need to lose weight.

Updated: Jan 21, 2023

My 5 tips on how NOT to face the new year with the usual resolutions and actually lose weight in ‘23!

1. Do not Diet

2. Do not exercise excessively

3. Do not spend lots of money

4. Do not set time limits

5. Do not join another group

Okay, so the above list might seem trite and a little headline-grabbing; can’t argue! However, I have been in the weight-loss coaching business for over two decades. I have met innumerable women who have tried all of the above “do nots’” relentlessly, over many years, before they ever come to visit me for their first weight-loss consultation. Many women of middle age or at menopause / peri-menopause reach the point of exhaustion, disillusion and despair regarding ever reaching their thirties weight, when they were vital, svelte, shapely. They think of giving up on the weight-loss cause and start to settle for mediocre – mediocre weight, fitness, health, vitality, essence, joy, satisfaction, body-shape, joie-de-vivre…..I could go on.

Why do we repeat the same weight-loss mistake year after year? Why do we think it might work differently this year? If you have lost ten kilos again and again and gained back twelve kilo more often, then you have arrived, as have many other menopausal women have, at a place where you are heavier now then you were before you ever started dieting, in perhaps, your twenties.

As an experiment, why not take a different approach this year? The weight-gain, weight-loss cycle can continue for another year if you allow it. At menopause it certainly will, if allowed to, as well you know. Or perhaps, you can expect, this time, to change up your behaviour for good and achieve the results of your dreams. It is possible. I believe in you. Why? I don’t even know you! I believe in you because I have met many women who have achieved just that, with a little belief in me; belief in themselves and a belief in the science of nutrition and in the psychology of behaviour change. No dieting involved.

Start here, today. You do not need to wait until next Monday, or the Monday after. Start today, on reading this, to make some, more subtle, significant, game-changing behaviour changes. Own your own weight-loss story this time. Take things into your own capable hands. Step off the treadmill of weight-cycling (the irony!) Start instead with these five tips and I will support you, twice per week, with more weight-loss tips, tools and techniques over the month of January.

By February you may be on track to the end of dieting as you have know it, to-date, and experience a new-found psychological freedom; with weight-loss the very pleasant bonus! What do you have to lose!!

Tip number 1: Do Not Diet

From years of severe restriction, our bodies will have become metabolically smart and changed so that they can preferentially store fat, for the next famine (aka diet). Why can some people eat lots and never gain weight, while others look at dessert and balloon? Cruel at it may be; the culprit is your metabolism. If you have fallen prey, over the decades, to every fad diet imaginable; Slimfast, F-plan (aptly named!), Southbeach, Atkins, Dukan, Paleo, wheat-averse, dairy-averse, vegan-inspired (when not adequately researched) then you have very likely come, at middle age and menopause, to the place of a stagnating metabolism and a seemingly-inevitable upward weight-spiral. There is no inevitability here. Yes, diet hard, yet again and you will lose weight; some water; some glycogen; some fat. Come February though, you will have probably tired of the new regime and lost hope, as the scale veers upwards, yet again.

Instead, eat more. Stop counting calories. Stop stepping on the weighing scales. Eat more vegetables and fruit per day than the average gorilla and you will be starting down the track to increased metabolism. Start your day with fruit (lemon water, oranges, grapefruit (unless contraindicated, due to some medications), melon with perhaps your usual tea/coffee. Add volumes of vegetables to the other two meals of the day. I rely heavily on soup at this time of year; ideally home-made. Then bulk up on vegetables at dinner time. Enjoy eating. Let your eating become nutritionally balanced again. Reap the endless energy rewards as a bonus.

Use that energy for good!


Tip number 2: Do Not Exercise Excessively

With this new-found energy you will want to move more. We can feel sluggish when underfed (d’oh). This fact is often lost on women of menopausal age. You are so used to restricting what you eat that you think feeling under par is par for the course (awful use of the analogy – my apologies). To be energised, vital, enthusiastic is your new expected norm. Weight-loss is the bonus here.

You are looking to eat plenty (yet lightly, so low in calories) and move plenty (thus expending calories) so your weight-loss is scientifically guaranteed. The equation never varies from ‘calories in = calories out’. Fact. We can discuss the nuances surrounding this scientific fact over the next few weeks, as we plough through January.

Aim for a simple ten thousand steps per day as your starting goal. Achieve that every day (you know there is a Garman/Apple watch somewhere in the house). Start from where you are though. Take it easy on the first few days as necessary. Listen to your body, your joints, but not your mind. Leave your rational, thinking, brain aside for the minute and just trust me. It is simpler than you think. Only experience will get you to believe this rationally – for the minute; trust me; trust the simple science of ‘calories in = calories out’.

Start with two thousand steps today if you are coming from a low base (a very realistic goal for most clients I’ve met, of various abilities) and ramp it up over the next few days. Note at the end of every day how many steps you achieved. Use the tools on your chosen device to remind you to get up every hour etc. Or use an old-fashioned pen and paper.

Do not engage your fabulous brain. Just do it!


Tip number 3: Do Not Spend Lots Of Money

I remember a particular client, some years ago, who quoted me how much she had paid, the previous year, to lose twenty kilos. She came to me, having gained it all back, unfortunately, plus more. I was lucky not to fall off my chair in shock at the price. The sad fact was that the cost was ”rate-of-promised-weight-loss” related! Hard to believe. She had chosen to buy lots of bars per week that meant she was on a faster weight-loss plan than the cheaper rate. The bars were high-protein, meal-replacement, in type and inedible in flavour.

She was so beaten-down by the time I met her that it was an absolute pleasure to re-introduce her to the joys of fruit, vegetables and good old-fashioned carbohydrates, in general.

More money spent does not relate to more results achieved. Remember the blood-type diets? Send off a sample and have your diet customised – yeah that will work! Remember the allergy/sensitivity diets? One plan had you eating lamb and rice/ another, beef and vegetables – neither were scientifically sound. All diets tend to give good initial results; due to their restrictive nature. Few are sustainable – regardless of cost.

Eating organic, ‘clean’ foods is a current variation on this years-old trend that has been capitalising on women’s desire to lose weight. Not everyone can afford to eat exclusively organic foods; nor is it widely available and accessible. Yes, of course, we would all love to have an organic vegetable patch out the back to locally source the best of the best; with, perhaps, a Jersey cow ready for milking every evening, but in the real world this can be just too idealistic.

Eat mainly whole foods (in whatever price-range you can afford), with a focus on vegetables and fruit and eats lots of them. Do not let perceived quality be a deterrent. Even frozen vegetables are better than no vegetables. Interestingly, frozen peas can retain more vitamin C than fresh (that sit on a shelf awhile) and lycopene (a very powerful antioxidant) is released more form a tinned tomato than a fresh. Cost should never get I the way of your success. You CAN afford to lose weight.


Tip number 4: Do Not Set Time Limits

Putting ourselves under time pressure to get into that little black number for Christmas (a classic example) or to a certain weight for a certain event can backfire on us. We can get in our own way quite often, with unrealistic weight-loss goals and time-pressured expectations. I have seen this happen so often in my own practice. So often, a goal a client might have would be based on the kinds of results they achieved other years when dieting hard. What we tend to forget, is that those rapid-weight-loss goals rarely stick once achieved.

I have spent much of my time re-adjusting expectations downward, towards, a weight-loss goal of no more than one kilo per week (at most) for initial weight-loss in my clients. What I am after is fat and fat only; not water-weight; nor glycogen (carbohydrate stored mainly in muscle tissue). Fat-loss lives at moderate to slower-intensity exercise rates (ten thousand steps per day territory) and takes time to lose for good. If water and glycogen are lost in conjunction with fat; while it shows on the scale, it bounces back up after a good meal!

Why not try, this year, to enjoy the journey for a change. Let the results sneak up on you, which they will, as a complete bonus. Turn your SMART thinking goals on their head.

Once you begin to trust the process and have broken your old habits of thought, I promise I will get you to set some solid SMART goals later on in the journey. It takes a good three weeks to form a new habit – so give it that time.


Tip number 5: Do Not Join Another Group

Having a supportive environment is great. Behaviour change is easier in a supportive environment. However, if groups have been your ‘go-to’ every January, then you are setting yourself up for the same results this time around. How about finding an on-line forum (such as here) for free? Why not get a buddy out walking with you on an evening, or a work-colleague sharing recipes? Why not take charge of your own weight-loss destiny? By all means keep yourself informed, motivated and tuned in (tv shows abound in January on the subject) but, perhaps, this year, take a break from the same-old-same-old which produces the same cyclical results annually.

You already know everything you need to know! You have been here before. Often!

A group leader will weigh you and make you feel really bad, with good intention mind you. Then they will impose targets on you. I am suggesting the exact opposite here – just for a change. I’m suggesting you step away from the weighing scales. What can it tell you that you don’t already know in your heart? It will not shock you into action necessarily – it might just bring you down.

I am also suggesting you stay away from setting hard targets, so that you get to enjoy the journey back to your vital, real self, this time around. And yes, I mean enjoy.

Further, I am suggesting that you don’t declare your new plan to anyone else. Keep your plans to yourself, so that they have a chance to get off the ground. Only when friends start to comment on how well you look do you need to chat about your new-found relishing of real food; if at all.

I have to add (can’t help myself) that I really do not favour diet-foods, in any guise. This is often the underlying purpose to the running of community-based groups. Eat real food. Stay away from processed. Eat plenty. You do not need to eat diet-jelly in order to lose weight; nor rice-cakes; nor diet yoghurts.

Good god woman, life is short enough.

Conclusion

You have dieted over the years. You know so much. You are fabulous. You have all of the knowledge-base, skills and experience necessary to achieve this year’s weight-loss goals.

What you may lack, by your menopausal years, is the self-belief, energy and enthusiasm to embark, with hope on yet another weight-loss journey. I get this. Maybe its time to settle. Maybe this is as good as it gets.

No. DO NOT SETTLE. Be the you you want to be. The world is your oyster. You are young. You have another fifty years ahead potentially. How do you wish to live them? Decide today to dream big. Dream for big weight loss. Dream of boundless energy. Dream of ease of eating. Dream of pleasure and opportunities.

Start today by embracing the above. Together we can achieve al of your weight-loss goals. And more!

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