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There we are with the second Weight Management blog.

As already mentioned in the first one ("Skills to change the way we eat") Weight Management is an approach that focuses mainly on the acquisition of behaviors and strategies that can help us maintain our body weight and the balance between fat mass and lean mass, "in control", in that optimal range for our SPECIFIC and unique physique, over time, in the long term.

Personally, since I have changed my approach to nutrition from the sole focus on calorie control and nutrient balance to one of greater awareness of my needs and strategies to act according to this, I have definitely improved my mental approach to food and my general and physical well-being.

Achieving this "balance" both from a physical, mental and emotional point of view (because yes, the emotional component in the relationship with food is always very strong and often determines our eating behaviors) can really allow us to get out of vicious circles such as having unrealistic or "mythologized" goals, making us feel inadequate or insecure in our body, or forcing us into diets that are absolutely inadequate for our real needs.

The key point is: "losing weight", losing fat mass is NOT always necessary and is NOT the goal for many people.

That said, it should be emphasized that from perimenopause onwards controlling or decreasing the percentage of fat mass becomes instead a very common and very important goal from the point of view of health as well as aesthetic.

For many women, weight gain from the decade 40-50 years becomes concrete, with a sometimes truly devastating impact both in terms of possible future pathologies, and in terms of self-esteem and self-perception.

Perimenopause begins up to 10 years before the end of female reproductive life (check the blog “Body and Menopause…”) and the body physiologically does NOT react as before.

"When I was 20 I could eat anything, now I gain weight just by looking at a piece of cake.." ... And this is a TRUTH.

The 40-50 decade is the time when we should start thinking about the FUTURE, the rest of our lives: what kind of woman do I want to be for the rest of my life?

So let's try to understand what happens.

The HORMONAL CHANGES that begin to affect various physiological processes of our body peep out and then gradually increase until the peak of menopause.

STRESS, this mysterious but omnipresent enemy, becomes REALLY decisive after the age of 40 (remember that I always use this expression to refer to an age "average") and more and more over 51 -52, statistical average of entry into menopause.

Both physical and mental stressors directly affect the production of estrogens, i.e. the hormones estradiol, estiol, estrone. How come?

Because both sex hormones (estrogens and progesterone the most important) and stress ones (in particular the hormone cortisol) are produced in the same place, the adrenal gland.

When stress increases and the person is overwhelmed, the hormone cortisol takes over and all hormonal production must seek a balance: sex hormones are those "cut" because they are considered less essential to face the physiological "emergency" of the moment, and this affects very negatively the symptoms of menopause.

And it is also the reason why when you are looking for a pregnancy and you are strongly stressed there can be problems.

Does it make sense?..

The increase in cortisol on the one hand and the decrease in estrogen on the other have among others as a consequence a strong increase in water retention and deficit in the metabolism of fats that are stored as a reserve, hence the increase in body fat, REGARDLESS of the starting eating habits.

Estrogen and progestorone affect the body and various vital processes: brain, heart, skin, hair, bones, nervous system, genital organs and fat metabolism.

For example, even the decline in sexual desire is often a "symptom" for both menopausal women and those of any age in times of high stress ... And this is the reason.

Returning to focus on nutrition, what you eat has great effects starting from perimenopause, or rather: it affects the effects and consequences of this.

Physically the tendency is to GAIN WEIGHT and above all to gain more fat in the WAISTLINE.

We tend to lose the female silhouette, and you know that this is a way for our body to tell the male that we no longer need him from a reproductive point of view.

It probably makes you smile and it's definitely evolutionarily interesting, but... For WOMEN it does not work exactly like this: the needs related to our femininity at 360 degrees go FAR beyond the strictly reproductive aspect!

Another consequence determined by the drop in estrogens is the impact on intestinal activity: bloating, constipation or chronic diarrhea in some cases, meteorism.

So the intestine responds to hormonal fluctuations, and even here it is clear to deduce the effects of both how "you feel" and how you "see yourself".

Other 4 areas that are strongly affected by hormonal changes are important to consider by focusing on NUTRITION.

ü Osteoporosis and loss of bone density, which we have already talked about and I refer you to the Blog article "Body and menopause: what you need to know...”

In short, less estrogen production means less production of osteoblasts, the cells that form and renew bone tissue. The real risk is that the skeleton becomes more and more fragile and prone to ruptures, and just think of the elderly to understand it: motor difficulties and fractures especially of the hip and femur become very common.

Even these situations, I would say, we have always seen as something "normal"..."It's like this"... Our grandparents invariably broke their femur at some point! And probably now our parents...

But it should not be seen as "normal", in the sense of thinking that there is nothing that can be done to prevent these situations.

It is something that can be ABSOLUTELY prevented and that drastically changes the quality of life in mature age (go to the articles "Sarcopenia: here is what we are interested in knowing" and "Body and menopause ...")

ü Irritability and mood swings: you may feel much more nervous, or sad, or more vulnerable and sensitive to what is happening around you. We will see later how nutrition here can have a really strong influence without us being aware of it.

ü Blood pressure: when the hormones estrogen decrease, the risks of cardiovascular diseases increase dramatically. This is because estrogen induces the production of "good" cholesterol and triglycerides and protects blood vessels, so their drop is not a good thing.

Did you know that in the UK 60% of deaths of women over 50 are due to cardiovascular diseases?

ü Sleep: the drop in estrogen can cause insomnia or nocturnal awakenings, or on the contrary excessive drowsiness and chronic energy loss. Here, too, nutrition can help or on the contrary negatively affect.

So let's see WHAT really counts on a nutritional point of view and WHAT we can improve.

The body is programmed to keep the blood sugar level in a very narrow range: if this changes excessively (and here we have no surprises: it is what happens by eating too many simple carbohydrates such as white flours, rice and pasta not wholemeal, sweets, chocolate ... But also alcohol and caffeine) in simple words activates a "state of emergency".

If your blood sugar is too high, your body needs to "cleanse" itself, sending excess glucose to your liver in order to store it.

When in excess, sugar will be stored in the form of fats.

This process happens ALWAYS, at any age, but the low production of estrogen even more if associated with a high production of cortisol (the stress hormone) increases even more the extent of these processes, which is why it can gain weight so easily over 40-45 years.

The impact is also felt from the point of view of ENERGY and MOOD: what happens is that after a short time from when you eat IN EXCESS or in THE WRONG way simple carbohydrates and sugars, you feel tired, nervous and the body will look for some other sugar to compensate for this balance now interrupted (this is a survival response); then the brain will send messages to the liver to release part of what has been stored, but not only: the brain will create cravings.

Cravings are always about sugary foods, or rich in carbohydrates, or caffeine or a glass of wine.

Then, for a period that usually goes from one to three hours, you feel satisfied again, and just after the circle starts again inexorably.

IF YOU GO TO SLEEP after eating excess simple and sweet carbohydrates, or after a couple of glasses of wine too much or a cocktail or two (maybe even sugary), what you experience is that probably around 2 am you are completely awake, because the adrenal gland decides to produce cortisol being the body entered a state of chronic "emergency" (Oh oh, I ran out of sugar and I have to start storing it again to always be "ready to action"!).

The next morning you feel bloated, tired, irritable, because cortisol will be everywhere.

These hormonal "ups and downs" can become chronic and lead to an IMBALANCE of blood sugar without us being minimally aware of what our evening binges of sweets (" I'm not on a diet, I can eat whatever I want"..) can actually cause.


Tiredness, insomnia, low energy, constant craving for foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates, dizziness, depressed mood, irritability, headaches, palpitations, difficulty "gearing" in the morning.

And for many of us, unwanted fat mass gain.

If this imbalance becomes permanent it can create insulin resistance that can lead to diabetes, and this happens more easily after the onset of menopause.

As for other areas, UNDERSTANDING and BECOMING AWARE of the meanings and consequences of our behaviours is the fundamental starting point to be able to improve them.

If we recognize ourselves and find ourselves in something that DOES NOT MAKE US FEEL GOOD, it can really "trigger" the motivation: "ok, but then I have to change this habit to improve this thing that I do not like so much!"

CHOICE becomes possible: that is, not to passively undergo an impulse but to decide whether to follow it or not. And this choice will be made based on our values, the goals that we feel are most important, the needs that we feel are most urgent.

If we talk about Weight Management the further step is obviously to IMPLEMENT SPECIFIC BEHAVIORS AND STRATEGIES related to the problem we want to solve.

And speaking of control or decrease in fat mass from perimenopause onwards these behaviors we can summarize them as follows:

ü Focus on a FUNCTIONAL NUTRITION: what helps to maintain the balance of sugars consistent, what improves digestion and assimilation of different nutrients. This concerns the COMBINATION of foods.

ü Decrease of your daily intake by about 500 calories. This leads to the strategy of decreasing PORTIONS instead of completely changing the foods we are used to eating and that we like.

ü EFFECTIVE and CONSISTENT increase in physical activity, especially that aimed at building muscle mass.

ü Learn how to recognize the difference between APPETITE and HUNGER and to recognize the signs of SATIETY (see article "Weight Management part 1")

I will talk about these points, together with the evaluation of some "myths" related to weight loss in the next Blog article, "Weight Management part 3"

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