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I am a New Zealand registered nurse and nutritionist (Grad Cert Sci: nutrition, Massey Univ). I am a Certified Zone Instructor, and have worked teaching Zone diet principles to hundreds of clients over the last 10 years. More recently after finding that eating Paleo food choices was the "icing on the cake" health wise, I have become a Paleo enthusiast and teacher. Follow me on twitter @juliannejtaylor

Menopause, paleo diet and weight gain

I’m on a personal mission. I’m menopausal and my tummy is growing. I don’t like it and I don’t want it and I’d like to find a way to stop it.

My passion for nutrition started with a personal mission. I’ve changed my diet so many times over the years. To lose weight (crazy diets and diet pills in the late ’70 early, ’80s). To save the planet and the sea (vegetarian in the late ’80s).

The Zone diet in the mid 90’s marked a turning point, a plan that worked for me, and paleo choices in 2009 was the icing on the cake. Since then I’ve kept experimenting, the auto-immune paleo – best results ever – but so strict. (No alcohol – Is it worth cutting one of life’s small pleasures for a small gain?) I’ve tried 9 cups of vegetables a dayas per the Wahls’ diet, but being little different from a fairly strict paleo diet with 5 cups or so of vegetables / fruit a day – I just felt uncomfortably stuffed after meals. I’ve gone back to about 5 cups a day and feel just great. I have berries, kiwi, sometimes a banana and a range of vegetables – all types and colours.

Nicole Carroll with her crossfit abs

I’m following a paleo diet, strictly gluten-free because I have Hashimoto’s (auto-immune thyroid disease), a little alcohol, occasional dairy. I keep on top of portion size and don’t overeat, and have kept my body fat within a range that I feel comfortable with – although I’m jealous of those girls at CrossFit that have visible abs.

I exercise – I was introduced to CrossFit in 2009 by Alex at CrossFit Auckland, for which I am totally grateful. I love it – CrossFit works for me, and I still go at least 3 times a week. I may not be the fastest (Frequently I’m the last finishing a workout – due to my totally sucky aerobic system – but I don’t care, I’m strong, my butt does not sag, and I feel fresh and way younger than my years)

Which brings me to where I am now. Menopause. I can’t quite believe this is the point I am in life. I don’t feel this old, and I don’t look this old. (Not that years of periods have helped me any – fertility was an issue and my 2 children are adopted) But yes – it has hit me. Last year – the missed cycles, the occasional hot flush. I discovered that being strictly gluten-free helped a lot, those waves of nausea and heat in the night evaporated when I became strictly gluten-free.

It’s 8 months since I’ve menstruated, hot flushes hit me like a blast of hot air up to 6 times a day, but they are not so bad. I occasionally drip with sweat, a strange experience as I’ve never been a sweaty person. I’m sure my diet helps. (Sorry boys if this is TMI, but one day a woman in your life might be going through this.)

I seem to be relatively free of other menopausal symptoms so far:

Sleep – I sleep like a log, magnesium malate (my favourite form of magnesium)- 2 tabs a day seems to help both the flushes and my sleep.(Link: To buy in my NZ shop)

My mind is still intact, it’s a bit more foggy and I’m more forgetful – but nothing extreme, (I’ve got 50 + years of stuff in my brain, something has to fall out when new stuff goes in) it still works well enough to tackle post grad nutrition science assignments.

What I’m struggling to keep on top of is the belly fat. All of a sudden – I had an increase in hot flushes, an increase in appetite, a 2 kg (5 lb) weight gain, and 3cm waist increase. My skinny dress is tight, very tight.

Superficial? Maybe. But I think that as a nutritionist, it is important keep on top of my own issues – experiment, research and try out tactics that might help me, that then might help others.

I’ll be doing some research and self experiments and I’ll keep you posted – in the meantime – if you have found a strategy, a solution for yourself, please share. You might help me (I don’t know all the answers!), and others in my position.

More reading:

From Marks Daily apple: Dear Carrie: Hot Flashes

Paleo and the Wild Thing

 

 

 

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66 Responses to “Menopause, paleo diet and weight gain”

  1. Rick #

    Well, another benefit of being a man, no menopause, but my sympathies for the process anyway :)
    I probably had some sort of andropause, and in my 60s no longer easy keeping the weight where it should be despite 50k plus running each week, some of it pretty solid, so always interesting to read of such journeys.
    Thanks for the blog, keep it up!

    May 27, 2012 at 7:55 pm Reply
  2. Sorry, I don’t have any quick and easy solutions for the belly situation.

    I’m 57 and notice that keeping my own belly in shape is harder now than when I was a young man. It’s not a women’s only deal, as you can see when you look around.

    I suspect what’s needed is the same tricks that younger folks would use (the right exercises and low percentage body fat) – just more of it. It’s harder and less effective when you’re over 45, to the point that many people just give up the dream. But’s it’s not impossible.

    Thanks for sharing this very common problem. How about some “before and after” photos?

    -Steve

    May 27, 2012 at 8:07 pm Reply
    • I’m a bit self concious – but might brave a belly shot for the sake of science!

      May 27, 2012 at 8:23 pm Reply
  3. Honora #

    Standing by for the answer on this one.

    May 27, 2012 at 9:15 pm Reply
  4. Margret Saul #

    Thanks for your honesty about your journey which probably paralells so many of us – although certainly in my case not so successful. However I know I am much healthier on a somewhere near Paleo diet but still lots of unnecessary fat. Good luck with your belly fat – if there’s an answer I’m sure you will find it.

    May 27, 2012 at 9:48 pm Reply
  5. Pam #

    I am a 59-year-old postmenopausal woman. Through a combination of paleo, CrossFit, and bioidentical hormone replacement I’m fairly lean and have mostly lost the “menopot”: the pouchy belly and belly fat in my lower abdomen. What bugs me, though, is that none of the above have really helped with the waist thickening I experienced as part of menopause. It seems to be a different issue than the fat layer in the front of my belly. It’s very similar to what happened to me with each pregnancy: Both times, before I’d even had a pregnancy test my waist thickened, both at the sides of my body and across the back.

    Any thoughts?

    May 28, 2012 at 1:25 am Reply
  6. Great post. I’ll be following to see your suggestions on the menopausal tummy issue.

    May 28, 2012 at 5:05 am Reply
  7. garymar #

    Julianne, whose picture is that? Is that Alex of Crossfit Auckland?

    May 28, 2012 at 10:08 am Reply
    • It is a picture of a crossfitter called Nicole Carroll in the USA

      May 28, 2012 at 10:20 am Reply
  8. Jennifer #

    Perhaps it is time to get get help from a Naturopathic doctor or Chinese medicine practitioner. You don’t have to suffer through the hot flashes. Western or eastern herbs and acupuncture can help a lot.

    May 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm Reply
    • Thanks,
      I didn’t mention – that I have talked to my GP, he’s old school – just said “Yes other women complain about the increased belly size too – not much you can do about it”
      I’ve also talked to a Holistic Doctor and have some recommendations for supplements for boosting metabolism and helping my brain keep on top of things. I’ll update when I have tried them.
      The hot flushes are very minor really – and if I eat well and limit alcohol and take my magnesium, they hardly bother me – and don’t keep me awake.

      May 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm Reply
  9. I am 52 with 4 kids. I slide thru menopause without a hitch. I credit 30 years of HIIT High Intensity Interval Training for the aging gracefully thing. No chronic cardio. Paleo for the past 4 years has stopped inflammation, allergies, blood sugar issues. I have trained and counseled hundreds of menopausal women and this combination has worked. I truly believe it is HIIT combined with that is the magic menopause pill. My bodyfat range is 11-14 depending on the test used and I credit the HIIT cardio 2-3 times per week, HIIT weight training 3 times per week, and Paleo. I don’t take hormones and am on a mission to see how long I can hold onto this body. My own experiment is working on me and many other women. But you have to be tough. It is hard to eat and exercise with motivation all the time…especially when all the women around us just give up and blame menopause and aging, like they have no control over their bodies. Could it be that you need to up the quality/intensity of your training? I notice I have to remind myself to keep training with high intensity and not give in to the thoughts of ‘Oh we’ll, this is just what happens when you get old’ mentality. I try to block those thoughts and pretend like I am still 25…because I feel as if I am! Never Surrender girlfriend! Keep fighting like a girl! Train hard, win easy! Do your best and them some…that is all we can do.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:19 am Reply
    • Hi Penny,
      Up until this year – my weight has been around 51 (50 – 51.5kg) and my waist a consistant 27.5 – 28″ at navel. Unlike you – I have never been able to maintain a very low body fat, but have maintained it at a healthy level. I’ve been crossfitting for 3 years, 3 – 4 times a week. And paleo for 3, very strictly gluten free. I don’t weight or measure food, just eat what feels right, although I have a good sense of portion control that works for me. Then all of a sudden this year – Wammo – waist 29″. I’m almost 53, and up until this year – like you thought I was sailing through. Like I said -hot flushes are really minimal. Sleep well. Feel great in all respects. My Hashimotos is still symptom free, although my TSH has gone up a bit. It started the minute my periods stopped completely.
      I’ll play around with tightening up my diet, cutting alcohol, which I’m not really enjoying anyway, (another side effect of menopause?) supplements for the hashis and maybe herbs for the menopause symptoms. I’ve also started a pro-bioitic that has good clinical results for auto-immune / gut issues to see if that helps. More fermented foods.
      More exercise? Might have to look at a bit more. I feel I need to do more to keep my fitness up, which seems to be dropping in the last year.

      So thanks – I’ll keep up the fight! I dont want to succumb to aging. I’m inspired by all those others that keep physically fit and strong and keep eating smart (including my 80 year old parents)

      Any other tips gladly accepted.

      May 30, 2012 at 8:55 am Reply
      • Helen Carpenter #

        Which probiotic is that, Julianne?
        Thanks!

        May 30, 2012 at 9:05 pm Reply
        • Natren lifestar 2 with Bifidobacterium infantis

          June 1, 2012 at 1:41 pm Reply
      • Michaela #

        I do not think HIT is the best for everyone, like I can not do it more than 1 in 7-10 days. When I was doing 3 times week my period had stopped, it just stressed my hormones too much. I go better with walking and some yoga and only once in while some hit training

        June 22, 2012 at 12:44 am Reply
    • Hi,
      I am a fitness Instructor and very passionate about exercise, and never feel tired of exercising. I also eat normal healthy vegetarian food, a non smoker, and non drinker too.
      I am 54, and my periods stopped at 52, and from that time, i have seen a sudden increase in weight, and inches, and I just can’t see myself in the mirror without feeling really awful.
      I am healthy with no health problems associated with / or the reason for my present problems.
      Although I have upped my exercise a little more, though my doctor says not to over do, for i might be defeating the purpose of my exercise, but well, I just love to exercise.
      Though I have a lot of stamina, my metabolic rate is showing that it has slowed down, though I feel no difference physically other than seeing my muscles turning into flab, despite working out with weights regularly, my upper back has increased in inches, and my abs are becoming rounder and rounder, and I have put a lot of inches there too.
      My lower body is perfect no weight gain there.
      I have two batches of aerobics classes in which I do a 25 minutes of low impact aerobics with my student and also do 20 minutes of weight training with dumb bells and ankle weights( 1 day we do lower body and 1 day the upper body), 2 times a day and for 5 days a week.
      After my class I also like to some more weight training, in the HIIT style also, and sometimes I also like to do Yoga for about 45 minutes which includes breathing exercises also.
      I also do a lot of rebounding.
      I feel I may be over doing it a little bit, but I don’t feel bored or tired by any of the things I do on a regular basis.
      And I had put on some 9 kilos, and have managed to lose only 3 kilos in 1 year, and for the past 6 months my weight is not budging from 67 kilos. i used to be 59 kilos.
      I am in control of my fitness level, but still i am not able to win in the battle of bulge.
      I have been taking mecafem for than 6 months now, and I didn’t notice any change in my weight, but I suddenly started having no hot/cold night flashes for almost 3 months, but now all of a sudden the hot/ cold flashes are back.
      My hair started thinning, so I have started taking Biotin which is really helping me with my hair and my .
      I drink lot of water and also drink lots of raw vegetable and fruit juices without sugar.
      I simply don’t know what else I can do.
      Well this is my experience with menopause.
      I wonder whether all fitness Instructors too go through the same problem or they have a way to tackle this problem.
      I no longer feel I look like a fitness instructor.
      Well, thanks for letting me rant here for a change , for actually I am a very positive person, and have lots of patience to wait for positive things to happen, it is just once in a while you just have to get it out of your system, and who knows I might find an answer to my problem.

      September 18, 2013 at 1:53 am Reply
      • I’m experimenting myself to see what works in terms of middle weight gain. I’ll update in a few weeks.
        Hormones play such a big role, testosterone, estrogen, growth hormone decreases all increase middle fat.

        September 18, 2013 at 11:54 am Reply
      • Rosalie #

        I just have a comment on menopause weight gain.

        Exercise and eating right is for everyone for healthy living, not just menopausal women. If you are a person that has been already doing the right things like exercising and watching what you eat, I would say relax and stop worrying about it so much. After reading several posts and talking to real people with the same issues, I have decided to just say ” it is what it is.”
        No one should have to work this hard to try to lose the weight with no luck. I have given up worrying about the bigger belly and like a lot of others, I had never had a weight problem until I turned 50 and started having hot flashes. Because I had a hysterectomy when I was 40 and never had a period for 10 years, I forgot about menopause even when I started getting the hot flashes. I gained about 25 lbs in the first two years. I couldn’t take the hot flashes anymore and went to a naturopath. She put me on bio-identical hormones because I didn’t have any at all and my hot flashes disappeared in the first week. I’ve always had a nice toned slim body until all this started. I haven’t been able to lose any weight and I am giving up on trying. I am still healthy and my boyfriend loves me for me so I am very lucky. I’m not about to turn my life upside down to try to lose my belly, I am just going to accept the fact that there really isn’t much you can do about it. I will still be happy and have fun and enjoy life like I deserve to. This is suppose to be the time to enjoy life not stress more about something that you will no doubt be able to change. Except for maybe the very lucky!!

        Thank you

        November 26, 2014 at 10:43 am Reply
        • Rosalie #

          Rosalie #

          I just have a comment on menopause weight gain.

          Exercise and eating right is for everyone for healthy living, not just menopausal women. If you are a person that has been already doing the right things like exercising and watching what you eat, I would say relax and stop worrying about it so much. After reading several posts and talking to real people with the same issues, I have decided to just say ” it is what it is.”
          No one should have to work this hard to try to lose the weight with no luck. I have given up worrying about the bigger belly and like a lot of others, I had never had a weight problem until I turned 50 and started having hot flashes. Because I had a hysterectomy when I was 40 and never had a period for 10 years, I forgot about menopause even when I started getting the hot flashes. I gained about 25 lbs in the first two years. I couldn’t take the hot flashes anymore and went to a naturopath. She put me on bio-identical hormones because I didn’t have any at all and my hot flashes disappeared in the first week. I’ve always had a nice toned slim body until all this started. I haven’t been able to lose any weight and I am giving up on trying. I am still healthy and my boyfriend loves me for me so I am very lucky. I’m not about to turn my life upside down to try to lose my belly, I am just going to accept the fact that there really isn’t much you can do about it. I will still be happy and have fun and enjoy life like I deserve to. This is suppose to be the time to enjoy life not stress more about something that you will no doubt never be able to change. Except for maybe the very lucky!!

          Thank you

          November 26, 2014 at 10:47 am Reply
  10. Patti #

    I’m looking forward to what you find. I’m in my 50s, and am fighting fat that’s distributed very differently than it was 10 years ago. I have to stay very low calorie to avoid gaining, no matter what I eat. To read what others (male) have written, one would think eating paleo/low carb/high fat is the perfect solution for everyone. Thank you for bringing up the topic of aging while female! :) I was feeling kind of invisible.

    June 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm Reply
    • So far, in terms of effects of food on hot flushes, I notice the more I eat – the more the flushes, also alcohol has an effect.
      Last night I had a bigger than usual meal and about 2 glasses of wine (maybe 3) and was woken by sweats about 3 times.
      Eating less food keeps me cooler. Especially sticking to vegetables/ fruit and protein.

      I’m analysing my intake this week to see what I actually eat, and restricting calories a little.

      June 4, 2012 at 4:42 pm Reply
  11. Ilse #

    Hi Julianna,
    I’m more of a reader then a poster on blogs, but this time I want to share what I found out for myself.
    I am 48 years old. I’ve never been overweight but started eating low-carb in January 2004 to support my husbands struggle to loose some weight. Since then I’ve never stopped eating like that: no more headaches or migraines, never had a cold or the flu anymore. Besides that I eat much tastier like this, I love the fat! Sometimes I cheat in holidays but no more than two or three days in a row.
    My point is that since two years the weight kept creeping up, nothing helped: extreme low carb, calorie restriction, increasec exercise, no alcohol. But I’m the person that never gives up, since a while I adapted my diet a bit to Paleo and started reading about IF (intermittent fasting). I play a little with it, sometimes 16/8 ours (leangains), sometimes 24 hour fast (from dinner to dinner), but mostly I just stop eating at 10 pm and skip breakfast then at around 2 or 3 pm a good lunch and dinner in the evening.
    To me that is THE SOLUTION, after two years of struggling I’ve started losing weight again, a few grams every day, sometimes even a pound. Even though I drink a glass of wine or two in the weekends. At first it was difficult not to eat but after a few weeks it has become natural to me, I even work out in a fasted state every morning without feeling weak. I hope this could work for you -and other women- too.
    B.t.w. I live in The Netherlands and paleo is more and more moving in the underground but is unstoppable I hope!
    Kind regards, Ilse

    June 4, 2012 at 8:24 pm Reply
    • Thanks for sharing what worked for you. I’ll definitely look at IF as a something to try.

      June 4, 2012 at 10:04 pm Reply
    • Drew #

      Thank you for your post. I have been paleo for some time (absolutely no gluten, grains, dairy, etc) and I have not seen a budge in my weight or measurements (hovering at 127 lb/57.7 kg) and I don’t know what else to try. I have been weight lifting and started walking 3 miles a day. Nothing. I have been reading more on IF and with your high recommendation am going to try it.

      August 17, 2012 at 7:14 am Reply
  12. Ilse #

    Mark Sisson of Primal Blueprint wrote an excellent series of 7 articles on IF.
    First one: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fasting-weight-loss/#axzz1wu4L0QwE

    This series convinced me to just try it, for more reasons than just weightloss, like a better overall health and clearer thinking.

    June 5, 2012 at 7:58 pm Reply
  13. Sandra #

    I’m new to low carb high fat eating; it’s not strictly paleo as I do eat Greek yogurt and some cheese. I found your blog searching for info on menopause and paleo because I’m struggling with menopause, hot flashes and weight gain. I changed my diet about two months ago to LCHF to lose weight, I’m about 30 pounds (15 kilos) overweight. I’ve lost about 10 pounds in the last couple of months but my weight loss appears stalled. I noticed that I stopped losing weight two weeks ago when I started taking Estroven, a black cohosh supplement, for hot flashes and night sweats. Then I read that black cohosh can cause weight gain so I’ve stopped taking it.

    Still, even with my 10-pound weight loss none of it has been in my stomach. I’ve been exercising, cardo and weights, about 5 days a week. Workouts have been a struggle because of the hot flashes but I’m being pretty consistent.

    Anyway, I found your site looking for info on eating paleo and menopause. I’m wondering if I should be doing something more, different?

    June 6, 2012 at 8:11 am Reply
    • So far I seem to be doing better with calorie restriction. Little or no alcohol and no dairy + paleo. No snacking

      June 6, 2012 at 10:41 am Reply
      • Michelle #

        Hi Julianne,

        I am 49, started 2 years ago with mysterious joint aches and pains, then about 2 years ago came night sweats…rivers of water. I finally went on bioidentical hormones which totally cured the joint pain but the night sweats are a huge problem we are struggling to sort with progesterone dosage and adding DIM. I am not strictly paleo or primal yet (have been reading about it for the last few months) and working towards it, but have probably been fairly close anyway – more fresh food than processed, very little takeaway. It was low fat though, so I have flipped that around and lost the rest of the grains too (mostly rice, a little bread not much else). I feel better for that straight away, no more tired in the afternoons!

        I believe alcohol is an issue so it has gone as of last night (finished the red, so sad!). I am 163cm and have been 55kg for ?25 years? 4 kids, lots of exercise, on and off depending – martial arts, weights, mild cardio (I hate running!). I have also been reading “The Wisdom of Menopause” by Christine Northrup, and coffee has to go as well so I can see if thats a problem (its been decaf for months with not much difference!). All I want to do is SLEEP!!! The night sweats gives me freaky dreams (like a technicolor movie that won’t quit) and I wake up feeling like a wrung out dishrag. Hard to get to the gym at 6am feeling like that!!!
        I’ll update how it all goes….please that it GOES!!!!
        Michelle

        July 23, 2012 at 11:59 am Reply
        • I’ve been back on a 30 day strict paleo, without alcohol. I feel better, barely any sweats or hot flushes. I had a glass of wine last night. First for a while – not a smart idea, woke up at 4 am for a couple of hours.

          I’ve been taking green tea extract and maca, both seem to help.

          July 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm Reply
  14. Gina #

    Thanks so much for the post. I am having a similar experience with the belly fat, but I has a different experience with the hot flashes. I am 49 and have been paleo for a couple of years. I started following the Leptin Reset and Cold thermogenesis protocol this Jan/Feb. All was going great when suddenly I started having non-stop hot flashes all day and night in late March. I was so sleep deprived I was walking around like a zombie and not eating well at all. I put on about 5-6 pounds in my belly. I tried manipulating diet, room temperature, fans etc to no avail. Nothing abated the night sweats. Then suddenly they stopped after 6 weeks. I am left with the extra weight in the tummy, and have had no period since March. I keep wondering if I stirred something up with the cold thermogenesis protocol from Jack Kruse, or that was my menopause and I am done? Who knows?!

    June 6, 2012 at 11:20 am Reply
    • Interesting experience. Did the high protein low carb trigger some hormonal changes I wonder?

      June 6, 2012 at 11:27 am Reply
  15. Stacey #

    I am wondering whether hunter gatherer females beyond menopause have a ‘tummy’?

    If it is true that we are eating and exercising appropriately for our species, then we must trust that our bodies know what they are doing, right? Just like with your cat – you eat right, your body heals itself.

    I’m still definitely pre-menopause, but I’m curious about the basic assumption being made here, that all women of all ages will be lean, tight and young-looking when on a paleo diet. Perhaps this isn’t the case.

    I know that in all the National Geographic pictures I’ve seen of older tribal women, they look a bit saggy and have breasts to their knees. I don’t know if they were strictly hunter-gatherers, but maybe we should be just thankful we have access to good lingerie :)

    June 8, 2012 at 7:56 pm Reply
    • Yes – I’ve wondered that too. I’m also interested in whether women in other cultures who dont overeat like Okinawans get extra padding as they age. I’ll be looking into it.
      Indeed good lingerie is a plus!
      I dont want to be bigger even if that is the case!

      June 8, 2012 at 9:03 pm Reply
  16. Andrea #

    Julianne,

    check this out: The sussess story of a menopausal crossfit trainer on Mark Sisson’s website. Paula Jager from crossfit Jaguar.
    She lost her “menopausal fat”.
    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/a-primal-woman-looks-at-50/#axzz1xwDx2fYG

    June 17, 2012 at 1:12 am Reply
    • Yes – I saw that. She was able to get down with calorie control. She has previously been very lean. I wonder how much ones set point affects the potential to be lean. Still it’s a positive story. I am taking some tips from it.

      June 17, 2012 at 10:09 am Reply
  17. Rebecca #

    I’m a 54-year old perimenopausal, athletic woman (still occasional periods; I’ve been perimenopausal for 3 or 4 years). I’ve had “healthy habits” for many years, but gained weight during this time (10 lbs). What seems to work for me (amazing success in just 3 weeks, all my clothes fit now and tummy is way down) is Terry Wahls’ protocol for nutrition (especially with lean grass-fed meat, etc., and for now eliminate dairy and grain, though I do drink alcohol) AND substituting HIIT (high-intensity interval training) for a couple of my work-outs during the week. The HIIT actually saves a bit of time–it’s not about adding something else. I’m feeling great too, and nails are stronger. I’ve noticed I see the most improvement on days after HIIT, but I just don’t want to do that every workout. I mix things up a lot, but I do work out pretty intensely even when it’s not HIIT. I also do yoga to stretch out, along with different sorts of cardio and weights.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:20 pm Reply
    • Thanks, that is interesting. What was your diet before Dr Wahls protocol?

      June 26, 2012 at 8:55 am Reply
  18. M Ruth #

    I do health research for a living and I have found, so far, no good research on menopause and weight gain. Based on my own experience and that of others, you can think you are sailing through and then … wham!… literally within a week or two you gain 10-15 pounds and several inches. No change in diet or exercise. Although I had menopause at 51 the weight gain did not hit until 56. I did not diet, kept doing what I was doing, and then a couple of years later, it seemed to fall off as fast as it arrived. Waist is about 2 inches thicker (though I do have one) and I”m maybe 5 pounds heavier at 64 — but I haven’t worked at keeping my weight down or done intense exercise.

    Bottom line: I have not seen any diet or exercise program work to lose this rapid weight gain.

    Second Bottom line:
    However, I have been researching berberine which activates AMPK, the master “energy” sensor. There has been one small human trial with modest (about 5 lbs) weight loss. Berberine (1 – 1.5 g daily ) also lowers blood sugar equal to metformin (it works similarly without the side effects), also lowers cholesterol, triglycerides, and increases insulin sensitivity.

    Side effects of berberine are that about 5% of people get constipated. To get back to the topic, I’m trying berberine on some menopausal women friends who have just had the rapid weight gain experience and who are also on some type of low carb eating program. I’m curious if berberine will help lose this particular type of weight through its ability to affect the weight chemistry via AMPK. There is the possibility, of course, that this weight gain is the body’s way of transitioning through this hormonal change and there’s little we can do about it.
    You can go to pub med and search berberine for studies.

    August 11, 2012 at 4:02 pm Reply
    • Thanks – I will have a look at that. My own experience is that weight gain is also linked to less tolerance of hunger. I used to be able to skip meals, (not intentionally – I just used to forget about eating at times, or hunger would not bother me) now hunger does bother me. I get irritable, like when I used to get low blood sugar.

      I came accross this today http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200404/menopause-and-the-munchies

      On a more positive note. My weight gain has stopped, but it’s hard to shift back down. But I’m being pretty strict eating wise (did another Whole30to get back on track), and doing CrossFit 4 – 5 times a week.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:48 pm Reply
  19. Tamara #

    Thanks for all the info here. I found this site through a google search of “menopause and paleo”
    I have been dabbling for the last year but have been inconsistent. But my symptoms are driving me nuts. I have hot flushes but they are the least of it…just inconvenient really. The real issues are the stupid un controlled weight gain and my very predictable monthly body aches and flulike symptoms..all which resolve completely after about a week. But that week…sheesh..I live on the couch and do google searches..hehe.
    I just started with the Maca and Remifemin and regular Magnesium.
    Thinking the Remifemin might be gone..more googling for me…
    Next..Strict Whole30-and maybe some HIIT.
    I will continue to follow here. There is not a lot out in google land so experiment of n=1.
    Thanks again

    September 20, 2012 at 9:15 am Reply
    • Let me know how you get on with a strict whole 30 and exercise. It is the best solution for me so far.

      Alcohol and overeating are definitely not great. The only thing I haven’t tried yet is no coffee, some women say this makes a big difference. My hot flushes are minimal now, and I’ve stopped gaining weight. Wouldn’t mind losing a little though.Some favourite clothes are a little too tight.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:33 pm Reply
      • Jackie Taylor #

        I can offer some insights re. giving up the coffee/caffeine and hot flushes, as I have recently just been through it. The positives first; really reduced hot flushes for me, from several a day and during the night to zero so far, and the quality of my sleep is to die for. I fall asleep almost immediately and rarely wake up before the alarm.

        The withdrawal symptoms need to be acknowledged, as it was a gruesome 2 weeks; headaches, sever flu-like symptoms, excessive tiredness (nearing exhaustion some days), I spent one weekend sleeping on the couch! Definitely not my usual self. I. Crossfitted through this (train 6 days most weeks) to keep myself sane, as I was grumpy and emotional too! Don’t make the mistake of drinking tea with caffeine, this just prolonged it. Cold turkey is best.

        Feel great now, clear head, good memory and don’t miss it at all.

        Just a note on weight gain and menopause, I eat as pure a paleo diet as I can and zone block as well and I don’t drink alcohol. In my younger days (I am 49) , I always noticed a week before my period started I would get super hungry and I would put on weight around my waist. I knew I ate more during those few days, so I always thought it was a combo of more food intake and natural swelling. The hunger I feel now, reminds me of the same feeling. Your observations on keeping diary notes on the amount of food and upping the training (muscle burns more calories) make sense to me.

        So glad I found your site, it is so important to share these experiences. Thanks.

        December 29, 2013 at 7:22 pm Reply
    • Michelle #

      Interesting. What finally drove me to get hormone (bioidentical) replacement was not the night sweats (which were terrible) & mood swings (pretty terrible too) but it was the whole body pain….I’d lie in bed with panadol & ibuprofen on board, unable to move or would have to have a hot shower at 2am to try & settle it down. When the hormones kicked in this went (2 years ago?). I had forgotten until I read this just how awful it had been! I’d choose night sweats over that pain any day! And I probably need to lose the coffee too!

      September 13, 2014 at 1:52 pm Reply
  20. CCM #

    Like the earlier commenter questioned, I wonder if the assumption that paleo women aged without weight gain or physical decline is reasonable or logical. I’m visiting my 83 yo father and he has dementia and is winding down. He used to be a solid, robust man but now is very thin and frail. Perhaps extra weight gain during menopause is actually protective and allows us a few more decades of active life. To be sure, we won’t be hot babes anymore but maybe that is rather freeing as well.

    My question: I am 49 yo and in the past year or so have developed uterine fibroids that I believe are due to hormonal changes. Do you know anything about that and what nutritional strategies would help reduce them? They cause me no pain but feel heavy when I lie down.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:11 pm Reply
    • Extra weight is useful – but only if it is muscle as far as I can see. Most people lose muscle and gain fat. As we age and growth hormone and testosterone drop we can lose significant muscle mass. Weight resistant exercise as we age in imperative in my opinion.

      Not sure about the fibroids – you could google paleo and fibroids to see if anyone has had success. My clients with these have usually had surgery, than gone onto a paleo diet.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:29 pm Reply
  21. Jeanine #

    Hi Julianne,

    It was inspiring reading your story and seeing your picture. I too suffer from Hashimoto’s, endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroid and sjogren’s. Losing weight is a constant battle for me so it helps to know Paleo does work. I tried it and lost 5 lbs so far. The minute I added caffeine back into my diet was the day I stopped losing weight, sigh, I dearly love my one cup of coffee a day:-( anyhow, I do feel less bloated when I stop drinking it. I’ve read tons on Paleo, menopause, bioidentical hormones and hysterectomy. Some women say they have to be brutal with the Paleo and only do meat, fat and vegetables or just meat and fat. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to go that far but after just a week with Paleo, doing only vegetables, protien and apples I started adding back other fruits. Big Mistake! I noticed immediately that my stomach was not pleased. I can’t even tolerate apples anymore. I guess I’ll be one of those nut jobs that exists on protien, fat and vegetables.

    Good Luck and glad to hear that it’s not hopeless!

    Blessings,
    Jeanine

    October 25, 2012 at 10:05 am Reply
  22. Anon #

    Your metabolism is slowed from years of low calorie dieting. Also, you probably have severe estrogen dominance (which also affects the thyroid) from using so much omega 3. Fish oil is a source of polyunsaturated fat and is not good, according to a biologist named Ray Peat. You might want to check his articles out: http://www.raypeat.com

    I did the Zone from ’96- last year. I also used Paleo nutrition for years. Both aged me and wore me down physically. Dr. Sears is right, starches are bad. The rest of his advice is generally wrong.

    February 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm Reply
    • What have been your results since following Peats ideas. Zone and paleo have not aged me one bit. I have never felt better. since taking a small done of thyroxine, my weight is back down. I dont agree with eating dairy, it has a lot of potential health problems, and Peat promotes that.
      I think we each need to find what works best for us.

      February 18, 2013 at 12:36 pm Reply
  23. Cheryl C #

    ADD PLANKS –
    Hi, all. I am 52. No period for 8 months, and only 1-2x for the year before that. Like others my weight went up, I lost the weight, and have been maintaining a robust exercise schedule with swimming, HIIT, weights, walk/runs, etc. Even with the weight off, the waist was considerably thicker with a somewhat distended lower belly. Nothing helped….. until planks. I’m never going to have a six pack, but after 4 months of planks (I do them about 3-4x per week), my lower belly is no longer nearly as “poofy”. This exercise is hard as all get out, but seems to make a real difference

    August 22, 2014 at 3:56 pm Reply
  24. jenna #

    Hi,
    Well I’m miserable. I’m in my early 60’s and each year is a nightmare in belly fat gain. I went through menopause at 54. It wasn”t until about 2 years later all hell broke loose. My hair began falling out and each year I have less. Then the wrinkles and dry skin and skin conditions and depression. It’s horrible. Around 60, although I only gained 3 pounds, my flat tummy was no longer and the deep 4 -5 inches of deep abdominal fat I have now is discusting. I am a real skinny fat person. I only weigh 99 pounds and look 4 months pregnant. Nothing works except starvation and I just can’t do it. I’ve tried 2 years of a whole foods plant based diet. No animal products, no oil, no sugar. Just ate lots of veggies, beans some whole grains like quinoa and fruit and under an ounce of nuts or seeds. Disaster! Now eat no grains but lots of veggies, fish, eggs chicken and some fruit. Not eating the carbs makes me irritable but hopefully that will pass and my belly fat can be used as energy instead of the whole grains I was eating. I’m desperate to get it off. The extra belly hurts my painful stenosis and knees. I am hungry all the time no matter what diet I eat. Menopause is a curse on woman. After you just get old and decayed. Prepare yourselves. Nothing good about it. Sorry to be so pessimistic but this is my story. I also have a huge amount of stress in my life with everyone dying around me so for sure my cortisol levels make matters worse. If we ever come back to live here again in another life, I never ever ever want to be a woman.

    August 28, 2014 at 5:17 pm Reply
    • That sounds miserable. What works for me so far – is lifting heavy weights, I do bench presses, dead lifts, back squats and abs exercises. I do kettlebell work and sprints in the park. My weight is now stable although a little more that pre-menopause. I take remifemin, and testosterone cream. My hot flushes have pretty much gone.

      September 12, 2014 at 2:13 pm Reply
      • Michelle #

        I am reading this thread with much interest.I have had vile peri-menopausal symptoms in varying degrees since age 38. The last 2 years so bad that I finally got bioidentical progesterone and DIM (buffers inversely raised oestrogen caused by low progesterone). Its helping but I have crazy hormones and have to be on top of how I feel to monitor the dose fluctuations to match. I tried Remifemin (?7 years ago) but I needed double the recommended dose and that gave me raised liver functions so I had to stop. I used to lift weights regularly and trained regularly in a martial art but the last 2 years my motivation has dropped in my boots so the gym has gone by the wayside and change in work shifts killed off the martial arts. My exercise now is heavy garden work, lots of walking at work and generally being active any way I can that is FUN! The lack of motivation is more debilitating I think than anything. Makes it hard to want to do anything, hard to get to the gym, even harder when you add in the bad winter we have had (Australia, SA)!

        About 1-2 years ago my partner & I dropped the processed grains (no more bread or pasta etc) and we don’t eat junk much anyway, never have, and that made a big difference to energy levels overall – no more afternoon brain fuzz and post-lunch sleepies!! We also added in more red meat to the food intake, and that has probably helped too. I can’t drop to low cars as I ache all over and can’t sleep, so we use sweet potato, white potato & rise for carbs and that helps, and eggs from my chooks! We are simple boring eaters and food is as important as fuel in the car! (pathetic!) But, I fortunately still remain the same weight as I was at 24. On the down side though, I have noticed the results of lack of weight training….floppy, less muscle density, just feel crap generally compared to 2 years ago! (how much is mental, hormones, physical, diet? Thats a hard one!)

        HOWEVER…I do recognise that surviving and being comfortable with the ageing process is as much mental as it is physical! Those oldies I see at work in their 80’s & 90’s who are thriving all have active social lives, regular exercise, eat fairly clean & don’t get all bent out of shape about wrinkles, the natural changes in shape as we age, and have a healthy mental approach to those changes. I am a work in progress, and need to kick my own butt as well! Lol!

        September 12, 2014 at 10:57 pm Reply
        • The testosterone cream has made a big difference to my muscle strength, mental energy and motivation. Highly recommend for post menopause

          September 13, 2014 at 10:34 am Reply
          • Michelle #

            Oh thanks for that info! I find the lack of motivation a killer! Hot sweats (swimming in wet sheets at night, all night) have settled (thank goodness!!) but for a once highly motivated overactive, sporty, driven overachiever, I am presently the opposite! I do understand why, and I know I need to kick my own arse….but I do find it hard to be bothered! Lol! My partner at least is in the same boat so we can commiserate with each other….then kick each other too. I might ask the docs about the testosterone! At least I know a great deal of this will eventually GO! Please, will it go??? Lolol!

            September 13, 2014 at 1:38 pm
          • Wendy #

            I just started using natural progesterone cream and my night sweats have gone away. It’s great!

            September 14, 2014 at 2:19 am
          • Great to know – thanks.

            September 14, 2014 at 9:43 am
          • Michelle #

            Oh….and at 51, I am not quite ‘post menopausal’ yet.Getting closer every day though, by the feel of it!

            September 13, 2014 at 1:40 pm
  25. Wendy #

    I too am in the same situation. I am 53 years old, teach six exercise classes a week, have been post menopausal since 2007 and despite eating healthy most of the time, my waist continues to grow. I am allergic to dairy so have been pretty much dairy free for 15 years. I have also been almost grain free for that amount of time. I do cheat every now and then and have a slice of ezekiel bread or my favorite cheat meal, Mexican food with chips and salsa. I am told often that I don’t look my age, so I don’t agree with statements that Paleo ages you.

    September 12, 2014 at 1:45 am Reply
    • I don’t agree that Paleo ages you either – I’m 55 and neither my body shape or face look anything like that. Eating a high nutrient plant based, low sugar, protein adequate diet is the best way to ward off aging

      September 12, 2014 at 8:12 am Reply
  26. I’m there with ya; I’ve found going carb free has really helped with the weight. Plus I’ve reached a good heavy weight range of lifting and am seeing a nice range of success with it.

    Aging sucks, but we’re all headed in the same direction.

    Sherri

    September 21, 2014 at 5:22 pm Reply
  27. janne #

    hi this website is very informative however I am possibly too far gone to regain any ground lost but am starting right now – was on heavy steroid treatment for brain surgery right at menopause (am 59 now) – gained twenty plus kgs -lost any desire for exercise (or sex) and struggle to have motivation – the cycle is a downward spiral but I feel a glimmer of hope now – I started maca two weeks ago and now searching for a good supply of progesterone which I will self medicate – my GP views my weight issue as related to diet only which has no effect except confuse my digestives and the neurosurgeon avoids discussing any possible side effects that I had from the treatment – so a very frustrating few years behind (literally) !

    Believe it or not I am pleased to read of other similar situations simply so I now know I am not alone – because I live with the part of tumour that was inoperable I try to keep exercise as controlled exertion to avoid possible fatal outcomes (warned by neurologist) although I do walk every day 10k upwards plus drink 2-3litres water – gluten free – vegetables raw and steamed – no dairy and no caffeine off and on – it does make a difference to weight gain I am sure – so started on dandelion tea, apple cider vinegar, ginger and ginseng recently for brain fog which has helped – I practice the intermittent fasting and lean toward Paleo – would like to consult with a good naturopath however have found my pockets empty and no results in the past so trying to do this myself now – any advice or comments gratefully received !

    September 22, 2014 at 12:24 am Reply
  28. Drew #

    I have an answer….might not be for everyone….worked for me.

    I am 51 years old and at the end stages of pre-menopause; almost into full fledge menopause…yeah, me!!! Every year for the past 10 years I have noticed that the scale and the belly fat (and back fat) were creeping up and on. Nothing touched it…not vegetarian, not vegan not even paleo touched the scale or the waist.

    That being said: in the past 2.5 months (yes, months) I have gone from a not-budging 134 to 112 lbs. No worry, no exercise (normal work load and no stress). How? I took the paleo diet one more step in the right direction….I put myself into nutritional ketosis. High fat, moderate protein and low, low, low, carbs. No hunger, no hot flashes, no waking up at night and the weight and belly are gone. For anyone interested check out Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore.

    My guess is that the high workout load along with a “healthy” low fat diet is causing many of you guys to not loose the weight or the belly. You have to eat fat to loose fat. It worked for me and my husband. Now that I’m down to my ideal weight I can start building those ab muscles. Again, might not interest all but it works with your body and there are no negative side effects (except I threw out my size 6 out of frustration a year ago and I had to go buy some more). Good luck and best wishes for all.

    November 29, 2014 at 4:47 am Reply
  29. Wendy #

    Since I am also having the problem with all of my weight in my stomach since I had a hysterectomy in 2007, I am interested in the ketosis option. How many carbs is low, low carbs? I teach six fitness classes a week, and I’m a little worried about not having enough energy if I limit my carbs too much.

    December 2, 2014 at 8:44 am Reply

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