Lean after menopause

Want to know how to change your body shape and achieve a lean, strong and curvy body even in your 40s or 50s?

Hormones are your superpower or your kryptonite

Hormones can be either your superpower or your kryptonite when it comes to being lean in your 40s and your 50s and the thing that tends to happen with women is that in my experience of dealing with women and working in the health and wellness industry for the last 15 years is that women mostly have been on a diet for most of their life.

In fact they’ve been on a diet for decades and decades and the impact that that has on our hormones, metabolism and thyroid can really make a massive impact on how well you’re going to maneuver through the menopause, not just your overall health but also your body shape as well.

Often women don’t see the effects of what decades of the eating choices has inside their bodies.

They have been under eating calories (and nutrients) or they have been binge eating and eating toxic foods.

What that does is it put the body’s version of homeostasis in major disrupt. This puts a lot of stress on the major organs of the body that deal with detoxification like the liver, kidneys and even heart.

It starts to really play havoc with your thyroid and other metabolic functions and this means that when you come into your 40s and 50s you come in with a less optimal state in terms of your health to be able to not only navigate through that  difficult time but also to come out of it optimally and achieve the body shape that you want.

Okay so let’s assume that you have been on a diet for the last three decades or you have chosen to be on a diet, off diet and maybe binge cycles. Maybe you don’t eat very much throughout the day and then you eat a lot in the evenings. Maybe you don’t necessarily know what fuel and food you need to fill your body and what blesses your body or you haven’t been consistent with that which is kind of the case. As you get older the delicate balance of hormones becomes the biggest issue with regards to your body and stress which shows up in your hormones. As we get older we also have more responsibilities and we also have more things that we need to look after which impacts stress levels that women have in their 40s and 50s.

What happens in menopause is that Estrogen begins to fall- plummet really- and your Progesterone,  which is the other hormone that’s to do with our female cycles, becomes more prominent so basically you become progesterone dominant – and any sort of dominance is bad. Anytime a hormone takes over and becomes dominant for a long period of time there will be massive changes that you need to kind of deal within the body.

Estrogen is your body shape change hormone,  it is the hormone that gives us our shape. It’s what gives us our hips, gives us our breasts and keeps our waist narrow. It’s also the hormone that helps us with fat burning and makes us less stress-sensitive and more insulin resistant.

So basically as the estrogen comes down we become more and we become more sensitive to stress and insulin. Progesterone rises and with it comes a dip in our mood and moodiness and our get up and go.  Our energy to want to work out or move or feel energetic. 

So basically in summary, as estrogen is plummeting you are less likely to want to workout as your energy shifts and you mellow out and you will find it more difficult to burn fat or to have the womanly shape that you want in your 40s and 50s.

This is why women tend to get wider in their midsections and we take on more of a masculine shape rather than the feminine shape with the curves in the womanly places.

So, we just need to understand more about how to deal with these pesky little hormones.

You need to know that during this time you are way more stress-sensitive and you also need to deal with shedding the estrogen and eliminating it out of your body to not cause stress on your detoxification process including your liver, kidneys and skin.

The key things to becoming lean post-menopause and even during menopause

Fibre

When you are moving into menopause, in menopause or moving out of menopause you need to deal with this fall of estrogen and you need to help the body to deal with this and eliminate it from your body.

If you don’t have good gut health, if you don’t get good fibre in your gut to help you with this and you don’t have a good elimination process then you’re going to end up being more toxic making you feel more sluggish and get more stressed.

This chronic stress cycle is just going to lead you to constantly wanting to make bad choices to get more energy i.e. caffeine, sugar or just binge eat. It’s just basically a vicious cycle of stress so by consuming more fibre and what I mean by fiber is not what they sell you on commercials in terms of cereals and bread etc. I want you to consume more fibrous veggies so how we suggest we do this as part of our community and part of the Warrior Goddess tribe is with our Green Proothie. Our green proothie is an amazing way for you to access all the fibres of all these lovely veggies and seeds and whole foods but in a way that’s really easy to consume and in terms of digestion but also on the go because we’re super busy women.

So our proothie (which is a protein smoothie) is a way for you to access the fibre that you need to help to build a really good digestive system adding in healthy fats and seeds like flax seeds and chia seeds also help that fibre and elimination process. 

[Related: What is a PROOTHIE? Best weight loss tip ever!]

And I definitely recommend you take a  probiotic as well as part of your morning routine.

It’s a really great thing to have in the morning if you’re also having it with 30 grams of protein from a protein scoop that’s also gonna help you to boost your metabolism.

You can add really important greens in there like spirulina or coralina or wheatgrass which also alkaline and help your gut super healthy. If you actually look at the recommended intake you need to double your recommended intake of fibre when you’re in your 40s and 50s.

Stress

Stress is one of the biggest issues and generally why we tend to have that wideness, that swimring or extra belly fat just below our belly buttons.  The cortisol hormone, which is impacted by your progesterone hormone,  gathers around that area. If you’re somebody who constantly has that area it’s generally to do with cortisol hormone being stored in those fat cells. It can also be to do with sugar and stress. In my experience, sugar and stress go hand-in-hand with emotional eating.

So what you need to focus on here is and how to deal with stress. Here are a couple of different ways to help you.

The most important one in your 40s and 50s actually, believe it or not, is walking. Just a nice gentle walk in nature, it’s not supposed to be a power walk it’s supposed to be calming and reassuring walk in nature. Thirty minutes per day keeping your body moving all of that little small thermic movements are really good specifically and it will help you to also burn some fat.

The other one is bathing or spas or steam rooms etc. Sweating out the toxins sweating out the estrogen build-up is a really important one that’s why we recommend Epsom salt baths as part of our tribe. 

Time spent with friends  and being social and having a glass of wine (not seven glasses of wine, ladies!), chatting it out and feeling supported and heard is one of the biggest stress relievers, especially in your 40s and 50s. There’s a lot of studies about the socialization and spending time with your girlfriends or with other friends is really an important part to deal with the stress that has built up.

Then the last part in that I want to talk about in terms of stress is exercise. Knowing what exercises to do and how much of it is essential.

I highly recommend you do strength training, strength resistance trainings with weights because not only they’re going to look after your bones and your joints and help with bone density and help with you building your hips and your core areas which become a lot weaker as we get older they will also help you to sweat out the toxins. 

Also, the type of exercise you want to do helps you to harness the good stress for the body but you don’t want to overdo it or do too much of it. Cardio post 35 on its own i.e., just going out for a run or just jumping on a bike is not going to help you to change your body shape or to deal with stress. In fact, it’s gonna add more stress into your body.

Now I did mention walking earlier but I want to say that walking is in addition to doing a strength training program this is why we teach kettlebell training at Warrior Goddess Kettlebell Training. This is why a lot of our ladies in their 40s and 50s are seeing massive changes in their body because they’re focusing on getting strong on a building lean muscle which is so important.

But how much exercise and how often to do that? Twelve minutes of strength training exercise is all that you need. Twelve minutes of high-intensity training is all that you need. It’s not hours in the gym specifically as you get older because the more that you do, the more stress it can be on the body and ultimately when your body is in stress it actually stalls its fat loss and it absolutely plays havoc with your hormones.

[Related: When to push and when to rest]

Here’s what I recommend: 

HIIT based workouts (high-intensity interval training) with a kettlebell or with bodyweight movements for 12 minutes a couple of times a week. Strength training with kettlebells which is really really good for females because so good on our joints, building our core, building our booty which protects our lower back all of that can be done in 12 minutes or less. In fact, a lot of our online workouts start with just four minutes.

Carb tipping point

The carb tipping point is an important part because we become more sensitive to carbohydrates, to sugar specifically, and how our insulin spikes in relation to that. So when you hit 40 you do become more sensitive to carbs. That’s not saying you’re allergic to carbs like you know gluten sensitivities or wheat allergies etc. though in my understanding most of us tend to have some sort of sensitivity to those wheat-based and gluten-based products when you really look at it in terms of they make you bloated. 

It’s more about the carb tipping point in terms of fat loss and in terms of energy. In my experience when add 30 grams of protein at every meal and add in a good healthy dollop of healthy fats such as avocados or oils or nuts or seeds then focusing on that and then getting your carbohydrates from green leafy vegetables and the occasional starchy carbs like sweet potatoes or some rice or some quinoa is sufficient and maybe you kind of leave your carbohydrates for the end of the day depending on what you’re gonna do and when you do your workouts. So if you’re an early-morning workout person you could get your carbohydrates post-workout or at lunchtime and then have fewer carbohydrates and if you are somebody who works out in the evening then you want your biggest meal to be after that so that those carbohydrates go directly to the muscles but then you wouldn’t need to eat as much carbohydrates in the middle of the day.

How I tend to do things, I eat my carbohydrates in the morning as part of my proothie or protein porridge or protein oats and then I tend to keep it very lean at lunchtime maybe some soup, maybe some protein and veggies like a stir-fry tofu stir-fry and veggies or an omelette with some veggies or salads or egg muffins or something like that and then have my biggest dinner because I tend to exercise in the afternoon or early evening.

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Lisa Barwise

Author Lisa Barwise

Hi, I'm Lisa. I consider myself a Wellness Alchemist, the catalyst in the transformation of Strong Women around the world. Strong of mind, body and character.

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