Sandra Chaloux

| 06/05/2017

Menopause & Weight Gain – Insights from Christiane Northrup, MD

Menopause & Weight Gain – Insights from Christiane Northrup, MD

I’m hearing from many women who are struggling with weight gain in Menopause. I am too. This is my second blog post based on Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Menopause & Beyond presentation that addresses the midlife metabolic shift – often known as the muffin top.

Dr. Northrup says that this condition starts years before perimenopause but it reaches critical mass at midlife due to a rapid change in hormones, specifically an increase in stress hormones –cortisol, adrenaline. Stress hormones Increase due to lack of sleep, fatigue, worry, too little exercise, too many refined carbohydrates, and alcohol (wine). (Sorry.)

The following is a summary of her presentation as it relates to weight gain during midlife.

Almost all chronic diseases like heart disease are associated with Insulin abuse and glycemic stress (blood sugar). Glycemic refers to glucose in the blood. Glycemic –the stress inside the blood vessels that is caused by blood sugar that is too high. Blood sugar that is consistently too high, causes oxidative stress, or rusting inside the arteries. High blood sugar leads to high insulin levels. Insulin is the storage hormone that takes sugar out of the blood and stores it as fat. High insulin levels change the way hormones are metabolized.

Symptoms of insulin abuse and glycemic stress (too many refined carbs and stress):

  • Night-time eating –where you have an evening meal and graze all night while watching TV (high carbs)
  • Insomnia
  • Heartburn
  • Swelling –liquid pounds from insulin creating fluid retention
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Aches & Pains
  • PMS
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • High Triglycerides
  • High blood sugar

Glycemic stress from your eating habits in your 20’s & 30’s becomes Insulin resistance and Syndrome X. Syndrome X is the leading cause of chronic degenerative disease and increased risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Breast Cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Macular degeneration/cataracts
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Lack of Ovulation
  • Excess Facial Hair
  • Adult acne

All of which are associated with too many refined carbs and too much insulin. The good news is that Syndrome X is easily reversible.

Here is Dr. Northrup’s recommended plan.

Measure for health

Waist for women: should be < 35 inches (over 35 inches =Syndrome X)

Body Mass Index (BMI): calculators/charts can be found all over the internet

BMI should be 24 and below (5’4” at 140 lbs = BMI of 24)

BMI (25-29) –recent data shows a 20-30% greater risk of premature death

BMI (30 and above is considered Obese) – 2 x 3 times normal risk of premature death

Maintain Normal Blood Sugar & Insulin

Eat 3 meals a day

Eat protein at each meal

Cut back on refined carbs: 80-20 rule (80% of your food should be good, 20% can be not so good) Alcohol and wine are high glycemic foods

Eat low glycemic foods that raise blood sugar slowly–should be the bulk of your diet

Beans, veggies, greens, nuts, seeds, some grains (1 in 3 women has a gluten intolerance. Stop eating it for 2 weeks and you will find out if you are one of them–less gas, bloating, etc. By age 50 a lot of people have a grain problem). Avoid MSG –it makes you want to eat more and more. Makes lab rats and humans obese.

Quell cellular inflammation –caused by high insulin and too many refined carbs (same for women and men) -Excess Body fat produces excess inflammatory chemicals

Eliminate trans fats –like margarine

Take a good antioxidant, multi-vitamin & multi-mineral daily

Magnesium (most women need additional magnesium, and don’t get enough of it) –important for nerves and anxiety

Eat lots of fruits and veggies (9 a day). Most of your foods should be fruits and vegetables. Meat should be a condiment. Have 3 veggies for lunch with alittle protein with it.

Breakfast sets the stage, it anchors your whole day. What you eat for breakfast determines what your blood sugar will be like the rest of the day. You will be starving in the afternoon if you have a high carb breakfast like a bagel and coffee in the morning. A high carb breakfast is guaranteed to cause your blood sugar to spike and then plummet, and “then you are chasing blood sugar the rest of the day.” There are shakes and bars that you can grab and go that contain protein, carbs, and fat. (watch the sugar grams)

The Importance of Vegetables – Check out these study findings:

5 large carrots a week reduces risk of stroke by 68%

5 cups (8 ounces/each) of tea a day (black or green) reduces the risk of stroke by 69%

5 or more fruits and veggies/day (especially cruciferous like broccoli/cauliflower) – decreases risk of stroke by 31%

Omega 3 fats –like in Salmon or supplements –reduces all causes of mortality from everything. Omega 3 fats enhance cell membrane function, good for moodiness, decreases risk of sudden cardiac death. Decreases hot flashes by 44 %. Fish oil does the same thing as SSRI drugs (used for depression)

Vitamin D – drastically reduces breast cancer, colon cancer, and osteoporosis –but you need enough

Optimal Blood Vitamin D Level: 52 ng/ml –cuts risk of breast cancer in half

Need 1,000 IU of Vitamin D/day from sun or supplements. The RDA is 400 IU –woefully low. (most women get around 320 IUs of Vitamin D a day)

You don’t get Vitamin D in the north in the Winter

5 Oz of Sockeye Salmon has 687 IU of Vitamin D.

Curb your metabolic stressors.

Abdominal weight gain (fat produces estrogen) is caused by eating too many carbs in the face of too many stress/ cortisol hormones. Stress makes you want to eat carbs. If you decrease the stress, you will be better off with carbs.

The other thing that happens in perimenopause (midlife) that makes you want to overeat – is a resurfacing of childhood trauma. What comes up at midlife for men and women is family secrets, memories of sexual abuse, physical abuse, addiction, perfectionism, job stress, acute and chronic illness, burnout, and over-care (of others). (Check out our stress management audio.)

Once the metabolic stressors are under control, the weight will come off.

6 Guaranteed Ways to Lose Weight (Dr. Northrup)

Curb metabolic stressors –discussed above.

Weigh yourself daily –need to address those liquid pounds before they become solid pounds

Focus on portion size – use a smaller plate

Wait 20 minutes before taking seconds (use the time in between to talk)
Take the serving plates off the table –make it hard to get seconds

Exercise – Increases bone mass and muscle mass (increases metabolism), decreases risk of all kinds of cancer. 20 minutes once per week is better than nothing.

Two- 40-minute strength training sessions a week is recommended –will make you feel stronger in other aspects of your life too


Goal: 10,000 steps a day

No more dieting. This is a new way of life. You need to accept yourself unconditionally. Look in the mirror and tell yourself “I accept myself unconditionally.” If you do this for 30 days, it will change your life.

O.K. So I started strength training 6 weeks ago but I need to exercise more the other days. I just purchased the new Aria fitbit scale so I can track my muscle gains but I have resisted stepping on it. I am at my heaviest right now, even though I run a Wellness website. Pretty inconvenient. But there, I said it. Avoiding the scale probably hasn’t helped. I know Dr. Northrup is right, the first step is accepting myself unconditionally. Easier said than done, but let’s give it a try, shall we?

I encourage you to check out Dr. Northrup’s Menopause and Beyond audio presentation by opting in at her website.

If you found this helpful, please pass it along to your friends.


Comment Section

Subscribe to Sandra's weekly Wellness Hub updates to receive the latest inspirational teachings and resources