Do our changing mid-life hormones cause an increase in hunger and result in overeating?
Research does suggest that declining estrogen can cause an increase in our stress levels, which in turn can lead to increased hunger.
But is the increase in hunger and overeating just because of menopause?
In reality, there are so many reasons we could be hungry – hunger is like a headache… there are a tonne of reasons why we get them.
And there are a tonne of reasons why could have increased hunger, and therefore overeat in menopause.
I want to suggest 4 reasons why you may find yourself overeating as a result of increased hunger.
1. Inflammation it’s at the root of nearly all our lifestyle diseases.
And one of the biggest causes of inflammation is excess body fat.
Fat cells release inflammatory cytokines.
Just for the record they also release a type of estrogen that is NOT supporting your menopause journey.
Research shows that inflammation interferes with the hormone leptin, a hormone that tells the body that you are full – that you’ve had enough to eat.
2. Sugar & processed foods
Whether it’s that energy-kicking morning iced coffee, pick-me-up afternoon chocolate bar or evening sneaky bowl of ice cream sugar creeps in everywhere.
However, before you berate yourself for being weak-willed…
Sugar and all of those ultra-processed foods are addictive.
Manufacturers spend millions on creating the bliss point – the perfect combination of fat, sugar, and salt that keeps you coming back for more.
Whenever an experience provides more pleasure than expected, your brain releases dopamine.
This is the brain’s pleasure-producing chemical.
We would expect this huge dopamine hit with drugs like heroin, cocaine, alcohol, and nicotine.
However, manufacturers invented chocolate, cheese, cookies, donuts, diet drinks, and a plethora of processed foods that stimulate the same part of the brain!
This doesn’t mean you need rehab, it just means you have developed an intense motivation/desire to keep having it.
Some foods, like chocolate, work on the brain’s pleasure center more strongly than others.
Please remember you’re NOT weak-willed or lack self-control, you have a deeply ingrained habit to a substance that is physiologically addictive.
So after the sugar high, you get the low, which means your body now has low blood glucose so it switches on hunger so you get those insane hunger pangs.
Resulting in overeating.
Whenever we get anxious, worried, or experience a negative emotion, we get stressed.
Stress results in cortisol being released which increases our hunger hormones.
Most of us can relate to stress eating.
Over the years we’ve come to realise that not getting about 8 hours of sleep every night can be just as bad as eating poorly and not exercising.
Ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone, has been shown to be higher in sleep-deprived adults.
This means that a lack of sleep results in increased hunger, and less feeling of fullness.
Feeling tired means we also have less energy to prepare a healthy meal, and tiredness clouds our care factor!
Another common scenario that we can relate to – especially if you’re in the thick of nightly sweats and crappy sleep due to hormones.
It’s all well and good to know this Nic…
but what can we do about the increased hunger?
Fab – let’s get practical.
Just so you know there’s nothing new under the sun, so when you look through these suggestions, rather than get disappointed because you already know this, ask yourself…
‘Is there just ONE of these areas that I can either start doing or improve?’
Health is NEVER a sprint it’s a marathon.
How to reduce hunger and overeating.
1. Eat regular meals
I know you know this. Whatever regular means for you, eating regularly saves you from getting an insane appetite that totally propels you into eating anything in sight.
I stick to 3 meals a day with a possible afternoon snack if needed.
2. Plan your meals (see I know you know this)
Rocking up at meal times hungry is a well-known recipe for disaster.
Honestly, this is where most of my clients come unstuck and we spend a big portion of our time together creating a personalised meal plan that works for their health goals and family dynamics (where there’s a will there’s a way!).
So planning ahead of time and prepping meals in advance is the easiest way to make healthier choices. Read more here https://naturallynic.com.au/what-trim-taut-terrific-women-in-mid-life-know-that-you-dont/
3. Eat more fiber (and I don’t mean Metamucil)
Yes, fiber keeps you regular, but over the last decade, we’ve realised that fiber is the KEY to your health.
Fiber travels all the way through your small intestine until it reaches your colon or large intestine.
The fiber jumps into bed with your good gut bacteria and makes short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) babies.
These babies are the KEY to your health.
SCFA’s have healing effects on EVERY part of our body:
• Optimise your entire immune system
• Heal leaky gut
• Prevent colon cancer
• Reverse Type 2 diabetes
• Lower cholesterol
• Repair the blood-brain barrier
• Heal brain inflammation (think no more brain fog!)
• Lower and or put autoimmune conditions into remission
AND SCFA’s activate your satiety hormones to help you feel full, which reduces overeating and helps you lose weight.
So let’s get clear on where we find fiber – because it’s not just in vegetables.
Fiber is only found in plants:
• Fruit & vegetables
• Beans & lentils
• Whole grains (oats, quinoa, brown rice etc)
Plus a small amount of fiber is found in healthy whole fats like nuts & seeds, avocados, and olives but they are mainly fat.
As you read above sleep needs to be a priority if we want to manage our hunger hormones.
You can read my blog ‘Is lack of sleep the missing link to optimal health’ where you’ll find practical tips to get a better night’s sleep.
Easier said than done I know, however starting to implement the above 4 suggestions will go a long way to reducing your hunger AND your stress or anxiety levels.
Other suggestions include:
– Moving – even a gentle walk moves your body and helps to reduce stress.
– Get out in nature – beach, forest, park – simply breathing in that fresh air is beneficial.
– Journal – writing can often get our thoughts out of our heads and bring a sense of calm.
– Focus on the present – rather than living in the past or the future.
– Gratitude – too often we focus on our lack rather than what we do have.
You can check out more suggestions here https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relievers/art-20047257
Very new research has also linked the health of your gut to the health of your mind – you can read more about the brain-gut connection here.
If you’re struggling to make sense on the changes going on in your body then I’d love to support you.
I have a complimentary Menopause Assessment where I help you pinpoint what might be getting in the way of you releasing weight.
Use this LINK to book a time and let’s get you back in charge of your health, so you can enjoy this empowering new season of life.
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