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Myths of Weight Loss for Women Over 40, Part 2

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Discover how sex hormones play a part in weight gain over 40.

Expecting your body to manage weight the same in your 40s as in your 20s or 30s discounts the massive hormonal changes that take place as you age.

Myth: Sex hormones don’t affect weight gain

Estrogens (there are three estrogens, but we’ll lump them together as “estrogen” in this article) are produced in the fat cells and ovaries. It’s the rise in body fat in a young girl that stimulates the production of estrogen in the ovaries. This is why girls with more body fat often start menstruating earlier, and why very lean girls may not menstruate appropriately.

The adrenal glands produce progesterone, and it is the counterbalance to estrogen. Both estrogen and progesterone fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle, and it’s when these hormones are not perfectly in sync that PMS symptoms occur. The decline of progesterone after giving birth can also contribute to postpartum depression.

The interplay of sex hormones and insulin affects the fat cells. And this becomes more pronounced as we age. As we near menopause, our ovaries produce less estrogen, and they may produce it in inconsistent bursts, like when you’re trying to get the last of the ketchup out of the bottle.

When our sex hormones are already depleted, insulin has a greater effect. And many of us have developed some level of insulin resistance by this age anyway, which means more of what we eat is stored as fat.

As you become more insulin resistant, your body will “dump” more estrogen into your system. This excess estrogen and insulin resistance feed off each other in a vicious circle, causing your body to create and store more fat.

Myth: Bio-identical supplements solve weight-gain problems

As we enter our 40s, many hormonal changes occur, leaving us at greater risk for diabetes, belly fat, weight gain, body composition changes and a reduction in energy expenditure.

Many women take progesterone supplements in their 40s to offset the decline in progesterone. However, we often see women who are over-supplemented, meaning the ratio of progesterone to estrogen is out of balance. Too much progesterone can contribute to insulin resistance and weight gain. The loss of estrogen can also contribute to weight gain.

Myth: Storing fat is only related to what we eat

We also produce androgens, which are male sex hormones, although we produce them in smaller amounts than men. Our bodies can deliver androgens to the fat cells, where they are converted into estrogen.

As our ovaries produce less estrogen, our bodies will store more fat to convert more testosterone into estrogen. So as we get older and our estrogen levels drop, our body works harder to create more fat cells to produce more estrogen.

Sex Hormones and Insulin

The interplay between insulin and sex hormones is crucial in how your body creates, stores and burns fat. When your sex hormones are depleted, insulin has an even greater effect, which is why being lean before entering menopause isn’t a good indicator of what will happen during and after menopause.

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