Menopause, Weight Gain and Emotional Eating- It's All Happening at once!!
As a woman in – I shudder to say it – Mid-Life – a few thoughts have occurred to me regarding weight gain during this time. Mostly thinking of myself and some other women I know, I am wondering if in addition to the chemistry changes in our bodies, we were gaining weight because of the constant emotional roller coaster of this time! We are happy because our kids are growing up well, we are sad they are leaving the house. We are happy to have time for ourselves, we may be suddenly re-entering the work force or leaving a marriage. We may have finally come to terms with our bodies only to be betrayed by this body over and over again. Nothing happens as we think it would or should. Additionally, for many of us our parents have entered a new phase where they are no longer providing help, but needing help. Needing A LOT of help. Since I am pursing a degree as part of my mid-life crusade, I wondered if there was any research to back up my findings….and Voila! Of course there is! An interesting article confirms what most women are thinking – the weight gain associated with menopause has a big emotional eating component! An article by Cathy Cohen, MA in IDEA Fitness Journal (June 2004) discussed the fact that while women are entering and experiencing menopause, they are also going through some of the most emotionally challenging times of their lives. Menopause can begin anytime in the 40’s for women. It is at these times that many other life changing things are occurring: Children are leaving home, women may be re-entering the workplace, many divorces occur during this time, and care taking for aging parents may begin. All of these changes can create chronic emotional stress, which can lead to emotional eating. See if you answer yes to any of the following questions:
- Do you find yourself consistently eating when you’re not truly hungry?
- Do you look at food as “comfort food” when you are feeling sad, lonely, stressed out, or just bored?
- Do you think of food as a distraction or a way to escape your current problems?
- Do you have trouble differentiating between true hungers and just snacking?
Here are a few differences between emotional eating and eating to satisfy hunger:
- Emotional eating occurs suddenly; physical hunger occurs gradually
- When you are eating emotionally, there is usually a specific craving (pizza, ice cream, chips, etc.) and only that food will meet your need. When you are hungry, you’re open to options
- Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied immediately; physical hunger can wait
- You eat past the point of being full when you are eating emotionally
Many of us crave high fat and sugary foods when emotional eating, and there are scientific reasons why. The article states that according to research, eating high carbohydrate foods can release tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan is the amino acid that makes serotonin, and serotonin is the chemical in our brain that gives us feelings of calm and peace. However, there are some healthy choices to increase serotonin such as: grains, rice, barley, oatmeal, apricots, blueberries, bananas, figs. Also chickpeas, white beans, and black-eyed peas.
Try making a list of things to do when you have these urges to emotionally eat. Here’s a few suggestions:
- Take a walk
- Call a friend
- Clean something (I personally hate cleaning, but some people like it!)
- Take a nap
- Give yourself a manicure – it’s hard to open up candy bars with wet nails!
- Read, take a bath, play a game with the kids
Here is a link to the entire article on this subject http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/emotions-amp-weight-gain.
Don’t give up! When you fail, just pick yourself up and forgive yourself and MOVE ON!!!