The Sugar Series – Part 1 of 3


Sugar, Hormones & Weight Gain

When it comes to your weight and your hormones sugar is not–so-sweet.

Dealing with midlife weight gain takes many forms. It’s something that most of us battle with (find out the reasons why here). As you may have read I’m a fan of Intermittent Fasting, and another habit that works for me is minimising sugar, particularly the refined variety, and embracing a more holistic way of eating, not just for managing my weight but also for balancing my mood swings!

Sugar makes us fat and it’s linked to many diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease (look out for part two in The Sugar Series for 10 ways eliminating sugar can improve your life). The other thing sugar does is muck with our hormones and triggers hot flushes and mood swings along with insulin resistance which leads to abdominal weight gain.

It also has to be said that the blood sugar fluctuations this bad boy can bring on are something you don’t want as it will only exacerbate all of your meno signs like irritability and fatigue.

How it works:

orange juiceLet’s say you have a glass of orange juice. Your blood sugar levels go up – often called a spike – the body releases an insulin response which causes the blood sugar to drop down again. Then you might have, let’s say, a sausage with tomato sauce and the sugar in the sauce causes your blood sugar to spike again triggering another insulin response. Do you see how it works? Every time you have sugar up and down your blood sugar goes. This stresses your body out causing it to release adrenalin because the tension makes it think you’re in danger (which you are but not from a wild beast). And hello bad temper, fatigue, hyperactivity (you can actually see this happen in children after some lollies!) 

This information is backed by science. It’s backed by life too. I proved it myself just the other day. You see, I’ve been eating ‘clean’ for several months and decided to have a bit of a break over Easter.

To indulge I had a bar of chocolate. (I believe in the 90/10 rule and in freedom. ☺ You have to live.)

But gosh! I have to tell you I felt terrible afterwards. I know what they mean by sugar hangover. It is literally like that. A hangover. As I’d completely removed the sugar I used to have on a reasonably regular basis (it’s in sauces, pastas, cereals, breads and all sorts of things) my body had healed and it definitely didn’t want the sugar anymore, and it let me know! It became tired, headache-y and I had a stomach upset. What it wanted – and I could feel the triumphant cravings ☺ – was green vegetables and whole foods over refined. True story.


Back in caveman times sugar was very rare and we had to run through a few hoops (i.e. walk for miles and up hills and down valleys) to get to it so it was OK for us to gorge on it. Think sweet berries and the like. This feasting didn’t happen often and we physically worked it off plus it was a natural sugar. These days we drive to the store and purchase the refined stuff. Not much effort there. And then we eat, and eat, and eat. Physiologically sugar does not trigger our leptin hormone, the hormone which tells us we’re full. It’s why we can (and do) eat so much of it.

sugar substitutesMany health aficionados recommend using honey, agave and maple syrup as substitutes but while they may be a tiny bit better for us nutritionally they’re still sugar and have a high caloric value. And it’s not just about the sugar you spoon into your cuppa or sprinkle over your porridge it’s the ‘hidden’ sugars in things like sauces, dressings, fruit juice and low fat yoghurt.

Where Sugar Lies Hidden

  • Low-fat yoghurt
  • Health bars
  • Sweet chilli sauce
  • Sauces: tomato, barbecue etc.
  • Dressings
  • Soups
  • Health drinks
  • Flavoured waters
  • Fruit juice and fruit drinks
  • Cereals
  • Chutneys
  • Baked beans
  • Sparkling wine

hidden sugars

Did you know?

We’re eating about 35 teaspoons of sugar every single day yet the recommended ‘dosage’ is six teaspoons for a woman, nine for a man and three for children!

How Do You Know How Much Sugar You’re Eating?

Look for the grams under total sugars and divide it by 4 to get the amount of teaspoons in the product.

The Different Names of Sugar

  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Corn syrup
  • Malt syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Steer clear of low-cal substitutes like erythritol and aspartame as well.

Meno Note:

If you’ve got meno signs like sleep difficulties, stress and mood swings and you’re eating sugar it’s likely that your sugar cravings will increase. Too much sugar can create a biochemical dependency in the brain. It’s why chocolate is the most common menopausal craving!

How To Cut Down On Sugar

1. Know Your (Ingredient) Labels

A good rule of thumb is to read the ingredient label. If sugar is listed in the first three ingredients put it back where you found it!

Divide the grams under total sugars and divide it by 4 to get the amount of teaspoons in the product.

read nutritional label

2. Go Naturally Sweet

Going cold turkey isn’t a good idea but think about swapping man-made sugar bombs for low fructose fruits like berries, rockmelon and kiwifruit. Stevia’s also a good sugar substitute.

3. Conquer The Craving

Feeling stressed or irritated and reaching for the chocolate bar? Choose something like Green & Blacks 85% organic chocolate and limit yourself to two squares with a cup of tea. Guess what? You’ve just turned your treat into a health food.

Or ask someone for a hug or phone a friend for a chat. You could be emotionally hungry.

Want to know more?

You can rent That Sugar Film here – it’s brilliant.

Jennifer is a certified integrative health coach with a speciality in 40+ women and hormone balance for weight loss. If you have questions email her here.


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This is the time when menstruation is well and truly over, the ovaries have stopped producing high levels of sex hormones and for many ladies, perimenopause symptoms subside.

Estrogen has protective qualities and the diminished levels mean organs such as your brain, heart and bones become more vulnerable. It’s also a key lubricant so your lips may become drier, your joints less supple and your vagina might be drier. In addition, your thyroid, digestion, insulin, cortisol and weight may alter.

At this juncture, a woman might experience an increase in the signs of reduced estrogen but she should have a decrease of perimenopause symptoms. That said, some women will experience symptoms like hot flushes for years or even the rest of their lives.


Peri = ‘near’

Most females begin to experience the symptoms of perimenopause in their mid-forties. Your progesterone levels decline from your mid-30s but it’s generally from around 40 that the rest of your sex hormones begin to follow suit. 

Perimenopause is a different experience for every woman and some women may barely notice it. The first indicators are usually changes to the monthly cycle. This means that for some ladies, this can be accompanied by things like sore breasts, mood swings, weight gain around the belly, and fatigue as time goes on.

For those with symptoms it can be a challenging time physically, mentally and emotionally.

Importantly, perimenopause lasts – on average – four to 10 years. The transition is usually a gradual process and many women enter perimenopause without realising.