Menopause is a natural transition in a woman’s life that brings about significant changes, including weight gain. Many women experience weight gain during menopause, which can be attributed to a variety of factors such as hormonal changes, ageing, lifestyle, and genetic factors. However, gaining weight during menopause is not inevitable, and there are steps you can take to manage your weight effectively. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes of menopause weight gain, and the associated health risks, and provide practical tips on how to prevent and lose menopause weight.
Understanding menopause and its stages
Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years and occurs when the ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The transition into menopause, known as perimenopause, can last for several years before the onset of menopause itself. During this time, women may experience irregular periods, hot flashes/hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, and weight fluctuations.
Perimenopause: The lead-up to menopause
Perimenopause typically begins in a woman’s late 40s and is characterized by hormonal fluctuations that can affect weight. While some symptoms, such as hot flashes and mood changes, are commonly associated with perimenopause, weight gain can also occur during this stage. However, it is essential to differentiate between true perimenopausal weight gain and weight fluctuations caused by other factors.
Menopause: The cessation of menstruation
Menopause is officially reached when a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without a period. At this stage, the ovaries cease to release eggs and significantly reduce hormone production. Many symptoms experienced during perimenopause may persist into menopause, including weight fluctuations. It is crucial to approach these weight changes with a clear understanding of the contributing factors.
Postmenopause: Life after menopause
Postmenopause refers to the years following menopause. During this stage, hormonal fluctuations stabilise, and postmenopausal women often find relief from certain symptoms experienced during perimenopause and menopause. However, it is essential to remain vigilant about maintaining a healthy weight and managing potential health risks associated with menopause.
Understanding menopause weight gain
Hormonal changes and metabolism
During menopause, hormonal changes, specifically a decline in estrogen levels, can have a significant impact on your body. Estrogen plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism and maintaining a healthy weight. As estrogen levels decrease, it can lead to a decrease in muscle mass and a slower metabolism. Muscle mass is known to burn more calories than fat, so a decrease in muscle mass can result in a lower calorie-burning capacity. This can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight.
Aging and lifestyle factors
Apart from hormonal changes, aging and lifestyle factors also contribute to menopause weight gain. As we age, our muscle mass naturally decreases, and fat tends to accumulate, especially abdominal fat. This shift in body composition can further slow down our metabolism and make weight management more challenging. Additionally, many people become less active as they age, which can lead to weight gain. Factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, lack of sleep, and genetic predisposition can also contribute to menopause weight gain.
The impact of menopause on health
Understanding the potential health risks associated with weight gain during menopause is crucial. Excess weight in midlife can increase the risk of various diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and certain types of cancer.
Cardiovascular disease: A significant concern
Excess fat accumulation, particularly in the midsection (abdominal region), is strongly linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The hormonal changes that occur during menopause, combined with weight gain, can further elevate this risk. Maintaining a healthy weight and adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle are essential for mitigating heart disease risks.
Metabolic changes: Impact on diabetes
Weight gain during menopause can also lead to metabolic changes, including insulin resistance. These changes can heighten the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Managing weight and adopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise and a balanced diet, can help prevent or manage diabetes.
Impact on bone health
During the menopausal transition, bone loss begins, increasing the risk of osteoporosis in later years. Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by weakened bones, making them more susceptible to fractures. Maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in strength and resistance training exercises can help preserve bone mass and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Managing weight and minimising health risks
While menopause may pose challenges when it comes to weight management, it is important to remember that weight gain is not inevitable. By adopting healthy habits and addressing modifiable risk factors, women can minimise the potential health threats associated with menopausal weight gain.
Seek Support and Manage Stress
Stress can often lead to emotional eating and weight gain. Finding alternative ways to cope with stress, such as engaging in physical activity, practicing relaxation techniques, or seeking support from friends and loved ones, can help prevent stress-related weight gain during menopause.
Preventing and managing menopause weight gain
While menopause weight gain may be common, there are strategies you can implement to prevent and manage it effectively. It’s essential to focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and a balanced diet.
Move more with regular physical activity
Increasing your activity level is crucial for managing menopause weight gain. Regular physical activity not only helps burn calories but also helps maintain muscle mass, which is essential for a healthy metabolism. Aim for at least 150 to 200 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, per week. Additionally, incorporating strength training/resistance training exercises at least twice a week can help build and maintain muscle mass. Find activities that you enjoy, such as gardening, yoga, or other active hobbies, as this will increase your likelihood of sticking to an exercise routine. The more you move, the better you’ll be able to control your weight and body fat.
Embrace a healthy diet
Healthy eating and diet play a crucial role in managing menopause weight gain. To maintain your current body weight, you may need to consume about 200 fewer calories per day during your 50s compared to your 30s and 40s. To achieve weight loss, you may need to reduce your calorie intake further. However, it’s important to focus on nutrient-dense foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals. Here are some dietary recommendations for managing menopause weight gain:
- Include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains: Opt for a plant-based diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are rich in fibre and provide vital nutrients
- Choose lean protein sources: Include lean protein sources such as legumes, nuts, chicken, fish, and low-fat dairy products in your diet. Limit your intake of red meat and opt for fish and seafood instead
- Replace unhealthy fats: Replace saturated fats found in butter, stick margarine, and shorten with healthier fats such as olive oil or vegetable oil
- Limit added sugars: Be mindful of your sugar intake, as added sugars can contribute to weight gain. Reduce your consumption of sugary beverages, sweets, and processed foods
- Control portion sizes: Pay attention to portion sizes when eating meals. Opt for smaller plates and practice mindful eating to avoid overeating
Get adequate sleep and manage stress
Getting enough sleep is essential for weight management. Lack of sleep can disrupt hormone regulation, leading to increased appetite and cravings. It’s recommended to aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Additionally, managing stress is crucial, as stress can contribute to emotional eating and weight gain. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to promote overall well-being and help prevent weight gain.
Seek support and accountability
Surrounding yourself with a supportive network of friends and loved ones can significantly impact your weight management journey. Seek out individuals who support your efforts to eat a healthy diet and engage in regular physical activity. Consider teaming up with a friend or family member to make lifestyle changes together, as this can provide accountability and motivation. You can also join support groups or seek guidance from healthcare professionals, such as gynaecologists or registered dietitians, who can provide personalised advice and support.
Hormone therapy and weight management
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is sometimes used to manage menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes. HRT involves the use of estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progesterone to supplement declining hormone levels. While hormone therapy may help manage some symptoms of menopause, its impact on weight management is not fully understood. Some studies suggest that hormone therapy may help redistribute fat and improve sleep, which can indirectly support weight management efforts. However, the effectiveness of hormone therapy in preventing or reversing menopause weight gain is still a topic of ongoing research.
While menopause weight gain is common, it is not inevitable. By adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and stress management, you can effectively manage your weight during menopause. Remember to seek support from loved ones and healthcare professionals to stay motivated and accountable. Every step you take towards a healthier lifestyle brings you closer to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight during menopause. Embrace the changes that come with this phase of life and enjoy the journey to a healthier, happier you.
- Changes in Weight and Fat Distribution, Sexual Side Effects of Menopause – The North American Menopause Society, NAMS
- The Truth about Menopause and Weight Gain – Obesity Action Coalition
- The reality of menopause weight gain – Mayo Clinic
- Weight Management Module for Perimenopausal Women: A Practical Guide for Gynecologists – PMC
NowPatient has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that all material is factually accurate, complete, and current. However, the knowledge and experience of a qualified healthcare professional should always be sought after instead of using the information in this page. Before taking any drug, you should always speak to your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider.
The information provided here about medications is subject to change and is not meant to include all uses, precautions, warnings, directions, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or negative effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a particular medication does not imply that the medication or medication combination is appropriate for all patients or for all possible purposes.
WHY WE BUILT NOWPATIENT
To improve the lives of everyone by making high-quality care accessible and convenient
We are here to improve lives. Our service gives you access to smart features and resources that can help empower you to take control of your health and improve your health outcomes. All this, in one place, for FREE. We strive to bring a fresh perspective to managing health. NowPatient can be accessed by downloading the App or using your web browser.
Download our app today
Can I trust NowPatient
Meet our medical review team
Trustworthy and reliable medical content authored and reviewed by our experienced team of medical professionals from the United Kingdom and the United States. Learn more about our team and our editorial process by clicking on the buttons below.