Many women find that as they approach or enter menopause, they begin to gain weight. The extra pounds settle particularly in the abdomen area rather than on the hips and thighs like before. You may diet and exercise diligently just like previously but find it’s less effective at preventing the pounds from piling on your belly.
Menopause weight gain can be frustrating and upsetting for many women, as they struggle to reverse this new pattern. It can be especially troublesome when they are also experiencing difficult symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, low libido, and night sweats.
Women’s Reproductive Cycle
Women go through a series of reproductive stages in their lives, from the time they get their first period to the day they complete the menopause. The stages exist to enable us to have children if we choose to do so. These stages may vary slightly in the age of onset from woman to woman, but they fall within a fairly small range most of the time.
Pre-menopause is the period from the time you have your first period until perimenopause begins. It’s a woman’s active period of fertility in her life and should last for about 30-40 years on average.
This is the period of time before menopause, where a woman’s periods start to fluctuate, and you may experience a number of uncomfortable menopause symptoms like hot flashes, low libido, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and weight gain. This period can last for up to 10 years.
You’ve reached menopause when your menstrual periods have stopped for a period of 12 months. At this point, you should get a test for menopause to check your hormone levels. Menopause is the cessation of your fertile life and the end of your reproductive years.
Many women continue to experience symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings, as hormonal levels still may fluctuate for a certain period of time. Some women have even worse symptoms at this point than during perimenopause. Women reach menopause on average at around the age of 50.
The post-menopause is very similar to menopause, and sometimes they are even used to mean the same thing. Post-menopause starts a year after a woman’s last period, the same as menopause. Even after menopause, it’s possible that there could still be some symptoms and shifting hormones that a woman may experience. You should get a test for menopause to make sure you’re really at the end of your cycle.
Reasons Behind Menopausal Weight Gain
Why menopause weight gain? Here are some of the most common reasons that women pack on the pounds during the menopause period.
One of the causes of weight gain in menopause is the change in hormones. Estrogen levels fluctuate quite a bit during perimenopause, sometimes declining but often becoming very high. There’s some evidence to indicate that high levels of estrogen can promote fat gain. A study published in Obesity Review found that high estrogen levels led to an increase in fat storage.
You may ask, why menopause weight gain? However, some of the gains that occur during menopause are actually due to age-related changes in the body. As we get older, our muscle mass decreases, and our level of fat increases.
The loss in muscle mass at this time slows down your metabolism, so you begin to burn fat more slowly. This leads to menopause weight gain. What you were able to consume before without gaining weight you now have to modify or you put on the pounds .
3. Health Habits
Some people let their health habits go a bit as they get older and get busy with other aspects of their lives. Another reason for menopause weight gain is due to not getting enough exercise and not keeping up a healthy diet which is low in fat and high in fruits and vegetables, fiber, whole grains, fatty fish, and nuts. Focusing on these lifestyle habits could go a long way towards lessening some of that extra menopause weight.
Some menopause weight gain occurs due to genetic factors. If your parents developed extra weight around middle age, there’s a chance you will too. In particular, if your mother gained a lot of weight at menopause, there’s a greater chance this will happen to you (1). To modify this, you can make lifestyle changes, like exercising more and eating better.
Prevention of Weight Gain During Menopause
There are some natural, lifestyle methods available for dealing with weight gain during menopause. Try to incorporate some of these into your life.
1. Healthy Diet
During menopause, women often experience mood swings that can lead to overeating or indulging in snack foods. This is one of the causes of weight gain in menopause. Following a healthy, low-fat diet can do a lot towards taking off those extra pounds. Avoid snack foods, sugar, processed items, and oily foods. Fill your diet with whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, and protein. Try to cut down on fatty foods and carbohydrates.
2. Be Active
People sometimes become less active as they age, and this can add extra weight. Be as active as you can, getting out to do something physical several times a week. Find something you love to do, like a sport or activity that you will look forward to doing. Be creative about adding exercise to your schedule. For example, make a pact to walk up the stairs at home or work every day instead of taking the elevator.
3. Take a Natural Supplement
There are numerous organic supplements on the market that can help with weight loss. They contain natural substances known to help you lose weight like apple cider vinegar and conjugated linoleic acid. Do your research to find the most effective brand. Before you take the product, make an appointment with your doctor, and get medical approval.
4. Use Your Support System
There’s nothing that can pile on the weight faster than loneliness. Due to recent circumstances, you may have been spending more time alone than usual, or at least without your extended support system readily available. Loneliness can lead to overeating because it’s one of the ways we comfort ourselves.
It’s really important to reach out to your friends and loved ones in all the ways available to you, be it on Zoom, by phone, or text, or even with a socially distant visit. Share your struggles about your weight if you choose to and seek support and encouragement from those around you.
5. Drink Less Alcohol
Many people forget about alcohol when they assess their diet, but the truth is alcohol has a lot of extra calories. If you’re accustomed to going for a couple of drinks after work, or on the weekends, you’re actually adding more than an extra dinner to your daily calorie count. Cut out the drinks, and you’ll save yourself a lot of calories. That will certainly help you drop some of the extra weight.
6. Sleep Better
Many women experience sleep problems during menopause, be it sleeplessness or waking up from night sweats several times a night. This is significant because sleep difficulties can lead to irregular eating habits and weight gain.
Try to follow a regular sleep schedule, sleeping, and waking, at the same time every day. Follow a routine before you go to sleep, doing the same things every night. Check that the temperature in your room is a little cool. If your sleep problems continue, see a physician for treatment.
7. Lower Stress
Menopause can lead to mood swings, and often to depression and anxiety. It can also cause extra stress due to the difficulty of the symptoms. Stress leads to eating, which can cause weight gain. It’s important to take concrete steps to lower your stress.
This may involve working less or trying techniques like meditation and mindfulness. Lessening stress levels is important for your overall health and immunity, as well as for your weight.
8. Go to a Dietician
A dietician can do a lot to guide you in the proper way to eat to lose weight. They will come up with a plan for you that includes foods you like to eat, and they will track your progress and give you helpful advice along the way. They are there to discuss any pitfalls you’re having in your weight loss journey and come up with helpful solutions. Having this kind of professional support can help to motivate you to eat well and lose weight.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you want to prevent weight gain, stay away from processed foods and sugars, as well as oily and greasy foods. Follow a low fat, low carbohydrate diet, which includes lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, lean meat, fish, fiber, and whole grains. Try to eat regular meals at the same time every day.
Yes, hormones are one of the causes of weight gain in menopause. Levels of estrogen fluctuate in the body at this time, and sometimes they can become too high. There’s evidence that this can lead to additional fat gain in the body. A study in Climacteric confirmed that shifts in hormones can lead to weight gain during menopause.
There is a connection between the age of onset of menopause and weight gain. A study of over 1900 women published in Maturitas found that women who began their menopause before the age of 51 developed less fat on their bodies.
It’s impossible to say how much weight a woman will gain during menopause because each woman’s body is different. Some women gain no weight at all, some gain a few pounds, while others gain a lot of weight. It also depends on the causes of weight gain in menopause.
There are several natural ingredients that are known to lead to weight loss, and some of them you can find in a natural supplement. There’s apple cider vinegar, glucomannan, cocoa, green tea, and conjugated linoleic acid, to name a few.
The Bottom Line
Menopause is a period in a woman’s life where many physical and emotional changes take place. Women experience uncomfortable symptoms like hot flashes, low libido, chills, vaginal dryness, and night sweats, and emotional changes, such as irritability and mood swings.
For many women, there is also some weight gain during this period. This occurs primarily due to fluctuations in your hormones during the menopause period, but there are other reasons as well, which may include heredity, aging, and general health habits.
This added weight can be upsetting for some women, but there are many ways to deal with it, including exercising, changing your diet, lowering stress, sleeping better, drinking less alcohol, using your support system, going to a dietician, and taking a natural supplement.
Another way to handle the added weight gain during menopause is simply by accepting that your body is changing and celebrating your new form. Unless your weight has gotten to the point of being unhealthy, acceptance is a helpful way to consider your new situation. Even if you’re a little heavier than you were before, you can learn to love your new body just the way it is now.