Does Menopause Cause Weight Gain?
Many women in their late 40’s and 50’s can experience menopausal weight gain. According to WebMD, roughly 30% of women aged 50-59 are not only overweight, but they are actually considered to be obese.1 Menopause and weight gain are often linked, so it’s important to be aware of the health risks associated with being overweight as well. High blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes are just a few of the risks faced by anyone who currently is at an unhealthy weight, but these risks may be considered to be more serious when associated with menopausal weight gain.
Fortunately, there are things you can do if you notice you’re gaining weight in menopause. Knowing what causes weight gain and having the right tools to try to stay healthy are great places to start.
What Causes You to Gain Weight During Menopause?
For starters, fluctuations in estrogen levels can influence menopausal weight gain. Studies have shown that decreased levels of estrogen can cause low energy and a diminished metabolic rate. Low levels of estrogen can also cause the body to use blood sugar and starches less effectively. A study from Australian Family Physician found that gaining weight in menopause is primarily linked to a decrease in “spontaneous activity.”2
Menopause can also interrupt normal sleep patterns. Interrupted sleeping and hot flashes experienced in the evening, also known as night sweats, can inadvertently lead to menopausal weight gain, as you are more likely to skip a workout if you are exhausted from a sleepless night.
Menopause usually occurs around the same time as other signs of aging. Women in their late 40’s and early 50’s are less likely to exercise: in fact, 60% of adults simply aren’t active enough.3 Losing muscle mass can also contribute to lower metabolic rates, which can increase the chances of gaining weight in menopause. Other age-related factors can often also combine with symptoms of menopause to make it more difficult to maintain a healthy body weight.
How to Combat Menopausal Weight Gain
Weight management is crucial during menopause, as weight gain can again increase the risk of many diseases. Whether you are a lifelong fitness buff, or just hoping to keep off any extra pounds as you enter the next phase of your life, there are plenty of healthy ways to combat menopausal weight gain.
Regardless of your fluctuating hormones, keeping your weight under control so that you can feel happy and healthy, should always be a priority. Here are some recommendations that can help with menopause weight gain.
You Are What You Eat, So Eat Right
As you enter menopause, lean proteins should become your new best friend. Chicken, turkey, fish, soybeans, cottage cheese, and egg whites should become staples in your diet. This doesn’t mean that you need to start adapting to a boring diet, removing all the flavor and the foods you love the most. Instead, find fun recipes and yummy side dishes to compliment these naturally healthy foods. When considering foods to avoid regarding menopausal weight gain, think about eating less processed, fast foods and consider limiting sweets (cakes, candies, sugary drinks), which are all just empty calories at the end of the day.
Next, try limiting your alcohol consumption – mixed drinks, beer, and wine are very high in both calories and sugar. Consuming more than two alcoholic drinks per day can potentially increase your risk for stroke, as well as some types of cancer; it can also contribute to gaining weight in menopause. In addition, alcohol can cause or intensify hot flashes, so women who are sensitive to alcohol should try to avoid it during menopause.
As you age, it can be difficult to keep up with a daily exercise routine. Life gets busy and your body may experience new pain and tension that you didn’t experience in younger years. Exercise will not only help to reduce your chances of weight gain during menopause, but it can also help to reduce your risk of some cancers. In addition, exercising has been shown to help strengthen bones; during menopause, many women may experience decreased bone density and a higher risk of osteoporosis.
Put simply, aerobic exercise can do wonders for your health and help with menopause weight gain. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercising for 75-150 minutes per week can help to reduce the risk of diseases caused by obesity.4 Setting achievable goals and having an accountability partner can also do wonders to help make regular exercise more enjoyable and enable you to better manage any menopausal weight gain.
What to Do If Nothing Is Working
When it comes to the effects of hormone fluctuations, sometimes menopausal weight gain is inevitable, despite healthy eating practices and regular exercise. If you feel like nothing is working for you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Dr. Gottfried, author of The Hormone Reset Diet says that reducing stress may actually help to balance hormone levels in your body,5 which can help manage gaining weight in menopause.
She recommends meditating daily, finding a close friend with whom you can vent about stress, and getting regular massages. When all else fails, she recommends the occasional healthy chunk of dark chocolate.
At the end of the day, aging is a fact of life. Risk of weight gain as you age inevitably increases, regardless of your gender. According to NPR, exercising regularly and eating healthy, even as you age, can help you avoid not only weight gain, but also symptoms of arthritis and swollen joints.6
Try to maintain a healthy body image even as your appearance and body changes with time throughout menopause. Believe it or not, a healthy body image can actually keep you motivated and energized to continue to work out and can help with menopausal weight gain. It’s all about a positive mindset.
I recently discovered MCT oil and having introduced this into my diet, not only do I have tons of energy and focus, but have lost weight through my stomach and now can fit into clothing that I had not worn in years. I later found out that MCT oil is a mainstay of the Keto diet. It has controlled my desire to snack (especially chocolate and chips) and I eat smaller portions, as I get full easily now. Highly recommend!
From reading this, I’d say I’m in the “What to do if nothing is working” stage. It’s hard to limit stress as life just comes at you and it’s beyond your control. Have been trying to whittle down 5 measly pounds for years and my body just seems to refuse to cooperate. I’m petite, barely 5 feet, so 5 pounds shows up on my small frame. It’s been very frustrating but I’m always looking for new things to try. Massage sounds excellent! That will be my next step. Thank you for the suggestion.
THE FIGHT TO REDUCE WEIGHT GAIN DURING MENOPAUSAL IS NEVER ENDING…JUST CONTINUE TO FIGHT A GOOD FIGHT AND STAY POSITIVE…YOUR BEAUTY WITHIN WILL START TO RADIATE THE OUTER BODY….YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND NEVER ALLOW A FEW POUNDS TO MAKE YOU FEEL DIFFERENTLY ABOUT YOURSELF….ENJOY LIFE👍🏾
So much of it is hormone imbalance + bad digestion. I’m 55 now and post menopausal. What helped unfortunately was giving up all fun stuff, including all sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, grains. Limited dairy (goat cheese, or parmesan). Worked with functionmedicine practitioner (including testing = Spectracell and GI Map Gut test) + liquid vitamin D and other supplements + workout + meditation. Currently at 138, the first time in 10 years. It’s hard but can be done. Good luck ladies!
I have been a runner since 1978. Still, I have always watched my weight. Now I feel my body changing in ways that are less than flattering. But I have decided to accept the ugly facts and buy clothing that flatters the body I have now. It seems that has been true every decade since I turned 40. But this is certainly preferable to the alternative, dying at 39, as happened to my graduate school roommate. So, keep on keeping on, Ladies!