Can Menopause Make You Gain Weight?
Many women in their late 40’s and 50’s experience weight gain as an unfortunate side effect of menopause. According to WebMD, roughly 30% of women aged 50-59 are not only overweight, but they are actually considered to be obese.1 Although menopause and weight gain are often linked, it’s important to note that there are still definite health risks to being overweight which should not be ignored. High blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes are just a few of the risks faced by anyone who currently is at an unhealthy weight.
Fortunately, there are ways to help with menopause weight gain. Knowing what causes weight gain and having the right tools to try to stay healthy are great places to start.
What Causes Weight Gain During Menopause?
For starters, fluctuations in estrogen levels can influence weight gain during menopause. 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 weight gain during 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 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 influence weight gain during menopause. Other age-related factors can often combine with symptoms of menopause to make it more difficult to maintain a healthy body weight.
How to Combat Weight Gain During Menopause
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 weight gain during menopause.
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 menopause 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 weight gain during 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 weight gain during menopause.
What to Do If Nothing Is Working
When it comes to the effects of hormone fluctuations, sometimes weight gain during menopause 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 weight gain during 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 menopause weight gain. It’s all about a positive mindset.