Weight gain during menopause – causes and lifestyle solutions
As we get older, maintaining our weight seems to be more difficult, one reason being that our metabolism tends to slow down with age. On top of that, women experience another notable change that happens during menopause, weight gain. It normally happens slowly and the extra weight tends to settle around the tummy area. Some women, however, may not experience noticeable weight gain but instead their proportion of body fat may increase.
Significant weight gain during menopause can pose a serious risk to a woman’s health, especially if they already suffer from a chronic disease like type 2 diabetes and should always be monitored and dealt with.
What causes weight gain during menopause?
Hormonal changes during the menopause affect how our bodies process food, often resulting in weight gain. As levels of oestrogen begin to drop, simultaneously, levels of the male hormone androgen increase, causing a redistribution of weight to the tummy, an area where men typically store fat. Your body still requires oestrogen for other metabolic functions and can be found in fat cells. The brain sends a message to preserve fat stores at any cost and converts excess calories to fat.
Other factors such as stress, lack of exercise, poor eating habits and too much alcohol are also to blame.
How to manage weight gain during menopause
Weight gain during menopause appears gradually over time so making some simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference in keeping those extra pounds off and help you manage your weight:
- Eat a healthy balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates.
- Cut your food portions – according to the Mayo Clinic (1), you need 200 less calories a day than when you were younger.
- Reduce your alcohol consumption as it contains high levels of sugar which will put stress on the body and ultimately lead to fat sitting comfortably around your middle.
- Reduce stress – find time to relax. Stress increases the production of cortisol and high levels of this hormone can cause weight gain.
- Regular aerobic activity such as walking, jogging or swimming will help prevent heart disease as well as stimulate your metabolism and manage weight gain during menopause. If exercise is already part of your life, it might be a good idea to change your routine or maybe get a workout buddy to stay motivated.
- Add strength training to your exercise routine. Strength training will build muscle mass and improve your metabolism – when you build muscle, your body will burn calories more efficiently, which will help manage your weight. Ideally, you should aim to include strength training in your exercise routine two or three times a week. Examples of strength training include dumbbells, exercise bands, weight machines and certain yoga sequences and pilates exercises.
Despite making significant lifestyle changes, some women will still have difficulties managing their weight after menopause. If you continue to gain weight despite changing your diet and exercising regularly, you should consult with your doctor, as this could be indicative of an underlying health issue.
To identify and monitor your individual symptoms, why not try out our Free Menopause Symptoms Tracker.