Menopause weight gain
Unintentional weight gain during menopause is a symptom many get fed up about. While some gradual weight gain is absolutely normal, especially around your middle, it doesn’t help that this may affect your confidence or self-esteem. Read on to find out how to manage menopause weight gain.
MENOPAUSE AND WEIGHT GAIN
Weight gain during and after menopause is slightly different compared with weight gain premenopause. An extra pound or two premenopause tends to settle more evenly over our hips, bottom, thighs and arms as an all-over weight gain. At this time of life, any weight gain tends to head to our middle, known as midsection weight gain or middle-aged spread.
For many, weight-related changes tend to be fairly gradual across the menopausal transition. They are usually due to lifestyle habits, hormonal changes and others factors that aren’t directly related to menopause.
Start your free online menopause assessment to see if HRT is right for you
DOES MENOPAUSE CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN?
- Research shows a weight gain between 2-5kg, on average, during menopause and this is mostly around the middle
- Some may gain more weight during perimenopause, especially those who are already struggling with their weight
- The age at which menopause occurs can also be a factor. A study of over 1,900 women found that those who entered menopause earlier than the average age of 51 had less body fat
Read more about the stages of menopause.
Other reasons for weight gain
Stress and big life changes, such as empty nest, divorce or moving house
Stopping smoking or drinking alcohol
Certain medications (such as antidepressants)
HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT IN MENOPAUSE
Have you noticed that your usual nutrition and exercise are no longer working? As we get older our metabolism slows down, so in essence, even if we eat the same and do as much exercise as we used to, we are bound to put on weight.
As unfair as it is, you have to eat more healthily and do more exercise to keep up! There is no quick fix or magic bullet. Many enter menopause already overweight, and the falling oestrogen levels affect how and where we store fat. Try to target this with specific exercises and changes in what you eat and drink. Here are six things you can try.
1. Take care of your diet
Eat well and enough – now is not the time for very low-calorie fad diets or trying to exclude major food groups. You could make your health worse. Track what you are eating and aim for a varied diet low in saturated fat with plenty of fibre, protein, leafy vegetables and fruit. Try not to see it as “less” of but “more” and pack in those nutrient-rich, menopause-friendly foods, see our recipes for inspiration.
2. Increase exercise
It is never too late to start exercising. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (brisk walking or cycling) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity (running) each week. You can also pack in short bursts of very vigorous-intensity exercise, such as sprinting or stair climbing to boost your exercise minutes. Read more about shorter periods of activity, known as exercise snacking.
You need to find an exercise that you enjoy and if you are mainly sedentary, start by walking every day and slowly increase your steps and pace. You don’t need an expensive gym membership to start being active.
If you are already in an exercise routine, build in strength training.
You can combine moderate and vigorous-intensity exercise and, remember, you can never do too much activity! Not only will this help prevent and manage weight gain, but it also prevents and lowers your risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, mental health problems, musculoskeletal conditions and some cancers. Exercise also has a positive effect on wellbeing, mood, sense of achievement, relaxation and release from daily stress.
3. Manage stress
Keep an eye on triggers and use techniques to keep your mind from racing at a thousand miles an hour. You might roll your eyes, but yoga and meditation really can help – the scientific evidence is there! Download Stella for access to guided meditations and soundscapes to help you relax.
4. Track your sleep
Your mind and body need quality sleep for a chance to rest and repair. It’s very hard to prioritise your wellbeing when you are feeling exhausted too. Menopause can interfere with falling and staying asleep and this disruption in sleep cycles can mess with your hunger hormones. Download Stella for help with managing sleep issues.
5. Be kind to yourself
Lifestyle changes are difficult and you may fall off the wagon many times. Try not to punish yourself and recognise your intention to be more healthy and the effort you are putting into your health. Read more on how to manage falling off track.
DOES HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY (HRT) MAKE YOU GAIN WEIGHT?
No. Although some report a weight gain with HRT there is no clear evidence to support this. Currently, it is thought that weight gain during menopause is related to several factors including ageing, poor sleep, lack of exercise and stress.
MENOPAUSAL WEIGHT GAIN
Weight gain around your midsection or all over is very common during menopause. Here are some of the reasons why…
Our hormone leptin controls our feelings of fullness and appetite. It can be impaired by fluctuating levels of oestrogen and progesterone and ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
Weight gain can happen as part of the overall ageing process. Some research has shown that age-related loss of muscle mass coupled with gaining belly fat may account for weight gain.
Eating well, exercising, getting plenty of rest and managing stress are important to keep healthy but are increasingly difficult when oestrogen levels fall.
Your genes can play a key role in how you approach menopausal weight gain. Chances are, if your mum gained weight during menopause then you may well too.
Just remember though, menopause is a highly individual experience and is different for every woman. While some weight gain can be attributed to menopause, other factors make keeping your weight in the advised range more difficult, such as:
- Particularly stressful periods
- Disrupted sleep
- Big changes in family dynamics (children leaving home or divorce)
- Job or relationship issues
- Quitting smoking
- Frequent consumption of alcohol
- Taking certain medications where weight gain could be a side effect (such as antidepressants)
Some weight gain during your menopause is rarely something to worry about in the long-term if you can manage it effectively.
Significant weight gain just before menopause, usually during your 40s, and during menopause can increase your risks of:
- Cancer especially breast and colorectal
- Cardiovascular disease – high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes
- Type 2 diabetes
If you already have a chronic or long-term condition, such as type 2 diabetes or hypothyroidism, weight gain can worsen the symptoms.
Some might still have difficulties with their weight during their menopause journey even with lifestyle changes.
If this sounds like you, it might be a good time to see your doctor who can figure out if there are any underlying health issues you’re not aware of.
Eating better? Well, that’s my nemesis. If I’m tracking every day and planning meals, I am usually fine. Yet, if there is anything in the house that looks tempting, the struggle is real”
- Australian Family Physician: Obesity and weight management at menopause
- Healthline: Weight gain and menopause
- Healthline: Why some women gain weight in menopause
- Liverpool Women’s NHS: Menopause and Weight Gain Information Leaflet
- Lizcano F, Guzmán G. Estrogen Deficiency and the Origin of Obesity during Menopause. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:757461. doi:10.1155/2014/757461
- Lovejoy JC. The influence of sex hormones on obesity across the female life span. J Womens Health. 1998;7(10):1247-1256. doi:10.1089/jwh.1998.7.1247
- Sowers M, Zheng H, Tomey K, et al. Changes in body composition in women over six years at midlife: ovarian and chronological aging. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;92(3):895-901. doi:10.1210/jc.2006-1393
- Wing RR, Matthews KA, Kuller LH, Meilahn EN, Plantinga PL. Weight gain at the time of menopause. Arch Intern Med. 1991;151(1):97-102.
- Zsakai A, Karkus Z, Utczas K, Biri B, Sievert LL, Bodzsar EB. Body fatness and endogenous sex hormones in the menopausal transition. Maturitas. 2016;87:18-26. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2016.02.006