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 people gain around 2kg, 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
Try to resist the urge to panic and get stuck in a crash diet cycle. You can track what you are eating if you find it helpful, but it’s crucial to eat well and enough – now is not the time for very low-calorie fad diets or trying to exclude major food groups. It can reduce your lean muscle mass, accelerate the drop in metabolic rate as you age and even possibly lead to bone loss.
Aim for a varied diet low in saturated fat with plenty of fibre, protein, leafy vegetables and fruit. Meal planning for the week can be a really helpful strategy, as well as preparing your meals as much in advance as you can – and, of course, avoiding adding too many snacks to your shopping trolley! Try not to see it as “less” of but “more” and pack in those nutrient-rich, menopause-friendly foods, see our recipes for inspiration.
Read more about sugar and menopause.
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
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”