Thanks to a combination of diet changes, varying activity levels and good old genetics, many people experience weight fluctuations as they get older. But can HRT affect weight too? We answer your questions.
Why is weight important?
Midlife can be the perfect time to think about your lifestyle and general health, including your weight. Small changes like tweaking your exercise routine (or starting one!) and looking at your diet can boost your bone density, enhance your cardiovascular health and reduce your cancer risk.
While it can be a thorny topic, your weight is an important part of your overall health, and being overweight or underweight can have an impact as you age.
Risks of being overweight
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease, including angina and heart attacks
- Certain types of cancer, including breast cancer, bowel cancer and endometrial cancer
Risks of being underweight
- Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
- Fragility fractures
How to check if your weight is in a healthy range
You can check if your weight is in the healthy range for your height by using the body mass index (BMI). BMI is not a perfect system by any means, but can be a good measure of roughly how healthy your weight is.
You can calculate your BMI by using an online calculator.
Take care of your emotions when it comes to weight
If you struggle with your body image and feelings around your weight, addressing it can feel like an emotional minefield. We know it’s hard to find time for yourself when life is so busy, and that thinking about your weight can bring up all kinds of difficult emotions and frustrations. We understand and hear you.
We’re here to spur you on towards better health and feeling better about being in your skin. We want to acknowledge every small step you make towards healthier habits, while sharing tips and advice and celebrating your wins.
Weight gain as you get older
It’s normal to gain about half a kilo (one pound) per year during middle age. This is thought to be due to the ageing process, rather than menopause itself.
But there are other reasons why this time of life can have an impact on your weight and body shape. Here are just a few:
- Hormonal changes can lead to more fat being stored around your waist due to changes in fat distribution. Menopause can also cause you to lose muscle mass. A lower muscle mass means that your body needs fewer calories, making it easier to gain weight without meaning to.
- Mental health conditions – which become more common during menopause – can also be associated with weight gain. Depression is a common culprit because many of us use food as a form of comfort and a source of pleasure.
- Changes to your diet and activity levels can also be responsible. You may find yourself being less active around the time of menopause. This is common and understandable, especially if you are struggling with sleepless nights and feeling rotten! But it can cause the pounds to creep on.
- Certain medications can cause weight gain too, especially some that are used to control mental health conditions. Likewise, medical conditions which become more common around midlife (like thyroid issues) can also cause a slower metabolism and weight gain.
Read more about weight and menopause.
Can HRT make you gain weight?
This is a common misconception – but the good news is, HRT does not cause weight gain!
If you find that your weight is changing rapidly or if you’re struggling to lose or gain weight, it’s worth checking in with your doctor. Lots of other conditions (including thyroid problems and water retention) can cause these issues and can be treated effectively.
Read more about common HRT myths and find out the facts.
Can HRT help you lose weight?
HRT does not directly make you lose weight, but it can help in an indirect way.
Replacing the oestrogen which your body no longer produces can reverse menopausal changes to fat distribution. This means that instead of fat accumulating around your middle, you could notice it returning to a more typical premenopausal pattern. For many, this means that you will tend to see any extra pounds settling around your thighs and bottom rather than your waist.
HRT can also improve a number of menopause symptoms which might be interfering with your efforts to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Of course, it’s much easier to make healthy choices about food if you aren’t struggling with sleepless nights, mood swings and hot flushes. Plus exercising regularly might well be more appealing if you aren’t struggling with all the aches and pains that menopause sometimes brings.
Does progesterone make you hungry?
Progesterone is thought to cause an increased appetite. This is the reason why you may find yourself craving food,especially carbs, at certain points in your menstrual cycle.
If you’re taking HRT, your doctor will likely recommend that your prescription includes some form of progesterone. This is important, regardless of the impact you feel it may be having on your weight. If you still have a womb, progesterone is an essential part of HRT. It protects the lining of the womb from the actions of oestrogen which,if used alone, can cause abnormal thickening and even cancer.
Weight is a tricky issue for many of us. While HRT can’t help you lose or gain weight, it is an effective and proven treatment for menopause symptoms including hot flushes, insomnia and mood changes among others.
Speak to your doctor if you want help with your weight. If you would like to find out more about your HRT options, you can also take Stella’s free online assessment.