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Is Menopause Weight Gain Unavoidable?

Oct 27, 2022

Nutrition

Menopause and Weight gain

For most women, menopause is a phase of life when menstrual cycles have stopped, typically for 12 months in a row. This natural biological process usually occurs around the mid-40s to early 50s. During this period, due to fluctuations and decreases in hormone levels, certain symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep disruptions, and weight gain can occur. Although quite common, weight gain associated with menopause can be avoided. Let’s find out how.

Connection Between Weight Gain and Menopause

Weight gain happens in both perimenopause and menopause stages.

Perimenopause

This is the biological transition phase prior to menopause, when estrogen levels begin to decrease, causing irregular periods and other associated symptoms. Women tend to gain 2-5 pounds during this perimenopausal transition. However, some women may gain more weight, which seems to be especially true for women who are already obese or overweight. Researchers discovered that perimenopausal women had much higher levels of the "hunger hormone," ghrelin, than either premenopausal or postmenopausal women.

Moreover, as estrogen levels decline in the late stages of menopause, leptin and Neuropeptide Y, the hormones that regulate fullness and appetite, may become less effective. As a result, estrogen-deficient women in perimenopause might increase their calorie intake unintentionally, contributing to weight gain.

Menopause

As women transition from perimenopause to menopause, they may continue to experience hormonal changes and weight gain. The age at which menopause occurs may be a predictor of the effects on weight. An analysis of more than 1,900 women revealed that those reaching menopause before age 51 had less body fat. A number of additional variables may also contribute to the weight increase associated with menopause.

One of those factors that can contribute to weight gain during menopause is exercise and movement. Women who gain weight during menopause are usually less physically active than their counterparts, which lowers their energy expenditure and has contributed to a loss of muscle mass over time, slowing down their metabolic rate. In addition, menopausal women usually have increased levels of fasting insulin and insulin resistance, which promote weight gain and raise the risk of heart disease.

Associated Risks of Weight Gain from Menopause

Menopausal weight gain can have serious implications for your health. One of the biggest risks is cardiovascular disease. This might be partly caused by the postmenopausal tendency to gain weight in the midsection. Visceral fat or body fat stored inside the abdomen wall and around the internal organs also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Incorporating a regular exercise routine coupled with a well-balanced low carbohydrate diet can help to lower this risk.

Additionally, excess weight, especially around your midsection, increases your risk of other health issues, such as:

  • Respiratory conditions
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Increased risk for breast, colon, and endometrial cancer.

Menopause Weight Gain: What Causes It?

Weight increase around the time of menopause can be caused by several reasons, such as:

1. Aging

People of any sex typically put on weight as they age because of a normal loss of lean muscle mass (called sarcopenia).

2. Hormones

As previously stated, hormones, particularly decreasing estrogen levels, contribute to weight gain. According to research , estrogen may block the body's hunger signals, which may help you control your eating.

3. Lifestyle

The pace at which we burn calories and glycogen (stored glucose in our muscles and liver) slows as muscle mass declines since muscle requires more energy to sustain than fat, even at rest. Hence, weight builds up when calories aren't burned.

4. Sleep Problems

Menopausal women often have hot flashes, nocturnal sweats, and elevated anxiety. Research shows that lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain.

Other contributors to weight gain during menopause are:

  • Number of children
  • Chemotherapy
  • Lowered metabolic rate
  • Family history of obesity
  • Use of antidepressant or antipsychotic medications

Managing Menopause Weight Gain Effectively

You can manage weight gain during menopause by following these tips:

  • The first step is to accept this normal aging-related hormonal change to your body and seek to lower your risks by adopting healthy lifestyle practices.

  • Maintain a nutritious, well-balanced diet. Several experts believe that a steady diet heavy in processed or refined carbs, such as pasta, bread, and processed sugar, is a significant contributor to excess belly fat. Extensive research has shown that some intermittent fasting protocols can be effective in contributing to weight loss.

  • To lose menopausal weight gain, consider implementing a combination of moderate and rigorous exercise. Along with resistance or strength training, your plan should incorporate some form of cardio exercise like swimming, walking, biking, and running. Yoga and Pilates are also known to assist in reducing weight and waist size.

  • A very typical perimenopause symptom is insomnia. Women can also experience other sleep difficulties, including sleep apnea, which may result from a decrease in estrogen and progesterone, which are reproductive hormones. Given how often you wake up feeling drained, it's likely that you're too worn out to go for a workout. As you age, it's essential to optimize your sleep.

The Bottom Line

Keeping weight under control during menopause can be challenging but doable. It is not uncommon for weight to creep on due to hormonal changes, aging, or even sleep disturbances. As we gain weight, we are more likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Taking good care of yourself by eating healthily and exercising frequently is essential.

Reach Out to Living Proof NYC for Customized Nutritional Guidance

Are you curious about ways to control menopausal weight gain? Schedule an appointment with the best nutritionist in NYC, Lisa Jubilee, for evidence-based advice. With her years of experience, she can provide you with a personalized online nutrition consultation and create the best meal plan for all your needs. At Living Proof NYC, we are committed to offering the support and treatment you require to live a healthier, happier life.

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