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Menopausal Weight Gain: Causes and Prevention

Weight gain is sometimes one of the symptoms of menopause. In fact, menopause and weight gain are closely linked. According to estimates, about 30 percent of women between 50 to 59 are obese. There are a number of causes for menopausal weight gain, as well as a bunch of proven ways to prevent it. Read on to learn how to address menopausal weight gain.

A woman is looking at herself in the mirror

Why does menopause cause weight gain? 

Menopause occurs when you don’t have your period for a full year. It is quite common to gain weight during menopause, and it can be difficult to lose it. There are many factors linked to aging and menopause that cause weight gain. Some of these include:

Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes during menopause, particularly the declining levels of estrogen, may influence the distribution of body fat in women. Many women gain weight during menopause and perimenopause as their levels of estrogen drop. The hormonal changes due to menopause can also make it more likely for you to gain weight around your belly instead of your thighs and hips. 

Insulin resistance

Insulin resistance can develop as a result of declining levels of hormones in aging and menopausal women. This reduced insulin sensitivity can make you more likely to gain weight. Insulin resistance can also make it difficult to shed extra weight. 

Muscle mass loss

As you age, your muscle mass diminishes, whereas your total body fat increases. This muscle mass loss reduces the number of calories your body burns at rest and during exercise. If your diet stays the same but you engage in less physical activity, you may experience menopausal weight gain. 

Changes in metabolism

The lower levels of estrogen after menopause may reduce your metabolic rate. Your metabolic rate is the rate at which your body converts stored energy and energy from food into working energy. When your body has less estrogen, it may use blood sugar and starches less effectively. This can increase the storage of fat in your body and make weight loss difficult.  

Sleep problems

You may not be getting enough sleep due to night sweats or hot flashes during menopause. Many women also have sleep problems without these symptoms, and poor sleep can also cause menopausal weight gain. When you don’t sleep enough, you have a tendency to eat more snacks and consume more calories. 

How to prevent menopausal weight gain 

There’s no magic trick to prevent or reverse menopausal weight gain; just stick to the basics of weight control. 

More movement

A woman is exercising to prevent menopausal weight gain

Aerobic activity can help you lose excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight. Apart from aerobic exercise, strength training exercises can also help. They help your body gain muscle, which in turn helps you burn calories more effectively. This makes it a lot easier to prevent menopausal weight gain. 

For most healthy women, experts advise moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, for at least 150 minutes every week. For more vigorous aerobic exercise, like jogging, you can shoot for 75 minutes per week. Examples of aerobic exercises include swimming, tennis, dance, aerobics, and cycling. Additionally, try to fit in strength training exercises at least twice a week. Examples of strength training exercises include using dumbbells, weight machines, and exercise bands; doing yoga; and gardening. 

Apart from preventing menopausal weight gain, exercise has other benefits:

  • It reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.
  • It improves insulin resistance.
  • It helps with proper bowel function.
  • It keeps muscles and joints strong.
  • It can help relieve anxiety and depression.

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Fewer calories

You may need to reduce your caloric intake as you age to prevent menopausal weight gain. To decrease your calories without cutting back on nutrition, pay close attention to what you eat and drink.

Choose a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid processed, sugary, and fast foods. Increase your fiber intake.

Some examples of healthy proteins that you can include in your diet are nuts, soy, legumes, chicken, fish, and meat. Replace margarine and butter with healthy oils like vegetable or olive oil. 

Avoid drinks containing added sugars such as juices, soft drinks, flavored waters, sweetened tea and coffee, and energy drinks. Try to stay away from sweet treats like cookies, pies, doughnuts, candy, ice cream, and cakes. 

Less alcohol and sugars

Beverages that contain alcohol increase your caloric intake, and consuming them in excess may cause weight gain after menopause. Caffeinated beverages often contain added sugar, so try to avoid them as well. 

Will hormone replacement therapy help? 

Some animal studies have shown that estrogen can help control body weight. When estrogen levels are low, laboratory animals show a tendency to eat more food and are less physically active. Lower levels of estrogen also reduce the body’s metabolic rate.

According to some evidence, hormone replacement therapy can increase women’s resting metabolic rate. This may help slow menopausal weight gain. Hormone replacement therapy may help prevent the increase in belly fat. It may also help fight insulin resistance and other health risks such as metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. 

Menopause happens when you don’t get your period for a full year. It is quite common for a woman to gain weight during menopause, and it happens for a lot of reasons. Some of these include hormonal changes, insulin resistance, changes in metabolism, sleep problems, and loss of muscle mass.

Stick to the basics of weight control to prevent menopausal weight gain. Include aerobic activities and strength training exercises in your routine to maintain a healthy weight. You should also reduce your caloric intake and avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages to prevent weight gain after menopause.

Hormone replacement therapy might be an option to help control your menopausal weight gain. Your doctor will be able to advise you about the best treatment options for you. Always consult them first before beginning any treatment plan for menopause. 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menopause-weight-gain/art-20046058

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lose-weight-in-menopause

https://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/menopause-weight-gain-and-exercise-tips

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