Healthy Living And Treating Menopause Symptoms Are Key To Maintaining A Healthy Weight
Weight gain and increased abdominal fat is common among women at midlife.
However, research suggests that menopause alone does not result in significant weight gain. Weight gain in women at midlife is primarily the result of physical changes that come with ageing, and the lifestyle changes that often accompany them.
These changes can be further influenced by menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbances and mood disorders.
A review published by the Mayo Clinic shows women can prevent weight gain at midlife by adopting healthy lifestyle measures and addressing symptoms associated with menopause.
The review by the Women’s Health Clinic Division of General Internal Medicine and Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Nutrition also recommends that doctors support women by educating them on weight management strategies, offering psychological support and advice on lifestyle and behaviour change.
Jean Hailes endocrinologist Sonia Davison says that while weight gain is common around the time of menopause, “there are many contributing factors”.
“We notice that weight gain also tends to occur around the central, or abdominal region, and this can increase the risk of illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer,” Dr Davison says.
Menopause And Its Impact On Your Body
Every single woman will eventually go through menopause in her life.
Despite the fact that so many women go through it, many women aren’t prepared for the transition or what it means for their body!
So, with that in mind, let’s dispel the uncertainty and talk about it in plain English.
First of all, what is menopause?
Menopause is a state which occurs in the female body which marks a sudden and rapid decline in the sex hormones estradiol and progesterone.
The sudden decline in these hormones is responsible for all of the symptoms associated with menopause, including weight gain.
These sex hormones are some of the most important hormones in biology because they help define the female phenotype.
You can imagine why the sudden decline in these hormones cause many problems in the body .
For our discussion, we are going to be focusing primarily on weight gain, but just realize that much of the information presented here may help with other issues as well.
So is it an inevitability that you will gain weight during your menopause transition?
Not necessarily, and this is something that we will touch on later in this article.
But first, let’s discuss what actually causes weight gain when you hit menopause:
Find A Friend Or A Group To Exercise With
To attack belly fat and any other menopause weight gain, youll need to burn between 400 and 500 calories most days of the week from cardiovascular exercise, such as walking briskly, jogging, bicycling, dancing, or swimming, Peeke says. Need motivation? Find a friend who needs to exercise as much as you do, and set a date to work out together. Research published in April 2015 in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that actively looking for a new workout partner and exercising together is beneficial for both exercise and emotional support.
If you dont have a buddy to join you on your weight loss mission, it may be time to try a group fitness class at your local gym or community center. Data published in November 2017 in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine found that participating in regular group fitness classes resulted in a significant decrease in stress and a rise in physical, mental, and emotional quality of life compared with exercising regularly on your own or not engaging in regular exercise at all.
How To Manage Weight Gain During Menopause
During menopause, the body is going through massive changes, so its important to remember that weight isnt the only predictor of health.
Be kind to yourself and try to focus on working on the tips below with the intrinsic motivation of feeling better and managing other symptoms and weight will be secondary.
If youre finding that your symptoms are significantly impacting your quality of life, wed strongly advise you to chat with your GP, as there are treatments available.
Watch Your Carbohydrate Intake
Not all nutrients are created equal, and some experts believe that a steady diet heavy in unrefined carbs like pasta and bread are a significant factor for excess belly fat. Carbs are the enemy of the middle-aged woman, says Dr. Boling. If you are perimenopausal, look at how much sugar you are eating. Carbs turn into sugar in our bodies. Some turn faster, like candy bars, oatmeal burns slower, but eventually it all turns to sugar. If you are aware of how many carbs you are eating, you are going to do better. Research published in April 2017 in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a reduced-carbohydrate diet may decrease the risk of postmenopausal weight gain.
How Can I Prevent Weight Gain In Post
Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle after menopause is an important goal as weight gain especially around the trunk is associated with an increased risk for all chronic degenerative diseases. Focusing on a proper exercise regime, nutrition, getting adequate sleep and following a balanced and biochemically identical hormonal replacement therapy program treatment can help you not only counteract postmenopausal weight gain but improve other menopausal symptoms as well.
Vary Your Workouts And Try New Activities
Its easy to get into an exercise rut, and even easier to fall out of the habit of exercising at all. But at this stage of your life, not getting your move on is not an option. Ideally to keep your weight in check, youll be working out three or four times a week with the injection of some HIIT and it only needs to take 15 to 20 minutes, says Peeke. Its extremely effective at keeping excess body levels of fat down, and make sure to get in some weight training, even if its just using your own body weight.
So potentially take a Zumba or barre class. See what all your buddies are talking about and join them one weekend for a beginner class at a CrossFit center. Give PiYo a go . There are so many different exercises to try, youll be able to find ones you like and stick with them.
Or maybe youll enjoy the chase of trying out new workouts regularly. According to research published in the Journal of Sport Behavior, adding variation to your exercise routine may be the most successful way to make you stick with it. Any kind of physical activity is better than none at all, but if your body gets too accustomed to a routine, it wont burn belly fat as efficiently as when you first started working out.
Take Care Of Your Inner Self
Your needed caloric intake really does change throughout your life. Probably more than you thought. In fact, this might shock you!
Here is how many calories you need as you age if you lead a sedentary lifestyle.
Of course, if you’re active, somewhat active, or pregnant, these requirements will change. A pregnant woman needs about 300 extra good calories a day. Read on:
Age – calories needed
As you can see, your caloric intake needs to change by 400 calories from very young adulthood to mature adulthood that comes after you turn 50. That’s more than in the course of a pregnancy!
It’s like you’re going from eating for two and a quarter to eating only for yourself over the period of just 25 years.
It would take a whole book to describe the exact nutritional requirements for healthy premenopausal and menopausal weight loss, but we’re going to describe some great hacks that you should start off with.
“Let food be thy medicine.” – Hippocrates
Creating A Bujo For Habit Tracking
Every new habit has to be cultivated with attention and care – humans might be creatures of habit, but getting into a habit might call for some coaxing, self-control, and inspiration. If youre the type of person that gets inspired by artsy projects, maybe its time to look into starting a Bujo – or a bullet point journal.
You can customize your goals, habits, and rewards any way you want – and besides, investing your time and creativity into a creative habit tracker will motivate you to keep up your new habits, even though its hard at the beginning.
If you dont get a kick out of doodling, keeping track of your data can still be very helpful. Download a habit tracker app, or use a simple Google Calendar to set daily habit reminders. You can do it!
This habit tracking calendar can be replaced with an app, or a pocket calendar if you prefer. The key is consistency!
Understanding Menopause Weight Gain
A womans body goes through many changes during menopause. Unfortunately, weight gain is a common culprit that sometimes women feel like they cant escape or control.
While its true that the body is more susceptible to weight gain during menopause, there are things that a woman can do to curb the pounds and continue living her healthiest life.
Menopausal Weight Gain: How To Get Your Body Back
It is estimated that the average weight gain during menopause is about 10 to 15 pounds. Well, I must not be average, because I gained almost 30 pounds in less than a year when I slammed into menopause! Frustrated that I could not find a solution, I sacrificed myself as a human guinea pig and figured out how to lose it all in just 12 weeks.
To be successful, weight loss during menopause demands a new strategy. It takes more than cutting calories to lose weight during this life transition! I was surprised to discover, according to new research, that for many women menopausal weight gain is not entirely their fault.
The first culprit is aging. Both men and women lose muscle mass as they age, which can lower the body’s resting metabolism, therefore increasing the risk of weight gain and accumulating body fat around the waist.
Many women become less physically active in their 40s, 50s and 60s because life is busy; it’s a challenge to find time to schedule exercise. Less activity means less muscle mass, which means weight gain.
Now get ready for the double whammy: Aging plus hormone changes.
Studies claim that the perimenopause transition may contribute to increased fat in the abdomen, changing a woman’s shape from a pear to an apple with more of the fat disturbed around the waist. Here’s proof that weight loss is an uphill battle.
The list continues. Grab a glass of wine and settle in:
Food can set you free:
Hormone Replacement Therapy: Will It Make Me Fatter Or Fitter
Since we often put weight on because our estrogen levels are low, usually we can keep that weight off or, at least, gain less by replacing estrogen. It makes sense, right? But then why do so many women say that they gain weight on HRT?
Thats the million-dollar question but theres actually a simple and logical answer.
First, lets look at the facts about HRT and weight: A widespread look at HRT, the PEPI trial as well as other smaller studies found that while women on HRT did often put on a few pounds, those women who werent on HRT gained more weight. In fact, some studies have shown that many women actually lose weight on HRT .
One possible reason: When youre in premature menopause, your estrogen levels drop so your body may try to up its fat content to store and produce as much estrogen as possible.
When you go on HRT during early menopause youre getting the estrogen your body would otherwise have had if youd entered menopause at the normal age. The replacement of estrogen appears to reduce the bodys inclination to accumulate and store fat.
In addition, when your estrogen levels are low, you tend to put on weight in your middle more like a man. This accounts for the disappearing waistline that so many women in premature menopause experience.
When you replace estrogen, your body may revert to a more normal pre-menopausal weight-distribution, which for most women means putting weight on in their hips, thighs and lower abdomen instead of the middle.
Hormone Therapy May Also Help Control Weight Sleep Trouble
Menopausal hormone therapy may also help with sleep, Pinkerton notes. Current guidelines recommend hormone therapy at menopause as the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms, which includes sleep disturbances, she says. And as this study indicates, improving both estrogen levels and sleep may prevent weight gain often seen during menopause, and thus decrease the risk of heart disease and obesity while improving daytime function, she says.
Santoro recommends trying hormone therapy for a few months. If your sleep and other symptoms improve, you can assume it is helping. If they dont, you can stop the hormones without issue.
A Quick Guide To Menopausal Weight Gain Solutions:
We’re going to admit it – it is harder to ward off weight gain after menopause. But it doesnt mean its impossible!
You can approach post-menopausal weight loss just as you would any project at work – with some goal-setting and planning. There are some lifestyle changes you should consider and make permanent.
Questions Abound About What Causes This Shift In Body Composition
Research, such as an October 2017 review in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, typically attributes this effect to the decline in estrogen levels brought on by menopause and to the fact that menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats can interfere with exercise and other healthy lifestyle measures, along with natural changes from aging.
Drops in estrogen alone are unlikely the sole factor in this weight gain, says Leilah K. Grant, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow in medicine at Harvards Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston and an author of the new study. All women stop producing estrogen in menopause but only about half report gaining weight, she says.
Adjust Your Coping Strategies And Address Your Stress Levels To Help Reduce Weight Gain
If your fat is making you feel stressed or vice versa for that matter dont disregard that link. There is a stress-fat connection, Peeke says. If you walk around completely stressed all the time, your cortisol levels will increase, and that will make it easy for you to deposit fat deep inside the belly.
Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, stimulates the liver to increase production and release of blood sugar and helps the body convert fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into usable energy. As part of the bodys fight or flight response, cortisol is released during stressful times to give your body a natural energy boost, but when cortisol levels are constantly high because of chronic stress, these same effects may result in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
To reduce stress and belly fat, employ quick and simple techniques to help calm you down.
Menopause Does Not Cause Weight Gain But Increases Belly Fat Major Review Finds
- International Menopause Society
- A comprehensive review by the International Menopause Society has found that going through the menopause does not cause a woman to gain weight. However, the hormonal changes at the menopause are associated with a change in the the way that fat is distributed, leading to more belly fat.
A comprehensive review by the International Menopause Society has found that going through the menopause does not cause a woman to gain weight. However, the hormonal changes at the menopause are associated with a change in the the way that fat is distributed, leading to more belly fat.
To mark World Menopause Day , the International Menopause Society has developed a state-of-the-science review on weight gain at the menopause. This report is published in the peer-reviewed journal, Climacteric.
The review group considered the evidence on why women gain weight around the menopause. They found that absolute weight gain is determined by non hormonal factors, rather than the menopause itself.
The key finding was that the way fat is deposited changes at the menopause; studies indicate that this is due to the drop in estrogen levels at menopause. Irrespective as to whether women do or do not gain weight at midlife, after the menopause, women experience a shift in their fat stores to their abdomen .
Schedule A Recurring Event
For a facial! Menopause can play some tricks with your skin. If you havent gotten into a routine of going in for a facial or some pampering at a spa, then you should. Its all a part of focusing on yourself – this is to remind you and celebrate this new stage of your life. It will not only make you feel beautiful and taken care of, but it will give you time to decompress and make yourself an important priority.
Hypothyroidism And Weight Gain
Women with an underactive thyroid often experience weight gain because their metabolic rate slows down as a result of the condition. Thyroid hormones essentially regulate calorie consumption in the body. With an underactive thyroid, fewer calories are burned and converted into energy. Instead, they are stored in the body. Here are some reasons why women experience hypothyroidism and low metabolic rate more than men:
Women tend to be more affected by stress than men, which impacts their adrenal, brain, and thyroid function.
Because women experience monthly hormonal fluctuations from their menstrual cycles, their biochemistry is greatly affected.
Hormones and Appetite
A drop in hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, can increase a woman’s appetite and influence her to eat up to 67% more, according to one study. An increase in appetite coupled with a slower metabolism with the onset of menopause can cause weight gain in women. This could, perhaps, account for the 12% jump in the number of women who are overweight in midlife compared to women in their 20s and 30s.
Reduced Estrogen Levels: The Main Culprit In Weight Gain
Estrogen has a vital role to play in fat distribution and storage. As your body inches towards menopause, estrogen levels dip as the amount produced by the ovaries starts to fluctuate. Other hormone levels are also affected during menopause but it is estrogen imbalance that does the most damage to your weight.
Estrogen deficiency leads to metabolic dysfunction, which in turn plays havoc with how your body handles fat. With declining estrogen levels, your body loses its natural preference for subcutaneous storage of fat and instead starts visceral fat storage. Menopausal women are usually found to carry extra weight around the abdomen. But on the bright side, it is easier to shed visceral fat with diet and exercise than subcutaneous fat.
Where Do I Get Bioidentical Hormones
Bio-identical hormones are not typically available through traditional pharmaceutical prescriptions because bio-identical hormones are not patentable and dosages are individually tailored to each womans hormonal needs unlike prescription hormones where there are only standard dosages that may not fit your needs. With compounded hormones custom-made in a compounding pharmacy, a personalized regimen is specifically formulated to treat each patient on an individual basis.
Dr. Harpers is one of the most experienced physicians in the United States having utilized bioidentical hormone replacement therapy in her personalized integrative health practice with over 10,000 patients over 20 plus years. She specializes in treating women during all stages of life with a special focus on women in perimenopause and menopause and her innovative and comprehensive solutions to health and hormones will allow each woman to experience renewed energy, restored youthfulness for a longer, healthier life. For more information please call our office 512 343-9355, email us at or visit our website ruthieharper.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
Lifestyle And Weight Gain
Not only is a person’s physiology working against her as she ages, but lifestyle factors can make her susceptible to weight gain. For instance, her job in later life may require less physical activity, she may eat out at restaurants more frequently, or she may be too busy with work to exercise regularly.
Depression and Weight Gain
While the precise relationship is unclear, depression and weight gain are connected. Many people who suffer from depression eat more and exercise less. Antidepressant medication can also lead to weight gain.
Even though physical changes are an unavoidable aspect of getting older, a woman’s lifestyle plays a significant role over whether or not she will gain weight during menopause. Below are some lifestyle factors that can lead to weight gain:
What Is The Average Weight Gain During Menopause
According to the Obesity in Action Coalition , the drop in estrogen that occurs during perimenopause and menopause causes an average weight gain of about five to ten pounds. Of course, this will vary for each individual dealing with the issue based on their own personal health.
Along with the hormonal fluctuations packing on pounds, symptoms like fatigue, joint pain, and digestion issues can all add up to more numbers on the scale. You might not be overindulging or changing your diet in any way, but still find yourself with gaining weight because you lack the energy or feel too uncomfortable to hit the gym or go on as many walks as you did before hitting menopause.
You might also notice and be irritated by that your clothes dont fit as well as they used to, even if you actually havent gained any weight. This happens when our hormones shift the way our bodies store fat. Prior to perimenopause, estrogen deposits fat in your thighs, hips, and buttocks, the OAC explains. During and after menopause, the drop in estrogen leads to an overall increase in total body fat, but now, more so in your midsection.
This becomes what is known as visceral abdominal fat which causes menopausal belly fat. Aside from affecting the way we look , this type of fat is associated with increased risk for serious conditions like heart disease, breast cancer, uterine cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, sleep apnea, and many other troubling diseases.
Make Exercise A Priority
There is a stigma around women and weight lifting, but thankfully, it’s going away. Lots of women choose to lift weights in order to boost their strength – it won’t give you a “boxy” look.
Female muscles react to weight lifting differently and you’ll get a toned, strong physique instead of a bulky muscle mass like a man would.
Improving your muscle mass actually helps if you plan on practicing other sports, too. And it makes you better at it. Athletes go to lift weights and focus on specific areas of their bodies when they’re not practicing their sport of choice.
If you want to try sports that focus on your strength and prevent loss of muscle mass, you can look at:
Rock climbing – this sport uses the weight of your own body and just about every muscle you have, not to mention your wits and cleverness.
It’s perfect for couples, or people who aren’t all that into team sports.
Swimming – this is another sport if you’d rather keep your exercise personal and away from team sports. A big benefit is that it works out your whole body, and is easier on your joints than jogging or even biking.
It’s one of the best tools for weight management out there.
Yoga – this can be a personal or social weight loss and strength-building tool. Not only that, yoga is an amazing mind calmer that helps you to be mindful and focus on your body’s needs.
This is a great low-impact strength-training activity. Yoga is probably the most popular exercise done in the privacy of your own home.