For the average woman, menopause happens around the age of 52. The ovaries stop releasing an egg each month, hormone levels drop off, and monthly bleeding ceases. For some, menopause may mean body changes appear such as hot flashes, mood changes, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain.
Understanding what’s happening during this transition makes it easier to manage changes. In this article we’ll concentrate on weight gain.
What Causes Weight Gain?
Several factors play into weight gain during menopause:
- Reduced estrogen levels. Sex hormones such as estrogen are critical regulators of food intake and body weight. With lower estrogen levels, women may be eating more and becoming less physically active. Metabolism may slow, increasing fat storage.
- Fat and body composition. Women in general have a greater fat-to-muscle ratio than men. When estrogen levels dip, the body may store more fat around the waist, hips and thighs.
- Stress. Many women’s lives are busiest in their 40s and 50s, just prior to and during menopause. The body can interpret this busy time as stress and produce higher levels of the important hormone cortisol. And that can trigger increased appetite and calorie retention—and belly fat.
- Reevaluate your lifestyle. Menopause is a time to reflect. Take some time to consider how this new beginning looks for you and what you hope to accomplish.
- Exercise. The more active you are, the less weight you’re likely to gain. A National Institutes of Health review showed that people who did aerobic activities every day for 10 or more minutes had six fewer inches around the waistline compared to people who didn’t exercise. Go for a walk, do squats, cross train, and stretch. Or find exercises that suit you and that you’ll stick to.
- Eat well. The first step is to eat the right food in the right quantities regularly – breakfast, a snack, lunch, a snack, and dinner. Women often try to cut back on food in an attempt to lose weight, which may only make things worse. Good nutrition will give your body the fuel it needs. Increase lean protein while eliminating processed sugar and reducing carbohydrates to help manage weight.
- Practice good stress management. Stress is part of life. It won’t go away during menopause. Some believe that walking in nature may be the greatest way to manage stress and lower your cortisol level (as opposed to going out for a run, which actually increases your cortisol). For others, talking with a medical or mental health professional might be helpful. But everyone should take time to find the best ways to manage their stress. Some methods to consider:
- Increase your spiritual connection
- Find extra help at home
- Meditate (you can find meditation videos on YouTube)
- Maintain a gratitude journal
- Plan time every day for self-care
- Learn to say “no”
Celebrate Your Life and Your Body
Give yourself and your body a break. Remember, your hormones have changed. This is a new milestone like others you have passed. Celebrate who you are now and love your ever-changing body by following a healthy lifestyle. That may be all you need to do.
The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.