August 27, 2020

Why Does Weight Gain Happen During and After Menopause?

It’s common for women going through the menopausal transition to gain weight. During this time, losing the added weight and keeping it off can be challenging. Weight gain occurs before and during menopause partly because of a drop in estrogen levels. 

Other factors that can lead to weight gain include low-quality sleep and age-related reductions in metabolism and muscle tone. The weight gain tends to develop in the abdomen. Here we’ll outline the relationship between menopause and weight gain, as well as proven ways to lose weight during the transition.

Perimenopause and Weight Gain

Perimenopause (pre-menopause) is the stage right before menopause. This phase can last anywhere from four to 10 years. Menopause occurs after you’ve gone 12 months without a period, either naturally or as a result of medical treatment. Weight gain can happen during both perimenopause and menopause.

It’s estimated that women gain about two to five pounds during the perimenopausal transition. Women who are already overweight or have obesity may gain more weight. During perimenopause, your progesterone levels decline slowly and steadily, while estrogen levels fluctuate greatly from day to day and even within the same day. Weight gain may also happen as a part of aging, regardless of hormonal changes. Another factor that can cause weight gain during perimenopause may be the increased appetite and caloric intake that occurs as a response to hormonal changes. 

Weight Gain During and After Menopause

Gaining weight during menopause is likely related to a mix of factors related to menopause and aging. One of the reasons women experience weight gain during menopause is related to lower estrogen levels, which may cause you to eat more and be less physically active. 

Reduced estrogen may also lower metabolic rate, which is the rate at which your body converts stored energy into working energy. Lack of estrogen may also cause your body to use starches and blood sugar less effectively, which can increase fat storage and make it harder to lose weight.

Menopause Weight Gain Solutions

While you can’t reverse the effects of menopause on weight gain, there are things you can do to help lose extra weight, including:

  • Increasing activity. Research shows that aerobic exercise can decrease body fat after menopause. Another study found that resistance training three times a week can improve lean body mass and reduce body fat in postmenopausal women. Try to get at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week and do muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week. 
  • Eating nutrient-rich foods. To help lose weight, try to eat a healthy diet of nutrient-rich foods, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. Also, try to avoid processed foods and those containing high amounts of saturated fats, such as white bread, processed meats, and foods with a lot of added sugar.
  • Making sleep a priority. High-quality sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy weight and overall health. Research has linked poor sleep to aging processes and metabolic disruption during menopause. 
  • Mindful eating. Practicing mindful eating can help change your eating habits and may prevent weight gain. It also helps you become aware of internal, rather than external, cues to eat. This can help reduce binge eating and eating that’s associated with emotional states. 
  • Keeping track of food and weight. This helps you identify unhealthy foods you might be consuming, which can help you make better choices. Research shows that people who keep food logs, weigh themselves regularly, and maintain high activity levels are more likely to lose significantly more weight.
  • Planning ahead. Meal planning is a great way to make sure you’re consistently eating enough healthy foods and avoiding bad decisions made at the last minute. 
  • Limiting alcohol. All alcoholic beverages add excess calories to your diet and increase your risk of gaining weight. 
  • Seeking support. Surround yourself with those who support your efforts to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Consider getting a workout buddy, which can help you both stay motivated to exercise. 

Learn More About Menopause and Weight Gain from Baptist Health

If you still have questions about weight gain or other side effects of menopause, call your nearest Baptist Healthcare provider today.

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