Many women believe that gaining weight around menopause is inevitable. While scientific evidence shows that women are more likely to gain weight during and after menopause, there is no rule that says you cannot stop it.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, we need to understand why weight gain occurs around menopause. What are the factors that control this phenomenon? Are there any risk factors that make you more prone to gaining weight?
In this article, we will answer these questions and more to help you get a full grasp of weight gain around menopause. The final section will discuss a few evidence-based methods to prevent weight gain.
What causes menopause weight gain?
Some women experience weight gain during the premenopausal period. However, this trend tends to continue during and after menopause.
One of the key predictors of this phenomenon is when you undergo menopause. In a study that included more than 1,900 women, researchers found that those who underwent menopause before the age of 51 were less likely to gain weight.
Other factors that may contribute to weight gain after menopause include:
1. Sedentary lifestyle
In general, postmenopausal women tend to be less active and opt for a sedentary lifestyle. Over time, this will lower their daily energy expenditure, whereas caloric intake remains relatively constant.
This trend disrupts the balance between how many calories you eat versus how many you burn. Eventually, weight gain occurs.
2. Poor dietary choices
Making poor dietary choices is not exclusive to postmenopausal women. However, these individuals are more prone to weight gain when they consume an unbalanced diet.
Limit junk food, sodas, cookies, and other sugar-rich foods to prevent weight gain (more on that later).
3. Insulin resistance
How changes in hormones affect metabolism
During the period of perimenopause, the levels of progesterone gradually decline. On the other hand, estrogen levels undergo severe fluctuation on a daily basis (sometimes on the same day!).
For instance, the early stages of perimenopause are characterized by extremely elevated levels of estrogen due to an impaired feedback loop. The later stages, however, witness a drop in estrogen levels.
According to a few studies, high levels of estrogen can be responsible for weight gain during the perimenopause period. Just think of women of reproductive age who have elevated levels of estrogen. During this period, these women store fat in an apple-shaped pattern. This means that fat gets stored in the hips and thighs. Despite this, the risk of cardiovascular disease does not increase.
Once you hit menopause, all of this will change. The low estrogen levels promote the storage of fat in the belly area. This is linked to insulin resistance, heart disease, and diabetes.
As you can see, there is evidence that supports the weight gain-promoting properties of estrogen when it’s too high or too low.
How risky is weight gain after menopause?
The hormonal fluctuations that occur during menopause are enough to cause weight gain. However, you probably know that not all women experience this.
So, what’s going on here?
To answer this question, we need to go back to the old argument of nature versus nurture:
Some women are genetically predisposed to gain weight around menopause. Others may have always found it difficult to gain weight. While menopause may make this task easier, they are less likely to experience significant weight gain.
As for the nurture part, having certain diseases increases your risk of weight gain. We can classify most of these illnesses in the category of metabolic syndrome.
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- A large waistline
Note that a large waistline is a key sign of metabolic syndrome. Storing excess fat in your abdominal region increases the risk of insulin resistance, weight gain, and other health problems.
How to prevent weight gain around menopause
Preventing weight gain around menopause is subject to the same rule of losing weight. You need to place your body in a state of caloric deficit, which leads to using the stored forms of energy (e.g., glycogen, fatty acids).
Some of the ways to achieve this goal include:
Limit carb intake –
Carbs are the primary fuel of the body. They are also the main source of fatty acids, especially when consumed in excess. Make sure to monitor your carb intake to prevent weight gain around menopause.
Include fiber –
Foods rich in fiber slow down your digestion, which is crucial for preventing insulin resistance. Try to include kale, broccoli, and flaxseeds in your diet.
Exercise more often –
Lifting weight is the single best way to prevent fat accumulation and maintain your lean muscle mass. It will also increase your strength and activate post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). If you are unaware of EPOC, it is just a fancy term to describe burning calories even after the exercise is over.
Just relax –
Getting enough sleep and practicing anxiolytic activities (e.g., yoga, meditation) can regulate your hormones and keep your appetite balanced.
Consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT) –
While this topic is controversial, HRT can actually be effective in improving insulin sensitivity and reducing body fat for women around menopause.
Following these steps consistently will not only prevent you from gaining weight around menopause, but it may also help you shed a few pounds.
Gaining weight around and after menopause is a physiological phenomenon that occurs in most women. Despite the metabolic changes that take place around this period, gaining weight is not inevitable.
We hope that this article helped you understand the ins and outs of menopause and weight gain, including how to prevent the latter.
If you still have any questions, concerns, or personal stories about gaining weight around or after menopause, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below. You can also reach out to us for a private conversation via this link .