When you think of menopause, you might automatically think of hot flashes and mood swings. While a drop in estrogen (which occurs during menopause) certainly causes these symptoms, another notable change many women experience during menopause is weight gain. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, women gain an average of five pounds during menopause. Some women might gain as much as 15 to 25 pounds.
Learning how to fight potential weight gain now can make it easier to maintain your body weight for overall better health.
Menopause marks significant changes: not only do your periods finally stop, but you’re also not capable of having children because your body doesn’t release the same amount of estrogen as it once did.
It’s important to note that menopause-related weight gain doesn’t happen overnight. In other words, you won’t suddenly gain 10 pounds after your periods stop. Rather, the weight gain is more gradual. Dr. Carolyn Ross estimates that most women gain a pound per year. Poor lifestyle habits and other factors can make this number even higher.
While weight gain may be attributed to menopause, other factors can increase the total amount gained. For instance, you might notice more weight maintenance issues:
- under times of stress
- when you don’t get enough sleep
- during family changes (such as children leaving the nest, or a divorce)
- with job or relationship issues
- when quitting smoking
- while consuming alcohol frequently
- while taking certain medications (such as antidepressants)
Genetics can also play a role. If your mother battled her weight during menopause, then chances are you might go through the same ordeal.
Age itself presents a lot of changes when it comes to weight. Once you hit your 30s, your metabolism slows down. During this time, you may find it harder to maintain your weight.
Unfortunately, the circumstances only make it harder as you reach your 40s and 50s. This is because muscle mass naturally decreases, while body fat can increase. Without muscle mass, your body doesn’t metabolize calories as efficiently. This can lead to unwanted weight gain. So menopause can lead to weight gain, but it isn’t the only cause during this life stage.
Significant weight gain during menopause means more than not fitting into your favorite dresses and jeans. It also poses potential serious consequences to your health. In fact, gaining weight in your 40s increases your risk for:
Also, if you already have a chronic illness like type 2 diabetes or hypothyroidism, weight gain can worsen your symptoms.
Despite all of the supplements and other supposed solutions to menopause weight gain that are available these days, there’s no magic formula for stopping it. Under your doctor’s supervision, you can minimize menopause-related weight gain with a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating fewer calories, exercising regularly, and building muscle.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most women need to eat 200 fewer calories per day once they reach their 50s.
Benefits of Aerobic Exercise
For success with an exercise routine, it’s important to prevent boredom and isolation. Change up your routine and try new classes and DVDs. Walk a new route for a change of scenery. You may also enlist a workout buddy to help keep you motivated.
Strength training can help prevent a loss of muscle mass as you age. In addition, it can help you rebuild muscles you might have lost as a result of a lack of exercise. Resistance exercises are especially important after menopause because they can also help prevent osteoporosis.
You can address multiple muscle groups with a full routine, including arms, legs, glutes, and abs. It’s important that you don’t overdo it — you’ll only increase your risk for injuries. The Mayo Clinic recommends a routine of twice a week to gain adequate results.
Remember that strength training and aerobic exercises are separate entities. Strength training can’t burn body fat. Instead, it can help you tone as you lose weight.
While many women experience menopause-related weight gain, you aren’t automatically cursed when it comes to weight maintenance. Being proactive about your weight can help tremendously. If you haven’t yet hit menopause, you may start making over your lifestyle now to curb the effects that this change brings about. If you’re already in the middle of menopause, it’s still not too late — make small changes at a time until they become habit. Once you start exercising more and eating healthy, you’ll likely see a difference. It’s certainly not easy, but sticking with a weight loss plan will make you look and feel better.
Despite making significant lifestyle changes, some women still have difficulties with their weight after menopause. If you continue to gain weight despite cutting calories and exercising regularly, you should see your doctor, as this could be indicative of an underlying health issue.