Weight gain happening during menopause? Here are 6 strategies to take charge

  • 2 Minutes Read

Weight gain and changes in body shape are among the woes of women during menopause. Hormonal changes make women more prone to belly fat and the health risks that come with it. These changes are not inevitable-here's what you can do.

Weight gain during menopause

Why do I gain weight during menopause?

Menopause technically means the absence of menstrual periods for one year. Perimenopause, which leads up to menopause, can last for years. In addition to uncomfortable hot flashes and other bothersome symptoms, many women report weight gain associated with menopause. Research shows that weight gain relates less to menopause and its associated hormone changes but more so to such factors as aging, decreased activity, and poor sleep.

However, with that research in mind, understand that hormonal changes do contribute to fat depositing in the midsection. Also known as "belly fat," extra midsection fat comes with a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. Tight-around-the-waist pants suddenly become a red flag when you think about the dangers of belly fat.

Of course, it isn't realistic to expect to keep the same body shape throughout our lives as in our 20s or 30s, yet the weight gain of menopause is not inevitable.

Manage weight gain during menopause with these 6 strategies

1. Move more

A decrease in moderate-intensity exercise appears to be a significant reason women burn fewer calories during the menopausal transition. In their five-year study, a Canadian research team attributed the reduction in calories burned by women near menopause to less-moderate exercise, not a drop in metabolism. Common menopausal factors of fatigue, hot flashes, poor sleep, and stress can make women less inclined to exercise, contributing to weight gain.

The study's findings are encouraging because physical activity is in our control when so many other things aren't. You don't need to go to the gym to get more moderate exercise. Effective moderate activities include brisk walking, dancing, bicycling, golfing (carrying clubs), playing frisbee, and even doing housework.

Tip: Moderate-intensity activities allow you to talk, but would make singing difficult. They burn anywhere between 3.5-7 calories per minute.

2. Include strength training

Strength training is valuable for weight loss since muscles are a major driver of our metabolism. Without regular exercise, we can experience a three to eight percent decline in muscle mass per decade after age 30. The menopausal hormone changes can cause decreased muscle mass, meaning we need to work even harder to maintain muscle. Strength training also helps prevent loss of bone density.

3. Prioritize sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep complaints dramatically increase as women reach their 40s and 50s. Stress, anxiety, untreated sleep apnea, and night sweats often leave women sleep-deprived. Poor sleep, in turn, can make weight management more difficult by affecting hunger hormones, cravings, and energy levels. Create a bedtime routine that helps you relax and cool down at night, such as bathing and listening to calming music. Keep the bedroom temperature cool and wear light, moisture-wicking pajamas.

4. Consider a Mediterranean diet

Well known for its heart-protective properties, a Mediterranean diet may optimize health during menopause and beyond. A survey of women in their menopausal years reported that women who closely followed a Mediterranean diet had lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and inflammation markers. The Mediterranean diet also potentially reduces the accumulation of abdominal (belly) fat.

5. Track your food

Weight gain during menopause can result from a subtle energy imbalance. Use MyNetDiary to track your calories from food and calories burned with exercise. Even minor adjustments to your food choices can help prevent unwanted pounds and put you back in charge.

6. Keep some perspective

Our culture places high value on youth and unattainable body images, making aging and the menopausal years even more difficult. The stress of striving for unrealistic ideals can make it more challenging to take care of yourself. Focus on what you can do to eat well, move more, and appreciate your body no matter your stage of life.

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Exercise->Health Weight Gain->Unwanted Weight Gain Other Health Issues->Aging
Mar 31, 2021
Sue Heikkinen
Sue Heikkinen, MS, RDN, CDCES, BC-ADM, ACE-PT - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist Educator

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