Menopause and weight gain is frustrating and difficult for many women. Studies show that weight gain during the menopause is one of the foremost symptoms of this phase, and affects up to 90% of menopausal women. On average, women are thought to gain between 5-15 lbs during the menopause stage, which can be frustrating and disheartening. It can also can negatively contribute to other symptoms of this phase, including low self esteem and negative body image.
The science behind menopause and weight gain shows that there are a number of natural processes taking place that women can’t control, such as a decrease in certain hormones. However, there are a number of ways in which women can effectively manage their weight gain in order to achieve a healthy Body Mass Index measurement.
During the menopause phase, estrogen and progesterone levels decrease in a woman’s body. The reduction in the production of estrogen makes the body go looking for it elsewhere. Fat cells produce some estrogen, and so this encourages the body to turn more of the calories consumed into fat cells, in order to increase the levels of estrogen in the body. A decrease in progesterone levels has been linked to the retention of water in the body, which although is not fat as such, contributes to the appearance of weight gain and the feeling of being bloated.
An increase in the hormone androgen contributes to weight gain directly around the middle of a woman’s body – many women report changing from being a ‘pear-shape’ to being an ‘apple-shape’ due to androgen’s part in weight gain across the abdomen and lower back. Decreasing testosterone levels, which are instrumental in turning calories into lean muscle mass, contributes further to weight gain during the menopausal phase. Without the use of Hormone Replacement Therapy (which doesn’t always effectively reverse the effects of weight gain), these hormonal changes occur naturally and can’t be altered.
Weight gain can also occur during this time due to other more controllable factors. It is thought that women during this time partake in less physical activity, be that due to a change in lifestyle (for example retiring from work) or due to the uptake of less exercise. Women of this age are also thought to consume more calories, and due to hormonal changes taking place, crave more processed and sugary foods such as confectionary and chocolate. Ensuring that regular exercise is taken, and a healthy, balanced diet is maintained is fundamental in managing weight gain during the menopausal phase.
Effective methods in managing weight gain during this time include the consumption of plenty of fruit and vegetables – at least 5 portions a day. Cardiovascular exercise should be undertaken at least three times a week, and maintaining an active lifestyle also positively contributes to weight management. Avoiding crash diets, which can cause weight to yoyo uncontrollably is helpful. If weight loss is required, achieving this in a slow and sustained way is advised. Avoiding too much caffeine and alcohol can also reduce the likelihood of water retention and bloating.
Menopause and weight gain is unfortunately almost inevitable amongst women of a certain age, but it can be effectively managed with a healthy lifestyle, balanced diet and positive outlook.