- As women age and reach menopause, weight gain especially around the midsection occurs.
- While hormonal imbalances during menopause can make you gain weight, other factors like age and genetic factors also play a role.
- The excess weight isn’t inevitable though, and committing to lifestyle changes can result in successful weight loss after menopause and beyond.
Most women going through menopause may gain extra weight. While losing weight and keeping it off can be more challenging during this transition, you can change tack by making permanent changes in diet and living an active lifestyle.
Factors that contribute to menopause weight gain
Hormonal Changes. A drop in estrogen levels and other hormonal fluctuations during menopause causes increased fat storage to shift from the hips and thighs to the abdomen. But hormonal changes don’t cause menopause weight gain alone. Rather, weight gain is normally linked to the natural aging process, lifestyle, and family history.
Loss of Muscle Mass. People tend to become less physically active as they grow older. Their metabolism or the rate their body uses calories also naturally slows down. These result in loss in muscle mass and an increase in body fat.
Genetics. If a family member or close relative carries excess weight around the abdomen, you are more likely to experience the same.
Other factors like physical inactivity, unhealthy eating habits, and poor sleep may also play a role in gaining weight during menopause.
What are the risks of menopause weight gain?
Extra weight around the abdomen during the menopause transition can impact your health and up your risks for various medical issues including:
- Breathing problems
- Heart and blood vessel disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Certain cancers like breast, colon, and endometrial
Strategies to make weight loss easier after menopause
While there’s no one quick formula for preventing or thwarting menopause weight gain, adhering to some weight-control basics is recommended. These include:
More Exercise. A combination of aerobic exercise and strength training will help reduce body fat and improve lean body mass, making it easier to manage a healthy weight.
According to experts, healthy people should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise like brisk walking, or 75 minutes a week of intense aerobic activity such as jogging. Strength training exercises at least twice a week are also recommended. If you want to lose more weight, you need to increase your exercise level.
Fewer Calories. A key part of losing weight is making dietary changes. You might need to consume 200 fewer calories a day during your 50s than you used up during your 30s and 40s. To avoid cutting back on nutrition, your diet should contain more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Generally, a plant-based diet is a healthier choice than other options. Good sources include legumes, nuts, soy, fish, and low-fat dairy products. Limit intake of red meat or chicken and switch butter, margarine, and shortening with olive or vegetable oils.
Curbing your sweet habit. The average Western diet comprises about 300 calories of added sugars a day, half of which comes from sugary beverages such as sodas, juices, energy drinks, flavored waters, and sweetened coffee and tea. Cookies, pies, cakes, ice cream, and candy are other sources that contribute to excess dietary sugar.
Slashing your alcohol intake. Excess calories from alcoholic drinks added to your diet all the more heightens your risk of gaining weight.
Getting social support. Support and motivation from friends and family can help you achieve your weight and fitness goals. Teaming up and making the lifestyle changes together also helps.
Source: Harvard Health Publishing