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Weight gain during menopause: find out why it happens

29 August 2022

Weight gain is a health issue that affects and concerns hundreds of people. Being overweight or obese are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health, with consequences such as (WHO, 2021; CDC, 2020):

  • Heart and blood vessel diseases.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol and triglycerides levels.
  • Sleep apnea and breathing problems.
  • Gynecological problems.

A person is classified as overweight when their body mass index (BMI) reaches or exceeds 25 to 29.9 and obesity is characterised as a BMI of 30 or higher. A BMI between 24.9 to 18.5 is ideal (CDC, 2020).

Which factors promote weight gain?

Some factors that may contribute to being overweight or obese include (Mayo Clinic, 2019; NIDDK, 2018):

  • Family and genetic history.
  • Race or ethnicity.
  • Age. For example, during menopause, when there is an absence of menstruation.
  • Sex.
  • Unhealthy eating and lack of exercise.

Why does weight gain tend to occur during menopause?

During menopause, there is a combination of factors that make it hard to keep the weight off, such as (Stuart, 2021):

  • Being overweight is related to a reduction in oestrogen levels. This hormonal change may also lower the metabolic rate, the speed at which the body transforms stored energy into working energy. That is why the stored energy becomes fat instead of being consumed.
  • Insufficient oestrogen levels may also cause the body to use starches and blood sugar less effectively, which increases fat storage and makes it harder to lose weight.
  • Other factors that contribute to weight gain during menopause are muscle mass loss and lack of exercise.

Tips to avoid weight gain during menopause

Weight gain during menopause: find out why it happens.

Exercise more

Doing at least 10 minutes of physical activity per day, such as aerobic exercise and strength training, is the best way to prevent becoming overweight during menopause. As you grow muscle, your body’s metabolism can burn calories more efficiently, helping to keep your weight in check.

However, exercising during menopause has many other perks aside from weight loss, including (Stuart, 2021):

  • Lower risk of osteoporosis.
  • Improved insulin resistance and lower depression and anxiety risks.
  • Improve bowel function.

Eat healthier

Be aware of what you eat and drink. A diet based on greens, fruits, and whole grains, less processed and with more fibre, is healthier. These are some of the best foods:

  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Fish
  • Soy
  • Low-fat dairy

Try to limit your consumption of meat, such as red meat, or chicken. You can also use oils, such as olive or vegetable oil instead of butter.

When menopause start you might need up to 200 fewer calories every day to maintain your current weight. So, try to eat smaller amounts. (Mayo Clinic, 2019; Stuart, 2021).

Keep your sweet tooth in check

Another way to prevent this is to avoid added sugars. Foods such as cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pies, candy, and sugar-sweetened beverages (soft drinks, juices, energy drinks, and flavoured waters) contain a lot of calories – nearly 300 a day in the average diet (Mayo Clinic, 2019).

Rest and relax

Try to relax before bed and get enough sleep to manage your hormones and appetite properly.

Stress relief can be important to prevent weight gain. Stress increases cortisol levels, which are associated with an increase in abdominal fat. Yoga can help you prevent weight gain and, as a bonus, strengthen the pelvic floor (Spritzer, 2021).

This stage of life can be challenging. However, following these tips can help relieve menopausal symptoms.

References 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. (2020). Healthy Weight, Nutrition, and Physical Activity. Health Effects of Overweight & Obesity. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects.html   

Mayo Clinic. (2019). Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle-age spread. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menopause-weight-gain/art-20046058   

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [NIDDK]. (2018). Factors Affecting Weight & Health. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/adult-overweight-obesity/factors-affecting-weight-health 

World Health Organization [WHO]. (2021). Obesity and overweight. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight    

Spritzer, F. (2020). Why Some Women Gain Weight Around Menopause. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/menopause-weight-gain   

Spritzer, F. (2021). How to lose weight around menopause (and keep it off). Healthline.https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lose-weight-in-menopause#lifestyle-changes-for-weight-loss   

Stuart, A. (2021). Menopause, weight gain, and exercise tips. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/menopause-weight-gain-and-exercise-tips  

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