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Perimenopausal and menopausal weight gain

As most women enter the perimenopausal and menopausal time of life, unexplained weight gain especially in the hips and around the waist is a common change despite the best diets and exercise. Weight management programs that had previously worked suddenly become ineffective and the woman becomes more and more frustrated that things no longer work to keep the weight off. Other women may tell you that the change in weight is a rite of passage to get through menopause and you must accept the weight gain. Weight gain with menopause is not inevitable and there is no reason that you have to settle for being larger. Hormonal changes of menopause may cause your body to be more sensitive to changes in lifestyles and genetic factors which can add weight to your body.

What are factors leading to weight gain at this time of life?

The same metabolic controls are present in the postmenopausal body as in the premenopausal body, so what changes can contribute the to weight gain:

  • Perimenopausal and menopausal women tend to exercise less than other women, most likely due to more involvement with family and job, leading to less time to take care of one’s self.
  • At this time of life, more stress may be present due to raising children, taking care of aging parents, more job requirements.  The stress level over time can lead to adrenal fatigue which will continue to add more weight.  Cortisol levels, if low or high, block the body from losing weight.  It has been described as a hording effect.
  • Changes in hormonal balance as a sign of the advancement of age
  • Muscle mass naturally diminishes with age, so more estrogen is retained leading to production of fat cells.
  • Exposure to toxins whether taken in through foods or in our environment can lead to higher estrogen levels in the body.  Artificial sweeteners are a problem since they lack caloric content, but because they act like sugar they stimulate insulin production.  Allergens, pesticides, plastics, chemicals, bacteria, may set up an inflammatory response in the body which can prevent weight loss. 
  • Metabolic imbalances can add weight such as insulin resistance which develops over a long period of time.  Every day more research shows links between insulin, metabolism and weight gain.  Insulin resistance has been shown to cause the body to convert every calorie to fat even when dieting.

What is the best way to prevent weight gain with menopause?

There is no magic way to prevent weight gain or loss weight with menopause. Stick to the basics:

  • Move, move, move Ė exercise is essential whether it is simple like a walking program or strength training. An increase in muscle mass burns more calories instead of the calories being stored as fat. A general goal is to exercise at least thirty minutes daily. Recent studies suggest taking 10,000 steps daily will help in weight loss.
  • Sensible eating Ė Recent studies have recommended a Mediterranean style diet. When weight is lost with this type of diet, it becomes more of a lifestyle and that loss is more apt to stay away for as long as six or more years. Donít skip meals and donít overeat.
  • See your physician for evaluation of your hormones and balance the hormones including the ovarian hormones, thyroid, insulin and cortisol.

Seek the support of your physician or a registered dietician to help plan an approach to help you