Maintaining a Healthy Weight During and After Menopause

menopause & weight gain

One of the most common issues of growing older is weight gain. And for women, this weight gain is accelerated during menopause as the balance of hormones alters.

Studies have shown that on average women gain between 6 and 7.5kg of weight between the age of 35 and 55 years.

At this time of life, many women can’t lose fat no matter how well they eat and exercise. In fact, the extra stress of trying too hard to lose weight will further upset the levels of hormones, especially the stress hormone cortisol. This leads to more fat deposits and weight gain.

It’s all down to the magical female sex hormones which play a major role in fat distribution. Indeed, it’s estrogen that distributes body fat to create the classic female shape.

The trick is to have enough fat to be healthy, but not so much that you become susceptible to diseases associated with being overweight including;

  • obesity
  • high blood pressure
  • dyslipidemia (blood lipids and cholesterol)
  • insulin resistance

These are collectively known as metabolic syndrome and can lead to:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • inflammation
  • liver and kidney damage

So there are lots of good reasons to maintain a healthy body weight and a great looking shape.

But it’s not all about estrogen. Progesterone and cortisol play a significant part in fat metabolism as well. The key to controlling weight gain during menopause is balance:

  • balanced hormone levels
  • a nutrient profile that’s balanced
  • and a lifestyle that prioritises balance

The first way to be balanced – your hormone levels.

Balancing your hormones lifts the catabolic, or breakdown (think fat burning) side of the metabolic equation, and reduces the anabolic (fat depositing, weight building) side.

So if unwanted weight gain during menopause is something you’re experiencing then the first and easiest thing to do is get your hormones in balance.

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Post-menopause


This is the time when menstruation is well and truly over, the ovaries have stopped producing high levels of sex hormones and for many ladies, perimenopause symptoms subside.

Estrogen has protective qualities and the diminished levels mean organs such as your brain, heart and bones become more vulnerable. It’s also a key lubricant so your lips may become drier, your joints less supple and your vagina might be drier. In addition, your thyroid, digestion, insulin, cortisol and weight may alter.

At this juncture, a woman might experience an increase in the signs of reduced estrogen but she should have a decrease of perimenopause symptoms. That said, some women will experience symptoms like hot flushes for years or even the rest of their lives.

Perimenopause

Peri = ‘near’

Most females begin to experience the symptoms of perimenopause in their mid-forties. Your progesterone levels decline from your mid-30s but it’s generally from around 40 that the rest of your sex hormones begin to follow suit. 

Perimenopause is a different experience for every woman and some women may barely notice it. The first indicators are usually changes to the monthly cycle. This means that for some ladies, this can be accompanied by things like sore breasts, mood swings, weight gain around the belly, and fatigue as time goes on.

For those with symptoms it can be a challenging time physically, mentally and emotionally.

Importantly, perimenopause lasts – on average – four to 10 years. The transition is usually a gradual process and many women enter perimenopause without realising.