One of the most distressing side effects of menopause is hormonal weight gain. In this article, you’ll learn how to prevent menopause weight gain with diet and exercise.
Are you confused by all the menopause advice and weight loss programs that don’t seem to work for menopausal women? And what menopause weight gain remedies can you use to maintain a healthy weight during and after menopause?
Menopause weight management is a complicated issue and losing weight during menopause is not easy. During your menopause changes and transition, your body is behaving differently, so it can be especially complicated.
Why Women Gain Weight During Menopause
If you’re going through perimenopause, you might be wondering why your weight has started to go up even though you haven’t significantly changed your eating habits.
You might wonder are you eating too much sugar, as it seems like you only have to look at a sweet treat and gain 2 kilograms, which complicates the challenge of how to lose weight during menopause.
So, does menopause cause weight gain and how to lose weight after menopause? If you’re looking for the answers to these questions, you need to first understand the reasons why women gain weight during menopause.
In reality, there’s no single reason why you can’t control your weight during and after menopause, but some of the reasons why managing menopause weight gain can be challenging are:
- Changing hormones
- Lower activity levels
- Lower metabolic rate
- Gut inflammation
- Poor sleep
- Excess stress
If you’re a woman undergoing menopause, here are some ways in which menopause and weight gain often go together and how you can prevent weight gain due to menopause.
1. Estrogen and weight gain in menopause
The most obvious connection between hormones and weight gain involves a decrease in your estrogen and progesterone levels, which occurs during perimenopause.
So, how does a lack of estrogen cause weight gain, and what’s the connection between estrogen and weight gain due to hormones?
The estrogen weight gain connection arises from a form of estrogen, called estradiol, which decreases at menopause. This hormone helps to regulate metabolism and body weight. Lower levels of estradiol may lead to weight gain.
Throughout their life, women may gain weight around their hips and thighs. However, after menopause, women tend to notice weight gain due to hormonal changes around their midsection and abdomen.
Testosterone levels also drop, although at a slower rate and this may, in part, be the reason our waists expand, even if we don’t gain actual kilograms.
2. Lower activity levels
Women generally have lower activity levels than men. Still, as we get older, we are even less active because of sedentary jobs, low energy levels, and lack of time-related to job and family commitments.
A lack of physical activity year-on-year contributes to weight gain and this can become especially problematic during and after menopause.
3. Lower metabolic rate
As you age, your metabolic rate – the rate at which your body burns energy at rest – declines. Your body doesn’t seem to need as many calories as it did when you were younger.
But that is not entirely true. A decrease in activity is one cause for the decline in metabolic rate, but the reduction in muscle mass also causes a lower metabolic rate.
As we move and exercise less, we are paying the price for not maintaining muscle mass. At rest, muscle burns more calories than fat. This becomes even more important as your testosterone levels drop, and this makes putting on muscle even harder.
4. Inflammation or ‘leaky gut’ syndrome
The cumulative stress of modern living takes a toll on our health and especially on our digestive tracts. A compromised gut means increased levels of toxins in the body that fuel inflammation, contributing to weight gain, and promoting premature ageing.
Leaky gut – also known as increased intestinal permeability or hyperpermeability – is a condition in which the intestinal lining loses its integrity and we don’t process our food correctly. It can increase our cravings for sugars and we don’t excrete excess estrogen, leading to hormonal imbalance..
5. Poor sleep
78% of women in perimenopause experience sleep disturbances for a variety of reasons, including night sweats, lack of exercise, and progesterone deficiency that creates sugar cravings that make our insomnia worse.
Sleep deprivation suppresses the hormones that regulate food intake and tell us when we feel full and satisfied. So we tend to overeat and put on weight when we sleep badly.
6. High-stress levels
High-stress levels are common during menopause and can lead to anxiety and over-eating. Chronic stress creates high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
High cortisol levels make it harder to lose fat and contribute to cravings. All this leads to weight gain in women during and after menopause.
Now that you know what causes weight gain during menopause, what can you do about it?
Focus on Fat Loss NOT Weight Loss
To understand why you should focus on fat loss, let’s look at body composition. Your muscle is denser than your fat. So someone with less body fat and more muscle will look slimmer than someone with more fat and less muscle, even if they weigh the same.
Focusing strictly on weight loss will result in you losing water, muscle, and a little fat. This is especially true if you try to lose weight quickly. You will also likely lose strength, have lower fitness levels, and lower immunity.
The key is losing weight slowly, building muscle mass through exercise and keep processed food to a minimum while including good protein at every meal.
Menopause Weight Loss Diet Tips
As our lives have become increasingly busy, stressful, and removed from nature, we’re more likely to eat highly-processed, genetically-modified, pesticide-ridden foods.
The cumulative stress of modern living takes a toll on our health and especially on our digestive tracts. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the engine of the body.
It extracts nutrients from the food we consume and delivers energy to every cell of the body. It is a specialized, incredibly complex system, and every part plays crucial functions.
When our gut is healthy, we have vibrant energy. Our immune systems are robust, our minds are sharp, our glowing complexions reflect our vitality, and we maintain a healthy weight.
Here are some tips for a healthy diet during menopause. Follow these menopause weight loss tips to heal your gut and boost your metabolism.
Foods to avoid during menopause
If you want to lose that menopause belly fat, diet is an important part of your plan for losing weight after menopause. If your diet after menopause needs cleaning up, now’s the time to do it.
There’s nothing that puts the brakes on your metabolisms, like sugar and junk food, so make sure you omit them from your menopause weight loss diet.
If you want to turn up the heat in your metabolic furnace, dump the junk in your diet plan for menopause weight loss. Remember, anything that turns to sugar actually encourages fat storage.
Foods to avoid during menopause include refined foods such as white flour, pasta, bread, white potatoes, white rice, juice, and other high-sugar drinks.
What to eat during menopause
Wondering what to eat during menopause and what are the best foods for menopause? The best diet for menopause weight loss is one that includes protein-rich foods as part of your menopause meal plan.
Eat a protein-rich breakfast to kick-start your metabolism from the get-go, as it will decrease your appetite and prevent overeating later on in the day. Follow up that protein-rich breakfast with more protein throughout the day.
Research shows that protein-rich foods like meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts, and seeds increase your metabolic rate by 15 to 30% and keep it high for approximately two hours after eating.
Eating protein-rich foods also helps your body maintain muscle mass instead of losing it in the ageing process. My favourite is dinner for breakfast, or D4B, which is protein and veggies leftover from the night before. It couldn’t be easier and does the trick.
Do not skip meals, especially breakfast, or eat less than 1,500 calories per day. Your body needs calories to function efficiently and will slow down your metabolism as a protective mechanism if you deprive it.
If you can afford to choose organic food, that’s even better as pesticides and antibiotics in our diet put a strain on the liver and make the body deprioritize the removal of excess estrogen, contributing to weight gain.
You can also consume a number of foods to balance menopause hormone levels. Food was meant to be pleasurable, so make good choices and enjoy it.
Another factor to prevent menopause weight gain is to ensure you’re getting all your daily requirements of vitamins and taking the menopause medication prescribed by your physician.
Drink water before meals
Water is an essential part of your menopause diet plan and getting enough of it can prevent menopause bloating. Drinking cold water seems to work better as the body burns extra calories working to warm it.
Drinking water not only jump-starts your metabolism but gives you an energy boost as well, especially in the late afternoon when most people experience an energy crash.
Studies show that drinking water, especially before meals, can fill you up and raise your metabolism by approximately 30% within 10 minutes of drinking it.
I love to drink a big glass of water first thing in the morning to get everything going. It’s like taking a shower on the inside and is one of the best ways to lose weight during menopause.
Menopause weight loss supplements
Green tea is well-known for its antioxidant properties and is a great fat-burning supplement. Studies show that the equivalent of three cups of green tea a day helps to boost your metabolism by up to 10%.
If you’re looking for herbal remedies for menopause weight gain, green tea is one of the best menopause weight loss supplements you can easily consume.
How Does Exercise Help Avoid Menopause Weight Gain?
Exercise shouldn’t be the main focus if you want to lose weight. But it is an essential component of weight maintenance, whether you’re looking to avoid perimenopause weight gain or after-menopause weight gain.
People who exercise regularly are often better at weight maintenance than non-exercisers. And once we have lost weight, exercise helps to maintain our new weight.
Regular exercise also helps to maintain the balance of critical hormones in the body, including estrogen, cortisol, and the satiety hormone, leptin, and speeds up your metabolism.
And at the right level, exercise can also help to energize you. The more active you are, the more likely you’ll want to be active. Lack of exercise is one reason why midlife women get stiff, and proper diet and movement can help reduce this.
What Type Of Menopause Exercise Is Best For Weight Loss?
The best type of exercises for menopause weight gain is the exercise that YOU DO! All types of training have some benefits.
Varying the menopause exercise you do helps to combat boredom. Try different types of training to find the types of exercise you like the most.
Resistance training or strength training
Resistance training or strength training during menopause helps with fat loss because it adds muscle, which increases your metabolism.
The importance of strength training during menopause cannot be understated as it also helps with hormone balance, especially estrogen and insulin.
Different types of resistance training include:
- Free weights – using dumbbells or barbells
- Weight machines that you typically find at your gym
- Medicine balls – weighted balls
- Resistance bands – like giant rubber bands, like the ones used in a Pilates studio – provide resistance when stretched. They are portable and can be adapted to most workouts. The bands provide continuous resistance throughout a movement
- Your body weight – can be used for squats, push-ups, and chin-ups.
You can do specific weight training classes or do these on your own at home or in the gym. Pilates is also a great way to do resistance training as are some more physical yoga practices, e.g., Ashtanga, Power Yoga.
Moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise
Moderate- intensity cardiovascular exercise can help to maintain a calorie balance. It also helps to balance mood swings and lift our energy levels.
Moderate-intensity exercise can even lower stress levels, which in turn prevents weight gain. Good examples of moderate-intensity exercise include power walking, cycling, and playing tennis.
High-intensity training is particularly beneficial in increasing metabolism even after the workout is complete. This can include team sports, running, fast cycling.
Although cross-fit and so-called HIIT classes are popular, they can lead to injury and should be avoided if you have issues with your pelvic floor, especially in those trying to achieve menopause weight loss over 50.
Low-intensity exercise, like walking, tai chi or gentle yoga for menopause, is very beneficial and an excellent place to start if you haven’t been exercising regularly.
Again these types of exercise can reduce stress levels and help maintain weight by keeping stress hormones in balance. Whichever type of exercise you choose, you will see benefits.
Exercise, in general, helps to reduce stress, keep the critical weight-gaining hormones in balance, speed metabolism, and increase energy.
Measuring Your Progress
Scales are not the best way to measure your progress. It is easy, but it might not be telling you the complete weight loss story.
You should be looking for other measures so you can focus on fat loss instead. Here are a number of different ways to track how you’re progressing towards your menopause weight loss goal.
- Measure your waist
Waist circumference is an easy way to measure your weight loss and know if your menopause belly fat exercise is working. You can also take measurements of other parts of your body like your hips, upper arms, and thighs.
- Body fat measurements
You can use a body fat scale to measure your body fat at home. Such measurements may not be very accurate, but you can use it to track your progress.
- Progress photos
Taking photos is a great way to track your progress visually. Take photos of yourself in a bikini or underwear. A front view and a side view are excellent. Then repeat the photos every month and notice how your body is changing.
- How do you feel?
Although a very subjective measure, if you are taking steps towards a healthier lifestyle that includes changing your diet and doing more exercise, you may notice that you begin to feel better.
If you use these menopause weight gain solutions to prevent weight gain during menopause, you might have more energy, you might feel more confident, or you might have a better body image.
As we go through perimenopause, things get real, and our dietary and lifestyle choices are the primary factors that determine how our wellness story will play out.
But just because you can no longer get away with past nutritional and lifestyle indiscretions, it doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to eating boring, tasteless food and having no fun or social life.
It just means that if you want to remain vibrant and healthy through your menopause and beyond, you need to make some dietary and lifestyle adjustments.
A healthy menopause diet plan, combined with a regular menopause workout for women, can support you in maintaining a healthy weight during and after menopause.
It is possible to prevent menopause weight gain and achieve your menopause weight loss goals with diet and exercise to prevent many of the diseases of later life.
I hope these menopause weight gain remedies have given you the menopause weight loss help and advice that you need to implement your post-menopause weight loss plan.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this web site is presented for the purpose of educating people. Nothing contained on this web site should be construed nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider. Should you have any healthcare-related questions, please call or see your physician or another qualified healthcare provider promptly. Always consult with your physician or other qualified healthcare providers before embarking on a new treatment, diet, or fitness program.
About the author:
Clarissa Kristjansson is an internationally recognized Menopause coach & mentor helping learn how to use holistic mind-body practices to manage their symptoms, regain confidence and experience a new sense of freedom and energy.
She coaches in a unique way that combines mindfulness, health coaching, neuroscience, and positive psychology into a considered and well thought through a methodology that provides tangible results.
Clarissa is a speaker and the author of bestselling books on menopause, such as The Mindful Menopause. She is also the host of the Thriving Thru Menopause podcast and can be found on SHEROES and Twitter.