21 Oct Going Through Menopause And Gaining Weight? Here’s Why
Weight gain during menopause is very common. It’s a time when you’re aging and your hormones feel like they’re all over the place. You may be experiencing fatigue, depression, reduced libido, hot flushes and osteoporosis along with your weight gain. These are common symptoms so your not alone.
Today we’ll chat about why some of you going through menopause have been gaining weight and what you can do to prevent it.
The female hormonal cycle
Firstly, I should touch on the hormonal periods women experience throughout our lifetime. There are four major periods, including:
Premenopause – this is the time when women are fertile. It usually starts at puberty, when girls experience their first period and ends with the last menstrual cycle.
Perimenopause – this is a term giving for the time “around menopause” when the body is making a natural transition to infertility – permanent menopause. Symptoms are sometimes subtle and not so subtle as your oestrogen levels rise and fall and progesterone reduces. Perimenopause can start as early as the mid-30’s to early 50’s depending on the individual.
Menopause – the average woman reaches menopause at 51 years old when the menstrual cycle has come to a permeant stopped. It’s confirmed when there has been no period for 12 months. Some of the symptoms experienced in the premenopausal stage can intensify during the first year or two of menopause.
Postmenopause – after a year without her period, a woman has officially entered postmenopause.
Hormone imbalance affects our metabolism
Weight gain during the menopausal period is greatly due to the changes in our hormone balance and can vary significantly from individual to individual.
As women enter perimenopause, oestrogen is often produced in very high amounts by the ovaries, but as time goes on this decreases substantially. Oestrogen is a considered an insulin sensitising hormone that controls the negative impact of cortisol.
During this time progesterone, which acts to oppose the action of oestrogen on insulin, is also in decline. Together the two hormones control the negative impact cortisol can have on the body. In regards to weight gain during menopause, insulin and cortisol could be one of the main reasons women store fat in the belly region.
This hormone imbalance is responsible for changes which affect a woman’s body and how it burns and uses calories, ultimately affecting our ability to lose fat.
Weight gain during perimenopause and menopause
It is estimated, nine out of ten women will experience weight gain during the stages of perimenopause and menopause. An interesting study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that middle-aged women throughout perimenopause gained belly fat and also lost muscle mass.
This is not just due to hormonal changes; lifestyle and aging also play a role. Those who are already overweight or obese prior to reaching perimenopause are also at greater risk of gaining more weight.
An increased appetite another driving factor as to why women experience weight gain during the perimenopause stage. This happens as a result of the changes in hormones.
The low oestrogen levels can impair the hormones leptin and neuropeptide Y, which help control our appetite and the feeling of fullness. A study looking into another hormone, ghrelin, found that it is significantly higher in women going through perimenopause. This hormone has been nicknamed the ‘hunger hormone’ as it acts to increase the feeling of hunger when our stomach is empty.
An increased appetite ultimately results in an increased calorie intake, which leads to weight gain.
By the time women reach menopause there are other factors involved. Many women are less active and their energy expenditure is reduced, which leads to weight gain and loss of muscle mass. During menopause and postmenopause, women generally have a greater insulin resistance which can also contribute to the additional kilos.
It’s unclear whether its hormones, in particular oestrogen, or the aging process that is the driving factor of weight gain in menopausal women. What we do know, it’s very common and there are ways we can reduce it.
Strategies to prevent weight gain during menopause
Weight gain is a very common side effect of menopause and while it can be extremely frustrating, there are things that you can do to help prevent the expanding waistline.
Move more and keep your body fit and active
Control your weight before you reach menopause to reduce the amount of weight gain
Remove processed foods and steer clear of to much sugar intake
Improve your insulin sensitivity by eating more fibre
Cut down on your sugar intake and stimulates like coffee
Build strength and lean muscle by engaging in strength exercise
Get a good night sleep to maintain hormone balance and control your appetite
Eating a healthy, nutritious diet along with regular exercise and rest can help you prevent weight gain during menopause.