If you were struggling with weight gain before Covid -19, the chances are that, due to reduced activity, you will probably feel like you are losing the battle.
You spend hours everyday in the gym. You eat nothing but grilled chicken, fish, and salads. Yet the numbers on the scale don't budge — or worse, they slowly creep up, along with your waist measurement.
Weight gain at menopause is very common. When we poll women about their top worries at menopause, it is always rated number one or two. The extra pounds which become difficult to shift at this age can lower their self-esteem, leaving the women feeling less attractive and unsexy.
It’s not simple to tackle as there are many factors at play, including:
However, the process of menopause is highly individual. It varies from woman to woman and changes throughout her journey through this hormone transition.
This article will endeavour to explain why some women gain weight during and after menopause and provide some advice and top tips to help lose weight.
During perimenopause, up to ten years before menopause the hormone levels in the body change. Progesterone levels decline slowly and steadily, while oestrogen levels fluctuate greatly from day to day and even within the same day. This imbalance causes many of the debilitating symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats and weight gain.
Especially, in the early part of perimenopause, the ovaries often produce extremely high amounts of oestrogen. This is due to impaired feedback signals between the ovaries, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland.
As perimenopause progresses, when menstrual cycles become more irregular, the ovaries produce very little oestrogen which declines even more during menopause and beyond.
Some studies suggest that high oestrogen levels may promote fat gain. This is because high oestrogen levels are associated with weight gain and higher body fat during the reproductive years.
From puberty until perimenopause, women tend to store fat in their hips and thighs as subcutaneous fat. Although it can be hard to lose, this type of fat doesn’t increase disease risk very much.
However, during menopause, low oestrogen levels promote fat storage in the belly area as visceral fat, which is linked to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.
Weight changes during perimenopause
It’s estimated that women gain about 2–5 pounds (1–2 kgs) during the perimenopausal transition. However, many gain much more weight, particularly those who are already overweight or suffer from obesity.
Menopause may not be the only cause of weight gain but may also occur as part of ageing, regardless of hormone changes. The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) is a large observational study that has followed middle-aged women throughout perimenopause. During this study, women gained belly fat and lost muscle mass.
Another factor contributing to weight gain in perimenopause may be the increased appetite and calorie intake that occurs in response to hormonal changes.
In one study, levels of the “hunger hormone,” ghrelin, were found to be significantly higher among perimenopausal women, compared to premenopausal and postmenopausal.
The low oestrogen levels in the late stages of menopause may also impair the function of leptin and neuropeptide Y, hormones that control fullness and appetite
Therefore, women in the late stages of perimenopause who have low oestrogen levels may be driven to eat more calories.
Progesterone’s effects on weight during the menopausal transition haven’t been studied as much. However, some researchers believe the combination of low oestrogen and progesterone could further increase the risk of obesity.
Weight changes during and after menopause
Hormonal changes and weight gain may continue to occur as women leave perimenopause and enter menopause. One predictor of weight gain may be the age at which menopause occurs. A study of over 1,900 women found that those who entered menopause earlier than the average age of 51 had less body fat.
Additionally, several other factors may contribute to weight gain after menopause. Postmenopausal women are generally less active than when they were younger, which reduces energy expenditure and leads to a loss of muscle mass.
Menopausal women also frequently have higher fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance, which drive weight gain and increase heart disease risk.
Although its use is controversial, hormone replacement therapy has shown effectiveness in reducing belly fat and improving insulin sensitivity during and after menopause.
Keep in mind that the averages found in studies do not apply to all women. This varies between individuals.
How to prevent weight gain around menopause
Don’t despair, you can reverse weight gain. Women who go through our programme can lose weight without dieting.
Although weight gain is very common during menopause, there are steps you can take to prevent or reverse it.
- Get your body back into good nutritional shape – makes sure your body isn’t deficient in key nutrients. Take a good multivitamin every day such as Fema 45+. Take a look at our downloadable nutritional deficiency guide to help you identify what you may be lacking.
- Eat cleanly, reduce the carbohydrates and eat healthily.
- Make sure that you add Mother Nature’s oestrogens to your diet. By adding these to your daily diet you can fool the body into thinking that they are still naturally occurring in the body.
- Sources of phytoestrogens include soya and soya products, edamame beans, lentils, organic flax seeds etc. Additionally, add Red Clover to your diet via a supplement called Promensil. I suggest you take this before going to bed to sustain your oestrogen levels while you sleep.
- Work out: Engage in strength training to improve body composition, increase strength, and build and maintain lean muscle. Exercising to the point of breathlessness 5 times a week will make a real difference.
- Rest and relax: Try to relax before bed and get enough sleep to keep your hormones and appetite well -managed. Try a meditation App such as Pzizz or Headspace for 30 minutes before you go to sleep. It will make all the difference.
If you follow these steps, it is possible to lose weight during this time, regain wellbeing and get back to feeling better.
The bottom line is that Menopause can be challenging, both physically and emotionally. However, eating a nutritious diet and getting enough exercise and rest can help prevent weight gain and reduce disease risk.
For further information - join Maryon for her virtual class - Are you feeling weighed down by the Padding of Menopause?
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