Menopause Weight Gain Explained
Updated: Oct 2
As women enter midlife they often notice a significant change in their bodies. Many women I see in clinic are interested in the best diet for healthy ageing. I frequently hear clients saying they have gained weight in their 40’s, despite trying to diet, and it feels like nothing seems to work anymore. It’s a common story of frustration and confusion that leads to crash diets and yo-yo dieting in an effort to lose the weight.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a natural biological process marking the end of a woman's reproductive years. It typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, often results in weight gain. During this time the ovaries stop producing eggs and there is a decline in oestrogen levels which can lead to a sluggish metabolism and weight gain.
Menopause and Belly Fat!
Women in their 40’s, during the peri menopause, often complain of weight gain around their middle area. An expanding waistline and back fat means that favourite clothes no longer fit. This can cause a loss of confidence for many women during midlife.
Why is Weight Gain Common During Menopause?
Weight gain during peri-menopause can have a myriad of reasons. Sex hormone levels are slowly changing and fluctuating like a roller coaster. This can lead to hormone imbalance such as thyroid dysfunction and increase fluid retention. There may be other factors such as reduced physical activity, poor gut health and dietary habits, as well as increased stress levels. As women age there is also a decline in muscle mass, which can lead to a slower metabolism and fewer calories burned. Managing midlife weight gain during menopause can be frustrating but focusing on a balanced diet, high in fibre and full of nutritious foods can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Hormonal Changes and Weight Gain in Menopause
Contrary to what some may think, the earlier stages of peri menopause can often be a time of fluctuating high oestrogen levels. Higher levels of oestrogen can promote weight gain. Later stages involve a decline in oestrogen levels, which in turn increases insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance promoting weight gain around the waist. I use the waist-hip ratio with my clients as a guide to overall health.
Ghrelin and leptin sensitivity
Other hormones such as ghrelin, often referred to as the hunger hormone, may also be raised during peri menopause. A decline in oestrogen levels can also impair leptin sensitivity, which may lead to overeating, because leptin tells us when we are full.
Menopause Weight Gain And Stress
Lifestyle Changes for Weight Control in Menopause
Stress and lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain, and change is a common cause of stress. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone affects appetite and increases fat storage. Lack of sleep can disrupt hormones that regulate hunger and satiety leading to overeating and weight gain.
Tips for Managing Weight During Menopause
Many women in their 40’s say they are constantly stressed because they are juggling, work, children and possibly the needs of ageing parents as well.
It can be a tough time both mentally and physically. Stress management, gut health and getting enough sleep are the foundations of weight management.
Testosterone and energy
Lower testosterone can cause a lack of energy and a gradual loss of muscle mass, which naturally happens from age 30 onwards.
This, along with reduced activity and a history of yo-yo dieting can all lead to a slower metabolic rate or metabolic dysfunction.
A Personalised Nutrition Plan for Menopause
A Nutritionist can help you balance your hormones with a personalised nutrition plan.
There are many reasons for imbalanced hormones. It is important to work with a Registered Nutritional Therapist. A nutrition practitioner can carry out functional tests and asses your diet and lifestyle. They can advise you about the best diet for menopause weight management, give you tips for reducing weight gain during menopause and also offer you support while you build new healthy habits.