Menopause and Weight Gain: How to Stay Healthy & Keep the Pounds Off During Menopause

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Why do Women Gain Weight During Menopause?

Menopause and weight gain unfortunately go hand in hand for many women. During the years before menopause, many women start to see an increase in their weight. Typically gaining between 12 and 15 pounds during this time, women start to notice that it’s harder to lose weight and that that weight tends to accumulate around the belly as opposed to around the hips and thighs.

So what accounts for this menopausal weight gain? While most women chalk up their weight gain to fluctuations in hormones, several other factors come into play.

  • A decrease in activity. Menopausal women tend to get less exercise than younger women, leading to weight gain.
  • Eating more. Eating more means you’ll be taking in too many excess calories if you don’t burn them off through exercise.
  • Slower metabolism. As you age, the number of calories you need to sustain your energy decreases. That’s because aging promotes the replacement of muscle with fat, and fat doesn’t burn as many calories as muscle. With the natural transition change in body composition, metabolism decreases. The average metabolic rate decreases by five percent during menopause.

Family history also comes into play with regards to menopause and weight gain. If your relatives carried excess weight around their mid-sections, your genetics are likely to influence your weight gain after menopause.

Losing Weight During & After Menopause

Weight gain during menopause can have serious health consequences. Excess weight increases your risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, or having a stroke.

There is also a link between menopausal weight gain and breast cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, women who gain 20 pounds or more during menopause increase their risk of developing breast cancer by 20 percent. Luckily, losing weight also decreases your risk greatly.

So what can you do about menopause and weight gain? First visit your doctor and rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing your weight gain. Once you’ve gotten the all-clear, it’s time to start exercising regularly and watching your diet.

To reverse or prevent weight gain during menopause, a doctor will likely recommend the following:

  • Get more exercise. Increased physical activity will be the single most important activity in helping you lose weight. Aerobic exercise and strength training will help you boost your metabolism, build muscle, lose fat, and feel healthy. As an added bonus, strength training will help you combat the signs of aging by strengthening your bones. Strive to get a total of 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
  • Watch your diet. Because your metabolism decreases in your mid to late 40s, you need about 200 fewer calories per day. Pay attention to your diet, and reduce your caloric intake if you’re still eating like you did in your thirties. But don’t cut back too drastically—starving yourself will only lower your metabolism. Eat a balanced nutritious diet and eat only when you’re hungry.