Menopause and Weight Gain- The Problem

Menopause is one of the most significant phases a woman goes through in her life.  The Chinese call it the Second Spring denoting a new phase in a woman’s life as she leaves her child-bearing years behind her. Some of the symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, the decline in libido, dry skin, fatigue, mood swings and depression. But one of the most bothersome symptoms is weight gain which also makes a menopausal woman susceptible to conditions like diabetes, blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.

To know more about the physiology of menopause read on

Due to today’s sedentary lifestyle with the added vices of alcohol, caffeine, and smoking, more women experience an early onset of menopause and unhealthy weight gain. It is important to recognize the causes of menopausal weight gain and take corrective actions.


  1. The decrease in Estrogen

As you approach menopause your body tends to produce less estrogen, which results in lower metabolic rate. As you age, the body burns starches and uses blood sugar less effectively. With a slow metabolic rate, this results in the build-up of fat storage in the body.

  1. You Lose Muscle Mass

While your body rests at night, the anabolic hormone in your body builds up muscle tissues and metabolizes calories. During and after menopause, this process slows down. Stronger muscles help you to burn more calories.  When you lose muscle mass, you tend to gain more weight.

  1. Cortisol and Belly Fat

Middle age is a stressful time in everyone’s life. With children leaving the nest, mortgages to pay off, the workload at the office, it takes a toll on one’s physical health. When we go through a stressful time, our body produces a stress hormone called cortisol, which helps the body use stored energy reserves to deal with stress and tension. This can make you hungry. While some might reach for a carrot or a healthy salad, most people tend to binge on junk food or high sugar foods as it helps reduce tension. This results in fat storage in the middle region of the body.


1. Exercise

Since the loss of muscle mass is one of the main problems of menopause, (and aging) focus on exercises that build and strengthen your muscles. Some of the more recommended exercises for pre and post-menopausal women are cycling, swimming, yoga, brisk walking, weight training or using a stationary bike or a Stairmaster. You can also try aerobics.

However, please don’t expect to see results immediately. Before you lose weight, your body needs to build the muscle mass in your body. To understand this, you need to identify the problems first. As the body ages, there’s an imbalance between catabolic and anabolic hormones. Catabolic hormones break down biomolecules (during the day) while anabolic hormone helps build biomolecules (at night). As you approach menopause the breakdown happens faster than the build-up. So, you need to rest more and space out your exercising routine.  Give yourself six to eight weeks before you start to see results.

  1. Eat Right

Eating right is important not only for menopausal women but for everyone. However, as your metabolic rate diminishes with age, it’s important to watch what you eat to keep chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension at bay. Eat food that provides all nutrients with a focus on food items high in fiber, calcium and iron content. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and drink a lot of water. Avoid simple carbs and refined sugar but include healthy fats in your diet such as nuts, avocados, olive oil, ghee, and coconut oil. Healthy fats not only keep you full for a longer time but also keep your brain and bones agile. While healthy fats must be included in the diet, transfats like vegetable oils must be avoided as they are harder for the body to break down and cause inflammation in the body. Also, reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake and ask your doctor for supplements rich in Vitamin B3, B6 and Vitamin C.

  1. Sleep Tight

Yes, getting a good night’s sleep will actually help you reduce weight. For one, it’ll put an end to snacking at night. Sleep is like nutrition for your brain. When you are rested enough, your brain is more capable of making good decisions. When you are tired or sleep deprived, it’s easier to reach for food that’s high in sugar or fat, to help you feel better. Also, studies have revealed that you metabolize calories better in your sleep. The American Journal of Epidemiology established a direct correlation between sleep reduction and weight gain in women.

  1. Manage Stress

Yes, it’s easier said than done, but you have to do it if you want to manage your weight and have a healthier, longer life. By the time you reach your 40s you are no stranger to stress. And you are also aware of what stress eating can do to you. When you go through menopause, the hormones in your body are already causing havoc, which makes you more susceptible to mood swings, depression and feeling stressed. This, in turn, results in high cortisol levels in your body making you feel hungry most of the time.

So, it’s important to disengage and learn to manage stress in your daily life. Meditate, go for a walk, or pursue a hobby you like — be it gardening, pottery or baking. Take an hour or two out of your everyday schedule to just focus on your physical and mental well-being.

Menopause is the beginning of a new phase in your life. After having given most of your time to your family and their needs, it’s a time to sit back and focus on yourself. And in order to enjoy this phase, you need to be healthy and fit. You can pursue goals you might not have had time for before. So, exercise, eat right, get enough sleep and rediscover a new you.