On average, women gain 12 – 15 pounds during menopause. Many woman gain much more.
However, weight gain during menopause is not inevitable. Menopause does not cause weight gain, despite what you may think. See below.
Whats more, many woman have achieved weight loss during menopause … and they keep it off. These woman lost weight by changing their diet and exercise routines….in addition to doing one other thing.
I have heard so many of my patients say something to this effect
I have not changed my diet or exercise routines during menopause…but I have gained weight
The reason they have gained weight during menopause is precisely because they have not changed their diet and exercise routines. You need to change your diet and exercise routines … not keep them the same … to achieve weight loss during menopause. If you keep them the same, you will continue to gain weight.
There is one other factor that, that you probably are not aware of, that contributes to weight gain during menopause …. stress. It needs to be reduced, or you will not lose weight ….even if you exercise for an hour every day and eat well.
If menopause does not cause weight gain, what does?
Most women think that menopause causes weight gain. It does not. A comprehensive review by the International Menopause Society has found that going through the menopause does not cause a woman to gain weight. However, the hormonal changes at menopause are associated with a change in the way that fat is distributed, leading to more belly fat. Prior to perimenopause, women tend to store fat on their hips and thighs. During perimenopause, and after it, women tend to store fat around their mid-section.
Two events — menopause and the natural aging process – coincide at this time. Menopause merely becomes the suspect because it happens, as many women notice weight gain. The actual cause of weight gain during menopause is aging. However, the symptoms of menopause do contribute to it.
Aging is associated with a slowing of the body’s metabolism
- your metabolism actually starts to slow down sometime in your 30s
- the reason for this decrease in your metabolism is a decrease in your muscle mass
- you tend to lose a 1/2 pound of muscle a year after the age of 30. Between the ages of 30 and 70, you are likely to experience a 40 to 50% reduction in your muscle mass
- loss of muscle mass decreases the rate at which your body uses calories
- as you lose muscle mass, you gain weight in fat. If you do not change your eating routines, the same caloric intake is not going to burn off. Those unburned calories will be stored as fat
If you continue to eat as you always have and don’t increase your physical activity, you’re not likely to experience weight loss during menopause.
How do your menopause symptoms contribute to weight gain?
A majority of women experience protracted periods of stress and disturbed sleep during menopause. Stress and disturbed sleep have a significant impact on your weight.
When you are under stress, your body produces cortisol ….known as the stress hormone. Protracted stress results in high levels of cortisol in your body. High levels of cortisol in your body causes your body to store more fat. It also prevents your body from burning fat. In the presence of high levels of cortisol, regular exercise will not burn fat and you will not achieve weight loss during menopause.
Protracted disturbed sleep leads to insulin resistance. It also leads to high levels of cortisol. High levels of cortisol brings about insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance, is a condition where the cells of your body become insensitive to insulin. Insulin is the key that unlocks body cells to allow glucose inside. Glucose provides your cells with energy. Your body makes glucose from the food that you eat. When your cells won’t ‘open’ for glucose, the glucose gets stored…..as fat. Insulin resistance also prevents fat loss. Even if you exercise daily, you will not lose weight.
How to achieve weight loss during menopause
At the risk of sounding trite, weight loss during menopause does come down to diet and exercise, plus stress reduction. However…….you have to know HOW to diet and HOW to exercise. While diet does involve what you eat, another major component of diet is HOW you eat
- include a stress reduction technique in your life. Do yoga or meditation, or some other stress reduction technique, regularly. This will help to modulate the cortisol level in your body. It will also help you to sleep better
- eliminate all processed food from your diet. They contain sugar, which exacerbates insulin resistance. Eat only real food. Real food does not need labels – ie – unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables. You will find real food in the outer aisles of your supermarket. Stay away from foods in the inner aisles. They are the processed foods. Try to eat organic as much as possible
- time management of eating – do not eat 3 meals per day. You should be eating something every 2-3 hours, during waking hours. Eat a smaller breakfast, lunch and supper, than you have been accustomed to eating. In between each meal, and also after supper, eat a healthy snack…ie a piece of fruit, nuts, yogurt etc
- do not eat double carbohydrates in any meal. Do not eat bread with meals containing potatoes or rice or pasta. Eat just 1 of those carbs per meal. Another no – no is cereal and toast for breakfast. Just have one or the other
- reduce your consumption of alcohol. Keep it to a minimum
- do at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity/exercise every day. It is best to do it in the morning, if your schedule permits it. To achieve weight loss, the intensity level MUST be moderate. Do not do high intensity exercise for weight loss. You will lose more weight faster, if you can fit in 2 daily sessions of aerobic activity/exercise …. even if the second session is only for 15 minutes
You must adhere to each of the 6 points above, to achieve weight loss during menopause. If you only implement 1 or 2 of them, you will not lose weight.