Contrary to what many women believe, menopause doesn’t automatically lead to weight gain.
Instead, the drop in oestrogen redirects the process of fat storage in women from the hips to the abdomen, according to a review from the International Menopause Society.
This change in the location of accumulating fat isn’t just cosmetic. It also increases women’s risk of diabetes and heart disease.
The reviewers further noted that, at midlife, women tend to gain an average of a pound a year, which they attributed to advancing age and environmental factors.
Is it all your hormones?
Over time, these gains can add up to overweight and obesity, both of which are associated with health problems including depression, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
But if we are being honest with ourselves, the weight gain so many women experience after menopause can’t be blamed entirely on hormonal changes.
The fact is, as we get older, we need fewer calories because there’s a shift in body composition from lean muscle mass to fat and a consequent slowdown in metabolism.
The two key things you need to take care of
First, if you want to maintain your weight as you get older and avoid weight gain, then you cannot simply consume the same number of calories. So what is suggested is that you have to cut back your food intake by about 200 calories per day.
Menopause is often a stressful time and that increases your chance to overeat, or not eat wisely. Comfort eating to help with the mood swings, some alcohol to help you relax – all can give temporary relief, but they do rack up the calories.
Secondly you need to increase the amount of activity and exercise you regularly take. There is ample evidence that suggests that regular exercise prevents what women view as menopause weight gain is just the natural slowing down in the amount of physical activity they undertake.
Not just your weight can benefit from increased activity, as exercise is particularly important for a number of other reasons: weight bearing exercise such as walking can keep your bones and heart strong and also lower your risk of breast cancer.
Regular physical activity may also help reduce hot flashes, counter depression, sharpen your thinking, and promote good sleep.
Of course, menopause is not always an easy passage, and worrying about your weight adds to the stress.
Oestrogen dominance contributes to weight gain, especially around the abdomen, stomach and thighs.
Rebalancing with bioidentical progesterone can usually help as both oestrogen and synthetic progestins adversely affect cell membranes, resulting in sodium and water flooding into those cells.
This causes water retention, and the subsequent loss of potassium and magnesium, and what you can easily identify as bloating.