This is a question that frequently comes up, and as you might imagine there is just not one factor involved but several. You may not have noticed it, but that weight gradually creeps up as we hit early middle age at the rate of around an average of a pound a year. So it is easy to see that over time, these gains can add up to overweight and obesity, both of which are associated with health problems including depression, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
The hormone switch
A few years ago a review in 2012 from the International Menopause Society published in the October issue of the journal Climacteric confirmed the view that despite what you may think menopause doesn’t automatically lead to weight gain.
However what does happen is that as production in the ovaries declines at menopause the body redirects the process of fat storage in women from the hips to the abdomen and stomach.
This is certainly where most women notice it and when it is accompanied by hormone imbalance, where more oestrogen is being produced and not balanced by progesterone, then bloating and weight gain are often the result.
It pays to keep ahead of this hormonal rollercoaster that we encounter from perimenopause onwards, and take action as soon as see any of the signs of oestrogen dominance and hormone imbalance.
Another key element most women disregard, or just don’t notice, is the impact stress has on hormone balance. If upset we tend to eat more, and less sensibly, and coping with hot flushes, poor sleep and the physical changes we are going through all will make a difference to the severity of symptoms such as hot flushes and weight gain.
Also we tend not to change our eating habits but as we get older we simply do not need the same amount of calories . At menopause there there is a shift in body composition from lean muscle mass to fat and a consequent slowdown in metabolism. It can be as simple as just reducing your food intake and reducing calories by about 200 a day to keep weight in balance.
Finally, most of us simply do not do enough exercise compared to when we were younger. This may be an issue of time, or feeling less fit or able, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that regular exercise prevents menopause weight gain.
It is not only important to keep your weight down for its own sake, but because a simple daily activity such as walking can keep your bones and heart strong and lower your risk of breast cancer.
If that isn’t reason enough, then perhaps knowing that regular physical activity may also help reduce hot flushes, can lessen some symptoms of depression, help keep you alert, and promote good sleep will persuade you?
Just make sure whatever you choose is something enjoyable that you can maintain, whether that is walking, swimming, dancing, tai chi or the gym – it doesn’t matter so much what as how often, so make sure you can build it into your lifestyle.