Weight Gain in Menopause

Weight Gain and Menopause
Tips to Lose Belly Fat. Mache Seibel

Estrogen…can’t live with her, can’t live without her! As women age and enter menopause, the decline in levels of circulating estrogen contributes to many unwanted symptoms, and one of the most common is weight gain. This, coupled with aging, lifestyle and genetics, women tend to gain weight in the abdomen, hips and thighs through the menopause transition and beyond, and that causes the muffin tops, jelly-belly and menopot that many women use to describe their changing abdomen.  As the body ages muscle mass declines and fat levels increase, causing a lowered metabolic rate.  In fact, women in their 40’s and 50’s can put on as much as a pound a year.

Often that extra weight comes around the holiday season with the addition of extra meals and desserts and alcohol. Over half of the annual weight gain occurs between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Menopausal weight gain isn’t just a pesky annoyance for being unable to fit into your skinny jeans. There can be serious implications of gaining weight including the increased risk for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. A lot of that has to do with the fact that belly fat is in reality a hormone producing organ that contributes to diseases. And a waist size of > 35 inches in women combined with an increased fasting blood sugar, an increase in blood pressure and increased triglycerides and lowering of good cholesterol is called Metabolic Syndrome if 3 of the 5 are present.

There are some things you can do to ward off excess pounds including:

  • Get Moving:  Be sure to add both aerobic and strength training into your workout routine. It is recommended that you get at least 150 minutes/week of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous activity and 2 sessions of strength training. Building muscle is important because muscle burns three times the calories as fat.
  • Eat less: They say less is more and in this case, it’s correct. A 200 calorie/day deficit is required just to maintain your current weight, even more will be required to lose excess weight. Making wise food choices is key. Be sure to get adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.  It is recommended that 2 servings of fish be consumed per week, especially those with healthy fats like salmon. If eating fish is not up your ally, consider taking fish oil supplements which may also lower the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. If you are a weight builder, consider eating more protein and fat for breakfast and lay off the sugar coated cereals and other sweets. Also, a mid morning and mid afternoon snack of a hand full of nuts (10-12 almonds or walnuts) or a small to medium apple can be helpful to maintain blood sugar and prevent you from feeling hungry.
  • Ditch sugar: Cut back on consuming sugars found in sugary drinks and desserts. To get your sweet fix, try eating more healthy fruit. And don't forget there is sugar in veggies as well, and that sugar is healthy for you.
  • Understand Estrogen: Estrogen plays a large role in the distribution of fat. It is what prevents fat from moving from other parts of your body to your belly and hips, though it doesn't change your weight as much as it prevents redistribution. 

Before you throw away your little black dress or your skinny jeans, try making some simple lifestyle changes to stay trim during this transitionary period of life. If you find that you are running into difficulty, consider speaking with your healthcare provider, a nutritionist, fitness trainer or weight loss program support team member to help you reach and maintain your goals.

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