Menopause Mythbusters: The Truth About Menopause and Weight Gain

by | November 13, 2018

Menopause and aging can take a huge toll on your body. Some of those changes are private (vaginal dryness, anyone?) while others are far more difficult to hide from the outside world (hot flashes, we’re looking at you.)

Weight gain is one of those changes that can sneak up on us, and for many women, it’s the most obvious and persistent menopause symptom. While the average woman will gain between two and five pounds as a result of menopause, some will gain much more – especially if they already struggle with weight gain or obesity.

Fortunately, there are solutions out there to help with weight gain during menopause. Let’s start off by busting some of the biggest myths around menopause and weight gain.

Will I gain weight during menopause?

It’s perfectly normal to experience weight gain during menopause, but menopause on its own is not always the culprit. As we age, we lose muscle mass and gain fat. So even if you stick with the same healthy diet and exercise that you’ve always relied on, you may still gain weight and that weight will be more difficult to lose.

Of course, hormonal changes that happen as a result of menopause play a role here too, causing many women to gain weight around their hips and thighs. Those declining estrogen levels can also cause a dip in your energy levels, making it even harder to summon the energy needed for regular exercise.

What causes weight gain during menopause?

This is the part that seems extra unfair. The sleeplessness and mood swings that many women experience during menopause can actually contribute to weight gain. Sleep deprivation causes us to produce more of the hunger hormone ghrelin and decreased levels of the leptin hormone that makes us feel full. That makes it easier to overeat without even realizing it.

And then, of course, is the stress that many women experience as the result of other menopause symptoms (regular hot flashes don’t exactly have a calming effect on the psyche.) More stress equals more cortisol, which equals an increased appetite and cravings for sugar.

So even if you’re not typically predisposed to weight gain, other menopause symptoms make it a lot easier to pack on a few pounds.

Will exercise help me lose weight during menopause?

Exercise is important, and most medical professionals recommend getting 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week if possible. Regular exercise can help you sustain weight loss and have other positive effects, like increased energy.

However, exercise alone isn’t always enough to help with weight loss during menopause – and that’s where a healthy diet comes in.

Should I diet to lose weight during menopause?

According to the Mayo Clinic, women in their 50s need 200 fewer calories a day compared to when they were younger. But we’re not talking about a crash diet: this needs to be a long-term healthy lifestyle upgrade that will help you feel your best during menopause.

  • Lean proteins like chicken, fish, beans, tofu, egg whites, and Greek yogurt will help you feel fuller longer during menopause.
  • Foods high in fiber – like flax seeds, for example – can help improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Choose healthy fats like avocados, almonds, tuna, olive oil, and salmon.
  • Try eating small meals every 3-4 hours to stay full and keep your energy levels up.
  • Reducing your carb intake can help cut down on belly fat during menopause.
  • Reduce your sugar intake.
  • Skip the processed foods.

Does estrogen help with weight loss during menopause?

Some studies have shown that estrogen can help control your body weight. There is evidence that suggests that estrogen hormone replacement therapy (HRT) could help increase your resting metabolic rate, thus slowing down any potential weight gain. But HRT comes with a number of alarming side effects, including bloating, mood changes, and headaches. And that’s not all: HRT has been linked to certain types of cancer.

What’s more, hormone replacement therapy not a replacement for a healthy diet and exercise. Talk to your doctor to find out what the best options are for you.

Embracing body positivity during menopause

Weight gain during menopause is unavoidable for many women, and one of the biggest challenges can be accepting these new changes to your body. It’s a lot easier said than done, but remember to be kind to yourself. Menopause and aging is natural, normal, and so are all of the (often ridiculously frustrating) symptoms that come along with it. Embracing your body at any age can be a struggle. Give yourself a break and remember, you’re not alone.