How To Prevent Menopausal Weight Gain

Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Charushila Biswas MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Experience: 6 years
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Menopause is a natural biological process marking the cessation of the menstrual cycle for a complete year (1). Going through menopause can be emotionally and physically draining. You may feel moody all the time, have irregular periods, and experience hot flashes (2). Another major concern for you is weight gain, especially in the tummy area.

Studies have linked menopausal weight gain to hormonal imbalances and a sedentary lifestyle (3), (4). Addressing these issues has shown to help women (5). And it can help you too.

In this post, we will show you how to prevent menopausal weight gain and lose weight post-menopause. Let’s begin!

What Causes Menopausal Weight Gain?

Menopausal weight gain may be caused due to hormonal imbalances, a sedentary lifestyle, and/or stress levels. Let’s look at each cause briefly:

  • Hormonal imbalance and menopausal weight gain have been closely linked. Scientists believe that perimenopausal (early stage of menopause) women have decreased levels of estrogen. Also, the androgen levels shoot up, causing central obesity. Decreased estrogen levels also affect the secretion of the hormone leptin, which signals the brain about satiety (4).
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle or not being physically active enough can also lead to more weight gain while transiting through menopause. If you are overweight or obese, you will be prone to a host of metabolic disorders like dyslipidemia and dyslipidemia (5).
  • Too much stress may also trigger menopause (6). Stress causes inflammation in the body, which results in inflammation-induced weight gain (7), (8).

The question is, why should you be concerned about your weight gain, apart from the aesthetic part of it? Scroll down to find out.

Health Risks Of Weight Gain During And After Menopause

Weight gain during and after menopause may put you at the following risks:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Other metabolic disorders
  • Depression

This list of diseases and disorders was certainly not a part of your plan. So, why make it now? Know what to do to prevent menopausal weight gain or lose weight post-menopause and get your life back on track. Take a look at the master plan we have created for you in the next section.

Master Plan To Prevent Menopausal Weight Gain

1. Hormone Therapy

Hormone Therapy
Image: Shutterstock

Menopause hormone therapy (MHT) was found to help reduce the symptoms of menopause. MHT also helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, you must restrict this therapy to a maximum of 3 years as MHT might increase the risk of breast cancer (9). Other hormonal therapies are estrogen therapy (ET) and estrogen-progestin therapy (EPT) (10).

Hormonal therapy might seem scary, but get your doctor’s opinion before you decide whether to go for it or not. Your doctor will be able to guide you and help you get through the therapy without running the risk of further deterioration of your health.

Apart from undergoing hormonal therapy, you must also take care of what you eat. Here is a list of diets that will work best for you.

2. Healthy Diets That Work Well During Menopause

Healthy Diets That Work Well During Menopause
Image: Shutterstock
  • Low-Carb Diet

Going low on refined and simple carbs can help you shed the pounds quickly. You may continue to consume complex carbs like veggies, fruits, herbs, and whole grains. You may try the Paleo diet, Atkins diet, Dukan diet, Whole30, and the Ketogenic diet. Consult your doctor or dietitian before starting any of the diets mentioned here.

  • Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a diet rich in healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and fish. Healthy fats help reduce inflammation in the body, reducing the chances of inflammation-induced weight gain. You will also consume fresh veggies and fruits to help improve your digestion and metabolism.

  • Vegan Diet

Vegan diets are plant-based diets that help reduce weight and the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes (11). They may also lower cholesterol levels and the risk of cancer (12). Following a plant-based diet will help you to load up on dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This, in turn, will improve metabolism and reduce inflammation in the body.

Along with following a low-carb/Mediterranean/vegan diet, you must also be physically active. Here’s how exercising can help you.

3. How Exercise Helps During And After Menopause

How Exercise Helps During And After Menopause
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Being physically active, in general, has many health benefits. But more so when you are transitioning through menopause (13), (14). Here’s why:

  • Light to moderate exercise has shown to improve the quality of life in menopausal women and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and hypertension.
  • Exercising regularly can also help reduce the risk of cancer.
  • Improves musculoskeletal health.
  • Reduces stress and alleviates depression.
  • Reduces insomnia by improving sleep quality.

Hormonal therapy, diet, and physical activity will bring a change in your life. But you have to make a conscious effort to improve your overall lifestyle. Here are a few lifestyle tips that will help you glide into a new lifestyle with minimum effort. Take a look.

4. Best Lifestyle Tips To Prevent Weight Gain After Menopause

Best Lifestyle Tips To Prevent Weight Gain After Menopause
Image: Shutterstock
  • Move Around More

Get up from the couch or desk and walk around every one hour. It will get your blood circulating, and if you are stressed or depressed, walking around will surely help. Moreover, it will burn some calories.

  • Eat Less Junk

When you are feeling moody, stressed, or depressed, and are going to hormonal changes, you might feel hungry frequently. During those times, you tend to reach out for foods that are easily available like junk foods that are high in calories and have zero nutrition value (fried, frozen, and processed foods) or foods that are low in calories, high in sugar, and low in nutrition value (like diet soda).

Avoid consuming these. Instead consume foods that have high nutrition value like carrots and hummus, sultanas, nuts, fruits, homemade cakes (with wheat flour or multigrain flour), and homemade yogurt, homemade lunch, breakfast, and dinner.

  • Reduce Sugar And Salt Intake

Excessive sugar intake can make you sluggish and gain weight. Foods high in salt/sodium can cause water retention and increase blood pressure levels. If you are a sugar addict, here’s how you can get rid of it. And here’s how you can cut down on sodium intake.

  • Limit Alcohol

Alcohol gets converted into sugar in the body. It also causes dehydration as a result of which your metabolic rate goes down, and glucose gets stored as fat instead of getting used up in the form of expendable energy. Limit your alcohol intake to about a glass of wine per week.

  • Avoid Smoking

Smoking increases toxicity in the body, which elicits an inflammatory response. Smoking habitually can cause chronic inflammation in your body and lead to inflammation-induced obesity. Reduce smoking and quit the habit eventually to lead a healthy, stress-free life.

  • Relax

I know, it’s difficult to relax when your body and mind are not aligned. Sit in a garden or look at a soothing picture, listen to soft music or the birds chirping, and concentrate on what’s happening around you. Do it for a few seconds and keep practicing. You may also try painting or pick up a long-lost hobby. You will start feeling relaxed and not be stressed out all the time.

Conclusion

Menopause is a part of your life. This natural process can be scary to deal with, but if you reach out for help, you will be able to deal with it much better. If you seem to show signs of menopause, talk to your doctor and then change your lifestyle gradually. For sure, you will feel better, physically and mentally. Take care!

References

  1. Postmenopausal syndrome” Indian Journal of Psychiatry, US National Library of Medicine.
  2. Menopause.” The Medical Clinics of North America, US National Library of Medicine.
  3. Understanding weight gain at menopause.” Climacteric, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Obesity in menopause – our negligence or an unfortunate inevitability?” Przegla̜d menopauzalny, US National Library of Medicine.
  5. Obesity and weight management at menopause.” Australian Family Physician, US National Library of Medicine.
  6. The Association between Stress Level in Daily Life and Age at Natural Menopause in Korean Women: Outcomes of the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2010-2012” Korean Journal of Family Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
  7. Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, US National Library of Medicine.
  8. Chronic Inflammation in Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome” Mediators of Inflammation, US National Library of Medicine.
  9. Prescribing menopausal hormone therapy: an evidence-based approach” International Journal of Women’s Health, US National Library of Medicine.
  10. [Hormone replacement therapy in menopause].” Arquivos brasileiros de endocrinologia e metabologia, US National Library of Medicine.
  11. Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets” The Permanente Journal, US National Library of Medicine.
  12. Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: A systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  13. Physical Activity and Health During the Menopausal Transition” Obstetrics and gynecology clinics of North America, US National Library of Medicine.
  14. Efficacy of Exercise for Menopausal Symptoms: A Randomized Controlled Trial” Menopause, US National Library of Medicine.

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