Menopause and Weight Gain and/or Loss

Menopause and its affect on a woman’s weight is discussed often and understood less.

Myth-information is everywhere and no wonder, there’s money to be made getting women to believe what’s not true.

It’s a common myth to believe that menopause causes weight gain.

Look at the back of any women’s magazine and count all the weight loss products for menopausal women advertised on those pages. No wonder so many women believe that it’s menopause behind their widening girth!

Yes, that’s a myth although many women do, indeed, experience weight gain around the same time they enter menopause.

The connection seems obvious, but it’s not menopause that causes weight gain. It’s aging. Gaining weight through the 40s, 50s, and 60s is common.

The reason is because of loss of muscle. Unless we (men and women) make a conscious effort to maintain or increase muscle mass, we naturally will lose it.

Muscle loss begins around age 25, but it really becomes noticeable around age 40. That’s when a lot of women who have never given their weight a second thought begin to notice they’re gaining weight.

Losing muscle means we burn fewer calories at rest.

If we burn fewer calories, we need fewer calories to maintain our body weight. If we don’t cut back on calories as we lose muscle mass we may find ourselves with a surplus of calories, or in other words, more than our body needs for fuel.

We also slow down and become more sedentary as we age. Most of us don’t notice it because the slowing down and sedentary behavior is insidious. It’s so gradual that we aren’t aware of what we’re doing. Moving less means we require fewer calories which further changes the balance of calories in and calories out.

Our bodies are burning fewer calories at rest. We are burning fewer calories to fuel our activities because we’re engaging in fewer activities and we haven’t changed the way we eat. We now have a surplus of calories and they get stored as body fat.

For women, who are entering menopause the body fat can be in places they were never fat before.

Weight gain isn't inevitable with menopause. In fact, it's not menopause that causes weight gain. It's aging and although aging in inevitable, weight gain can be avoided!

Weight gain isn’t inevitable with menopause. In fact, it’s not menopause that causes weight gain. It’s aging and although aging in inevitable, weight gain can be avoided!

That’s because lower estrogen levels allow fat to accumulate around the middle.

Younger women are more likely to carry any extra body fat in their hips and thighs. As women’s estrogen levels drop, their body shape may change from┬ácoke bottle or pear-shape to that of an apple on legs!

Lower estrogen levels and fat accumulating around internal organs put women at a higher risk of heart disease. For this reason, more than cosmetic reasons, weight control is important.

Here comes the good news!

Despite aging and lower levels of estrogen, women can still maintain a healthy weight. Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 7.09.17 PMWomen who have been overweight all of their life can actually lose weight, get fit and stay that way as they age. Women (and men) can even build muscle mass as they age instead of losing it. It’s never too late!

You don’t need to spend your money on supplements to help you “lose stubborn body fat.”

Menopause isn’t the problem! It’s the natural aging process and although you can’t turn the clock back you can minimize its affect on your weight and health by monitoring your eating and staying active.

If you are a menopausal woman you don’t have to follow a special diet for menopause. Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 7.01.54 PMA healthy, balanced diet┬áthat’s calorie controlled and provides all of the essential nutrients is all that’s necessary.

Your money and time will be better spent staying active doing things that provide all three kinds of physical activity:
  • Aerobic to burn fat and keep your cardiovascular system strong and healthy
  • Resistance to build or maintain lean body tissue (muscle mass)
  • Stretching to stay flexible so that you can move with ease well into your senior years!

Don’t blame menopause on your weight gain and don’t let it stop you from achieving and maintaining a healthy weight! Your menopausal years can be the best years of your life!

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is the general manager of Weight Watchers of Maine. She is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. Her experience with her own weight management journey and raising girls has given her insight into the struggles families face with weight, healthy body image, food and physical activity. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news for more than ten years and appears monthly as a guest on FOX network morning program Good Day Maine.