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Menopause - Weight Gain

Menopause and Weight Gain

Although weight gain is not an inevitable consequence of menopause, most women find they need to work harder in order to control their weight at this time.

Menopause can be attributed to a 10- to 15-pound weight gain in most women. In fact 90 percent of menopausal women between the ages of 35 and 55 gain some weight. Much of this weight – approximately one pound a year – is actually gained during perimenopause.

Changing hormones and weight gain

Evidence shows that changing hormones during the menopause trigger a change in body shape, fat starts to accumulate more around the abdomen rather than the hips and buttocks, resulting in the renowned “pear shape”

When a woman enters menopause, her estrogen levels drop dramatically. Because a woman is no longer ovulating, her ovaries produce less estrogen thus forcing her body to find sources of estrogen in other locations in the body. Because fat cells in her body manufacture estrogen, her body will have to work harder to convert calories into fat to raise her estrogen levels. Fat cells don't burn calories as muscle cells do, so weight gain occurs.

But estrogen alone cannot be blamed for a woman's menopausal weight gain; progesterone, androgen and testosterone also play a role.

Progesterone levels also dip during menopause causing women to retain water and bloat. The good news is that this isn't actual weight gain, and the water retention and bloating symptoms will pass after a few months.

Androgen is the hormone that causes the change weight distribution, increasing weight to the midsection.

Changing metabolic rate and weigh gain

Another unfortunate side effect of menopause is that muscle mass declines due to a drop in testosterone levels, causing a woman's Basal Metabolic Rate to dip as well. This equates to a woman's body burning calories at a slower rate. However, the good news is that you can take matters into your own hands to increase your Basal Metabolic Rate -- by even moderate strength training. An increase of 2kg muscle increases the Basal Metabolic Rate by 10 percent; so work out to fight back against those extra pounds.

Does HRT cause weight gain?

HRT often gets a bad reputation for causing weight gain in women, but there is actually no scientific evidence that supports the theory. Some women may experience fluid retention and bloating as a result of HRT, though this often subsides within four to six weeks. If this happens to you and you are concerned about it, talk to your doctor about changing the type of HRT you are taking.

Controlling weight gain during the menopause

Just because you enter menopause, you are not destined to experience weight gain. However, there are many factors that will make it necessary for you to revisit and adjust your eating and exercise regime.

Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, osteoarthritis and high blood pressure. If you do find you weight creeping up the sooner you address the problem the better – and the easier it will be.

  • Crash/Fad diets: While it may be tempting to combat weight gain with a crash diet, they are not usually successful in the long term. Yo-Yo dieting can be damaging to both your health and your self esteem. It’s far more effective to make small but consistent changes in your diet and exercise habits.

  • Trim the fat: gram for gram fat contains twice as many calories as carbohydrates. Whatever type of fat you eat – whether good fat or bad fat – they contain the same number of calories per gram. Studies show that moderate fat diets (diets in which 30% of the total calories from fat) are easiet to follow and more likely to produce long term weight loss.

  • Count your calories: A women’s energy requirements varies according age, level of activity and weight. For the average women to lose half a kilogram per week (a health rate) they will need to cut calories by about 250-300 calories per day. Another way to reduce calories at each meal is to add more fluids, this will help make you feel full sooner.

  • Increase your protein intake: many nutritionists are now beginning to take on board the idea of a small increase in protein. Protein rich foods such as meat, cheese and eggs are more satiating meaning they will help you feel full for longer. Be wary of high protein foods that also have a high saturated fat content. Opt for low fat protein such as lean meat and low fat cheese.

  • Increase your exercise levels: A combination of diet and exercise is without doubt the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off in the long term. Exercise will burn fat by placing you in an energy deficit. Weight bearing exercise will also help to build lean muscle helping which will increase your metabolic rate.

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