Why Weight Gain Happens During Menopause
During menopause, the body and brain lose the ability to effectively synchronize hormone production at desirable levels. As hormone levels decline during menopause, the body begins to seek out secondary sources of much-needed estrogen. Because fat cells can provide a source of estrogen for the body, fat levels tend to increase and persist as the female body attempts to cope with declining estrogen levels.
There are several other factors that can contribute to menopause weight gain, as well. First, muscle mass naturally decreases in women with age, a result of androgen hormone loss. Since muscle uses more calories for maintenance than other types of tissue, this decline in muscle mass means you’ll naturally need — and expend — fewer calories. Additionally, stress levels such as cortisol tend to rise during menopause — another result of hormonal declines. As cortisol levels increase, fat — particularly around the waistline — tends to gather. Finally, as women enter menopause, secondary symptoms such as muscle pain, limited mobility, osteoporosis and joint aches can lend themselves to less exercise, causing women to gain weight as they exert themselves less.
Why Menopause Weight Gain Matters
Perhaps one of the most troubling issues around menopause weight gain is its effect on not only your appearance, but your overall health. Women don’t simply gain weight at this time of life, but begin to store a different type of fat in the body. When we were younger, excess fat was fairly evenly distributed as subcutaneous fat, just a layer of padding under the skin. Once we hit midlife, however, a different type of fat — known as “visceral fat” — is deposited deep in the abdomen. The immediate superficial effect is a change in body type from “pear” to “apple,” replete with a protruding belly and expanding waistline. The more dangerous effect, however, is that visceral fat intrudes on our internal organs and produces substances that can lead to heart problems, diabetes and some types of cancer.
How to Fight Menopause Weight Gain
There are ways to fight, reverse, and even prevent menopause weight gain, but each method generally requires physical changes to take place. Despite the plethora of “crash” diets, nutritional supplements and exercise fads, menopause weight gain generally disappears with a consistent approach. Here are just a few of the effective ways to fight weight gain during your menopause years.
- Correct Your Hormone Levels
- Adopt a Menopause Friendly Diet
- Increase Your Physical Activity Level
- Lower Emotional Stress Levels
The fight against menopause weight gain is most effective when it takes place at the source — the correction of fluctuating and declining hormone levels. Menopause remedies such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help stabilize hormone levels, but come with health risks such as cancer, stroke and blood clots. Fortunately, menopause remedies exist that promote the body’s own ability to regulate hormones, allowing symptoms of menopause such as weight gain to subside.
You’ll need to take in fewer calories, which means you must be very conscientious about getting good nutrition from the foods you eat. Avoid empty calories and opt for lean sources of protein, leafy green vegetables, and a high intake of fruits and whole grains for an optimal menopause diet.
You also have to stay active, while tailoring your activity to your abilities and low-impact workouts. If you can’t tear up the tennis court any more, don’t quit, but play doubles instead. You may not be able to compete in a marathon, but you can incorporate a daily long walk into your routine; the most important thing is to keep moving every day.
To combat the effects of stress on the body, attempt to incorporate daily relaxation into your routine. Meditation, hot baths, exercise, reading, and even personal therapy can all help naturally manage stress levels — and can have a positive effect on your waistline as a result.