Have you been in the situation where you arrive in Summer and try on a load of dresses, some that you have had for years, and they no longer fit? And when we say ‘they no longer fit’, we mean none of them, and it’s not even a tight squeeze. This may just be an expanding middle, but it is probably to do with menopause.
Your weight changes through your life, and it may not be a surprise that menopause can cause weight changes, too. It can be hard to look in the mirror and see your body changing in shape and weight. Through menopause, the body and your hormones go through a lot of changes so it’s not surprising that these can affect your appearance. In this article we will go cover why you may experience menopause weight gain and what causes this.
Why does menopause weight gain occur?
There are a range of factors that influence your weight, for example genetics and lifestyle. So when we talk about menopause weight gain, it might be easy to see changes in your body occurring and put it down to menopause. (1) But it's important to remember that there are other factors involved.
During menopause oestrogen levels fluctuate, and research suggests that low oestrogen levels during menopause leads to fat being stored around your tummy area more. After menopause, your lean muscle mass tends to decrease while fat mass increases. (2) Although hormones affect how your body stores fat and your resulting body shape, the research suggests that the ageing process is the main factor responsible for weight gain. (3)
How to manage weight gain over menopause
Whilst the research suggests menopause isn’t directly responsible for weight gain, we know that weight gain is a common problem faced during menopause. Keeping in control of your weight involves making changes for example to your lifestyle. (6)
- Exercise: It might seem like an obvious place to start, but looking at the amount of exercise you do can help you to understand your weight.
- Diet: Another tip you might have guessed is looking at your diet. Low carb, Mediterranean or vegetarian diets have been shown to affect weight loss.
- Stress: Stress can lead to weight gain, so finding ways to reduce stress and cortisol can help to manage your weight. Simply things like self-care and ‘me-time’ can do wonders.
- Sleep: Sleep affects levels of ghrelin and leptin and these are hormones which affect how much you want to eat and so how much you do eat. Getting a good night’s sleep ensures you eat the right amount. (6) Read more about menopause and sleep here.
Does menopause weight gain go away?
Although it may feel like a struggle to gain control of your weight again, following these tips will help. It is normal to gain weight over time but remember that it is likely not specifically caused by menopause, but rather changes caused by ageing. Having a positive attitude towards the changes your body is going through and making a plan for the future can help you to cope with weight changes. (4) However there are other factors that could cause weight changes such as hypothyroidism and mental health problems, so visiting a doctor is important if you are concerned about sudden weight gain (7).