Does Menopause Cause Weight Gain?

Of the many menopause side effects, weight gain is one of the least welcome. Dr Stephanie Goodwin, a London-based GP and menopause specialist, reveals the truth about those extra pounds and what you can do to shift them.

The average weight gain for menopausal women is 1.5lbs a year. The weight is all part of the effect of your hormones encouraging your body to store more fat as you leave your reproductive years behind. As your ovaries produce less oestrogen, the body turns to other production sources and extra fat cells effectively become the body’s safety net.

What causes a menopause belly?

There’s a reason why “how do you get rid of menopause belly?” is a commonly searched phrase on Google. Issues around menopause weight gain, what is the average weight gain during menopause and how to lose weight during menopause loom large for many women.

“If you’ve noticed weight gain during this transition, rest assured that you’re not alone,” is the advice from Zoe, the well-renowned science study and personalised nutrition programme created by a team including Professor Tim Spector. “It is quite common during menopause. In fact, the average woman gains about 5lbs during this time.”

Does HRT cause weight gain?

Many women worry that taking HRT will cause them to gain weight. It’s one of the many concerns around the medication, which is shrouded in medical myths and fictions. How much weight does HRT make you gain? (Spoiler: HRT is not the culprit) Why is it so hard to lose weight on HRT? (Again, it’s not the HRT that’s to blame.)

To be absolutely clear, it’s a myth that HRT causes you to gain weight. It’s all down to an oestrogen deficiency that occurs in the peri and menopause years. HRT has nothing to do with it.

READ MORE What is the difference between perimenopause and menopause?

“Many women are concerned that they will put on weight when they begin taking HRT,” writes menopause expert Dr Louise Newson on her Balance website. “However, having oestrogen through the skin as a gel or patch with micronised progesterone does not usually lead to weight gain. Many women find that they lose weight after starting HRT which is clearly another advantage!”

What is the average weight gain during menopause?

It is true that hormonal changes make you more likely to gain weight around your abdomen. Also, animal studies have shown that those with lower oestrogen tend to eat more and be physically less active. The weight does not go on all at once by the way; estimates suggest that this creeps on at the average rate of a pound a year.

READ MORE HRT, is it safe? Everything you need to know.

Is there anything else menopausal causing the weight gain?

This situation is compounded by the fact that your metabolism will slow so that you store more calories than you burn. Also, you may be stressed through perimenopause which causes an increase in the production of cortisol. This is turn makes it more likely that you will store fat around your middle.

READ MORE The link between menopause and anxiety.

Does a lack of sleep affect metabolism during menopause?

If you are not sleeping you will tend to snack more and of course age, lifestyle and genetic factors will also play their part.

Does menopause weight gain go away?

Just because weight gain is likely it really doesn’t make it mandatory. Yes, weight gain is another symptom of the new imbalance in your body but with effort you can maintain or restore your ideal weight again.

Eat less – it is recommended that you eat 200 less calories per day when you are in your fifties. Also, cut down on the sugar in drinks (alcohol and menopause do not mix), desserts and sweets.

READ MORE 11 ways to lose menopause belly fat.

What’s the best exercise to lose menopause weight?

Firstly, move more. It is recommended that most healthy adults do moderate aerobic activity for at least 2.5 hours a week – so you may need to up this amount.

Also, embark on a strength training or weight resistance programme. As we age, we lose muscle mass, and that in turn slows down the metabolism. So build more muscle with strength training, and you’ll build more fat-burning power.

READ MORE What are the 34 menopause symptoms?

Any final advice?

Try to get a good night’s sleep – and commit to this healthier lifestyle. It’s not going to be easy but at least you know now you have a choice and some power over those scales.

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