7 Reasons Why Women Gain Weight During Menopause
Weight gain can often seem like one of the most common and inevitable menopause symptoms, but why do women gain weight during menopause? Why do women gain weight after menopause? And are these changes as irreversible as they seem? While the hormonal changes during menopause won’t necessarily cause weight gain on their own, they will change where your body primarily stores fat. Thankfully, it seems as though weight gain is only partially because of the hormonal fluctuations during menopause and that there are plenty of small daily lifestyle changes you can make to restore balance to your body’s ability to cope with this change.
1. Hormonal changes change how your body stores fat
The hormonal changes that come with menopause may change how your body stores fat—from storing it around your hips and thighs to your abdominal area. Hormone levels in a menopausal woman can therefore influence body fat or the location where excess weight is stored. Menopause may increase the fat surrounding organs like your liver, intestines, and other organs, which is different from subcutaneous fat, the belly fat right beneath the skin. Both may draw extra attention to waist circumference, but visceral fat is associated with certain health risks. While these changes can cause your body to store fat in a different place, they don’t necessarily make you more likely to gain weight.1 Weight gain during menopause is more often caused by a combination of lifestyle factors and how our bodies naturally change with age.
2. The body also stores fat differently as you age2
Aging is also associated with changes in how the body stores and metabolizes fat.2 Combine the effects of aging on your body’s ability to store fat with hormonal changes that may affect how your body stores that fat—and together, this could be another reason why women gain weight after menopause.
3. Metabolism also slows down with age, which can lead to weight gain
Not only does your body store fat differently as you age, but metabolism also slows down too. Outside of menopausal symptoms, age has a direct influence on a woman’s metabolic rate. This is true for men as well, but for women, this natural progression toward a slower metabolism is compounded with hormonal changes that come with menopause.3, 4
4. Loss of muscle mass during and after menopause can lead to weight gain
Another reason why women gain weight during or even after menopause is because of a loss of muscle mass. Losing muscle mass means the body doesn’t burn as many calories, which makes it easier to gain weight.1, 5
5. Genetic factors may cause weight gain during menopause too
When you hear people say they have a fast metabolism, part of that is genetic. Genetic factors can play a role in why women gain weight after and during menopause. Don’t get discouraged if you feel like maintaining a healthy weight during menopause occasionally feels outside of your control—because sometimes it is. Eating fewer calories can help achieve weight loss, and if you stick to your workout routine and healthy eating habits, you may see a difference.1, 6
6. Lack of exercise contributes to weight gain during menopause
As we get older, we tend to be less physically active.4 This, combined with everything else like diet or caloric intake, can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight. But this doesn’t necessarily mean doubling down on your exercise routine because that often leads to doubling down on your calorie intake too.6 Staying moderately physically active while sticking to a healthy diet and eating routine is the best combination for staying at a healthy weight. In terms of physical activity, be sure to incorporate aerobic exercise and strength training into your daily physical activity to promote lean body mass and healthy body composition.
7. Lack of sleep can also contribute to weight gain during menopause
Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to consume more calories and be more overweight.6 Missing out on sleep also causes our hormones to get out of sync with one another and leads to food cravings.1, 6 Getting a good night’s rest is one of the most underrated healthy living tips, and it’s important for everyone, regardless of age or weight.
Staying healthy as we age is the first priority
While most of the above causes of weight gain during menopause can be helped by simple lifestyle changes, we can’t really do anything about the passing of time. Our bodies are changing just like they did when we first entered into womanhood so many years ago. And there’s nothing to be ashamed of or afraid of here. Let’s stay educated about what these changes mean for our bodies and continue to make healthy choices daily, so we can be at our best as the years continue to pass.
Regardless of your weight after your menopausal transition, the important thing is that you’re healthy and giving your body the resources it needs to help you be your best. While menopause may introduce new challenges to this, weight gain during menopause isn’t inevitable! Simple lifestyle changes can go a long way toward helping you maintain a healthy weight throughout the menopause transition and beyond.
This information is for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.
- Mayo Clinic. “Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age spread.” 2021. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Accessed on: January 26, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menopause-weight-gain/art-20046058
- Davis, et al. Understanding weight gain at menopause. 2012; 15(5): 419–429. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/13697137.2012.707385
- Health Essentials. “Menopause Weight Gain: Is it inevitable?” 2020. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed on: January 26, 2021. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/menopause-weight-gain-is-it-inevitable/
- The North American Menopause Society. “Changes in Weight and Fat Distribution.” 2021. Accessed on: January 26, 2021. https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/changes-at-midlife/changes-in-weight-and-fat-distribution
- Scripps Health. “4 Tips to Fight Weight Gain After Menopause.” 2015. Accessed on: January 26, 2021. https://www.scripps.org/news_items/5432-4-tips-to-fight-weight-gain-after-menopause
- Northwest Community Healthcare. “Why is it so hard for women over 50 to lose weight.” 2018. Accessed on: January 26, 2021. https://www.nch.org/news/why-is-it-so-hard-for-women-over-50-to-lose-weight/