Why Women Gain Weight During Menopause (Does Menopause Cause Rapid Weight Gain?)
Menopausal hormone changes can be associated with an increase in levels of body fat, especially in the abdomen. While hormonal changes do impact the way our bodies function, experts believe that menopausal weight gain may be more closely related to aging than hormones¹.
The behavioral and physiological changes that occur as we age may predispose some women to gaining more weight during this period of life. Less physical activity, changes in diet, and other similar circumstances can all lead to a higher weight. Likewise, physical changes, like a lower resting metabolic rate, that come with age can also contribute to changes in body fat percentage².
Even if hormonal changes aren’t the sole culprit behind weight gain during menopause, they may play a significant role because of their ability to impact other things (mood, for instance).
So, while menopause may not directly cause rapid weight gain, it certainly doesn’t help avoid it; the process of aging coupled with the dramatic shift in hormones that menopause causes make it very easy for many women to gain weight.
How to Lose Weight During Menopause Naturally
If you’re looking to shave off some pounds gained during menopause, it’s important to do so in a safe, sustainable way with the help of things like:
- Participating in regular physical activity. Experts agree that adults ideally need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week as well as two days of muscle strengthening activity³. Physical activity can be anything that gets you moving, so find an activity that you enjoy and can stick to.
- Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. A balanced and nutritious diet that emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is important at any age. Try to limit foods high in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium when possible⁴.
Is Weight Gain During Menopause Inevitable?
Some level of weight gain or bodily change is to be expected as we age; after all, muscle loss, protein loss, and even an increase in body weight are all natural parts of growing older⁵. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to prevent or control weight gain during menopause.
Because most of the factors that lead to weight gain during this time are related to aging, it’s a good idea to assess which areas of your life have been impacted by limited physical capabilities, less energy, limited funds, etc.
It’s also important to remember that our metabolism naturally slows as we age due to a combination of loss of lean body mass and accumulation of body fat⁶. So it’s important to pay attention to what you eat but also to get your body moving.
Tips To Combat Weight Gain During Menopause
You’re certainly not alone if you find yourself in need of help with menopause-related weight gain. Fortunately, though, there are lots of steps you can take to combat these changes and reach a body weight that you’re more comfortable with, including:
- Try a new physical activity or sport. Water sports and other low-impact activities are a great starting point if you live with chronic pain, but always talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new activity.
- Stick to a diet that’s balanced and varied. This means to focus on eating different whole fruits and vegetables (go for the rainbow of colors!), whole grains, and lean proteins (like lentils, beans, and chicken).
- Seek support from loved ones, whether it be for managing weight gain or for making lifestyle changes to help you stay healthy and happy.
- Davis, S.R. et al. (2012) Understanding weight gain at menopause. Climacteric 15(5):419-29. DOI: 10.3109/13697137.2012.707385. Retrieved July 24, 2023, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/13697137.2012.707385
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021a, March 12). Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age spread. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menopause-weight-gain/art-20046058
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (n.d.) “How much physical activity do adults need?” Retrieved July 24, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
- MyPlate. (n.d.) “Start Simple With MyPlate Today.” United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved July 24, 2023, from https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/DGA_2020-2025_StartSimple_withMyPlate_English_color.pdf
- Going, S., Williams, D. & Lohman, T. (1995) Aging and body composition: biological changes and methodological issues. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 23:411-58. Retrieved July 24, 2023, from https://europepmc.org/article/med/7556359
- The North American Menopause Society, NAMS. (n.d.). Changes in weight and fat distribution. https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/changes-at-midlife/changes-in-weight-and-fat-distribution