Is Menopausal Weight Gain Inevitable?

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You are fully menopausal or on the cusp and noticing changes to your body. Not only are you gaining weight, even though you honest-to-goodness are not eating more, your body shape is different and not in a good way. Is weight gain absolutely inevitable in menopausal women?

No, but you have an upward battle on your hands. If you are eating as you always have and are not exercising, you are going to lose this struggle.

When a woman retreats to the sofa, throws up her hands in surrender, she will gain weight during menopause, no ifs, ands or buts about it. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/menopause-weight-gain/HQ01076)

Menopausal women gain weight because of hormonal changes, in addition to typical age-related weight gain, a sluggish metabolism, genetic aspects and lifestyle.

Pesky Hormones

The female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone take a nosedive when a woman enters menopause. When these hormones become sparse, women actually get hungrier and eat more. At the same time, metabolism has slowed down. This is a lethal combination.

The metabolism rate slows down five percent each decade. Consequently, a woman needs approximately 200 less calories each day to maintain her weight when she is in her mid or late forties.

As women age, their ovaries produce less estrogen, which prompts the body to find the hormone elsewhere in the body. Because fat cells produce estrogen, the woman’s body works over time to change calories into fat, which increases estrogen levels. Fat cells do not burn calories as do muscle cells.

Muscle mass lessens with age, while fat increases. When a woman loses muscle mass this reduces the speed at which her body burns calories. Muscle burns calories faster than fat does.

Bloating and water weight gain often occur during menopause, which lowers the levels of progesterone, the other female sex hormone.

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Weight Redistribution

Prior to menopause, if a woman gained weight it was probably in her legs and hips; however, when estrogen is MIA this redirects body fat distribution toward the abdomen. This is not a good place to gain weight because it increases your risks of acquiring various health conditions.

Belly fat includes visceral fat, lying deep inside the abdomen, surrounding internal organs. This kind of fat is associated with cancer, heart disease and diabetes. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/belly-fat/WO00128.)

Women gain approximately 12 to 15 pounds between the ages of 45 and 55, which is when menopause usually occurs. Even if you do not mind, from a vanity standpoint, the extra pounds, menopausal weight gain leads to increased health risks.

A waist measuring in excess of 33 inches, regardless of the person’s weight, is bad news. (http://www.oprah.com/health/Why-You-Gain-Weight-in-Your-Midsection-After-Menopause)

And then there is androgen, the male hormone, which increases at the beginning of menopause and is responsible for sending fat to the belly rather than to the hips. This is often referred to as “middle-age spread.”

Androgen levels increase which creates additional weight in the women’s midsection. Insulin resistance may also occur, which misguidedly causes the woman’s body to transform every calorie into fat.

Fight the Good Fight!

Get up off the couch and engage in at least three hours of reasonable aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of dynamic aerobic exercise each week.

Do strength training twice a week or more. Use hand weights. Lift them while watching TV in the evening. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/strength-training/HQ01710 ).

You have to do something to replace the lean muscle you have lost. If you don’t, the percentage of fat increases and that is what you are hoping to avoid. Strength training enhances and preserves muscle mass.

Do yoga. This stretches, lengthens and strengthens the body, as well as improves balance and posture. It also helps relieve stress.

Join a belly dancing class! This gives the mid-section a tremendous work-out.

Don’t eat as much (no, you don’t have to starve) and move more. Take the stairs, walk the dog, do any thing that keeps your body in motion.

Maintain your sense of humor. You are not alone. There are millions of women fighting this same battle.

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There are legitimate biological reasons why weight gain occurs during this period of a woman’s life, but that doesn’t mean women have to embrace it and succumb. Are you winning or losing the battle…or just don’t give a damn?

 

By Cindi Pearce

Comments(11)
  1. Jean Cavallo March 5, 2014
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