First and foremost you need to understand that this is "normal". Nearly 90% of all women do gain some weight as
they reach 'middle age' (35 to 55). This is rarely because you have suddenly developed bad eating habits or gotten lazy!
This is due, at least in part, to the fact that your metabolism has slowed down and your hormones are messing with your bodily
Women who enter peri-menopause early in their life and those who are forced into post-menopause surgically may find this
happens rather quickly. The shift in your body’s hormones directly impacts your appetite, metabolism, and fat storage.
This makes it so much more difficult to control your weight, no matter what you do. Your fluctuating estrogen, testosterone,
and androgen levels tend to fight you all the way.
For many women this weight gain is dumped squarely around their middle, and in other places where weight was never a
Which hormones play what role in this?
Estrogen: Your ovaries produce less estrogen during this time of your life, however
the fat cells in your body can produce some estrogen so they try to take over for the ovaries. To do so those fat cells
must increase in size. For women the fat cells most often involved in this new estrogen production are those that are stored
in the abdominal walls. Since fat cells do not burn calories the way muscle cells do you begin to add weight in that region
of your body.
Progesterone: The reduction of progesterone in the body can often lead to water retention. This will
not necessarily add many pounds to your body, but it can cause bloating which will make your clothes feel a bit tighter and
you may feel a bit heavier. Water retention and bloating usually disappear within a few months.
Androgen: For some women, as levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease, the levels of androgen in
your body increase. This can cause you to gain even more weight around your abdomen instead of around your lower half.
Testosterone: Testosterone is the hormone that helps your body to create lean muscle mass out of the
calories that you ingest. Muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells do thus increasing your metabolism. During peri-menopause
levels of testosterone also drop. This results in a loss of muscle which, unfortunately, means a decrease in your
metabolism. The lower your metabolism, the slower your body burns calories, and the more difficult it is for you to lose weight.
Insulin: Insulin resistance often begins to occur during your peri-menopausal years. When this happens
your body begins to turn every calorie you ingest into fat. Many women try to follow a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet. Soon
those processed and refined foods may make your body resistant to the insulin produced in the blood stream and this can cause
a weight gain.
Stress: Did you know your body produces a hormone during times of stress? Well it does -
more than one actually. But the main one is Cortisol, and this can be a contributing factor in weight gain. Stress hormones
can signal to your body to go into a 'storage(or famine) mode' and can actually prevent weight loss.
While it may be difficult to do, it is important to try to accept that a small weight gain is natural and can
even be beneficial. It has been said that a little extra weight can help to lesson other symptoms associated with menopause,
such as anxiety and hot flashes. (I'm not sure who said that, though I suspect it was some guy who likes 'plump' women and
has no clue about hot flashes!!) Some weight gain can help protect your body from the onset of osteoporosis.
So, if your weight gain is not a large one, you need to try to be more accepting of your new shape. Focus more on being
healthy and active and less on wearing the same size clothing you have always worn.
Here are a few tips to help you along the way:
Eat a balanced diet.
• Try to eat 3 small meals each day with nutritious snacks in between
to keep energized and stave off sugar highs & lows.
• Avoid refined sugars and indulge instead with fruits
• Avoid crash diets. (that "famine factor!")
• Limit your intake of caffeine,
nicotine, and alcohol. (They can cause water retention).
• Decrease fat intake, using unsaturated fats in place
of the saturated ones.
• Drink lots of water (8 -10) glasses per day. It will help flush the system.
• Aerobics will increase your metabolism and help your body burn fat.
• Weight bearing activities (walking & cycling) will increase muscle mass and ward off osteoporosis.
• Strength (or muscle) building exercises are essential. The more muscle mass you have, the higher your
metabolism levels will be. No, you do not have to become a weight lifter - just work to improve your body's muscle
If you do begin to put on excessive amounts of weight during peri-menopause it could be a sign that something is wrong
with your hormone levels or blood sugars; or that your thyroid gland is malfunctioning. Insist that your doctor help you determine
if this could be a factor in your weight gain. Remember that excessive fat stored around your abdomen can lead to an increased
risk for heart disease and high blood pressure.