- How To Avoid Menopause Weight Gain, According to Experts
- Remind me again, what is menopause?
- Okay, so can menopause lead to weight gain?
- Is there any way to prevent menopause weight gain?
- Menopause weight gain: why it happens
- Menopause bloating
- HRT and weight gain
- Long-term weight gain
- What you can do about menopause weight gain: losing weight during menopause
- Menopause diet: foods for menopause
- Weight Gain: Dirty Menopausal Trick
- What causes midlife weight gain?
- Belly fat
- Symptoms of menopause
- The right combination
- Behavioural support
- Healthy eating
- Prevent Midlife Weight Gain
- How can I help you?
- Why Menopausal Weight Gain Can Be Risky
- What’s Going On With My Belly?
- Diet And Insulin Resistance
- Beating Belly Fat And More
- The Keto-Alkaline (Keto-Green) Diet
- So To Sum It Up…
- The biggest reason you gain weight as you age has nothing to do with your metabolism
- Becoming Obese From Age 25 to Midlife Knocks Years Off Life
How To Avoid Menopause Weight Gain, According to Experts
Unless you’ve never experienced the horror that is hormonal acne or fits of rage around that time of the month, you know that, as a woman, hormones can take quite a toll on you—and that rings especially true once you hit menopause.
While, yes, menopause isn’t all bad (hi, no more spending money on tampons or remembering birth control), the side effects, like hot flashes and mood swings, aren’t exactly a welcome development. Another not-so-great side effect? Weight gain.
That’s right, going through the change can make your body put on some extra pounds—but why, and is there any way to make sure you maintain a weight you’re comfortable with once you hit menopause? Health spoke to experts to find out what you need to know about menopause weight gain, and which changes to your diet can benefit you during this transitional phase.
RELATED: 5 Things You Need to Know About Menopause
Remind me again, what is menopause?
Technically, menopause is a point in time, marking 12 months since your last period. So, when people say they’re “going through menopause,” that means they haven’t actually hit menopause yet—they’re actually experiencing perimenopause, or the lead-up to menopause.
That also means women experience the majority of their symptoms (again, hot flashes, mood swings, etc.) during perimenopause, which can last, on average, for four years. (Remember: You may be having irregular periods during this time.)
Okay, so can menopause lead to weight gain?
Margaret Nachtigall, MD, an ob-gyn at NYU Langone, tells Health that decreasing estrogen levels play a role. ” estrogen levels are low to almost nothing” once you hit menopause, she says. And there’s some research to back this up: According to a 2014 review in the journal BioMed Research International, a decrease in estrogen has been linked to a less active metabolism.
However, lifestyle changes (and aging in general) can also cause weight gain around the time of menopause, suggests Julian Peskin, MD, an ob-gyn at Cleveland Clinic. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) echoes this sentiment, adding that lean body mass decreases with age while body fat accumulates throughout adulthood. Because of that, Dr. Nachtigall says, if you maintain the habits you had before hitting menopause, you’ll likely notice a change in your body.
Weight gain aside, menopause may also cause a woman’s body to redistribute its fat, says Dr. Peskin. “That distribution changes. That’s why women tend to gain weight around their belly,” he says. According to the NAMS, this transition from a pear shape to an apple shape is associated with an increased amount of fat around the abdomen around the time menopause hits. More research needs to be done to figure out exactly why this is, the society says.
RELATED: Can You Get Pregnant After Menopause? The Answer May Surprise You
Is there any way to prevent menopause weight gain?
If a few extra pounds due to menopause makes you feel uncomfortable, following a few simple rules can keep you fit, says Keri Gans, RDN, a New York-based nutritionist.
Remember, though: Few diet and exercise tips are one-size-fits-all, and these are no exception to that rule. What works for most women might not work for you, and if you’re struggling to maintain your weight post-menopause, you might want to consider speaking with a nutritionist about the best options for your goals.
1. Focus on your muscles.
“As age, they start to lose muscle mass. They don’t burn as many calories as they might have before,” says Gans. It’s important to make sure you’re getting enough protein after you hit menopause, since protein helps you maintain muscle mass. What does this mean for your day-to-day life? “Making sure have adequate protein in diet at every meal,” says Gans.
That also means adding a few more weight-training days to your workouts too, in addition to your favorite cardio exercises.
2. Cut a few calories—but no more than 500 a day.
Because you’re not burning as many calories as you used to, you can start cutting back on extra calories, where you see fit. It’s not about being drastic, but being mindful. Cutting back on calories for you, for example, might mean eliminating that second glass of wine every night or substituting one snack each day for low-cal fruit or veggies. “I still feel that a woman can eat whatever food she enjoys eating. But be mindful,” says Gans.
3. Add an extra workout day to your schedule.
If you do cardio three days a week, try adding a strength-training or weight-lifting session to your weekly mix—not just to help pump your muscles but to add a few more calorie-burning minutes to your schedule. “As you age, you might want to add an extra day if you can, if you can find the time,” says Gans. “Be a little bit more active. Definitely, once you hit menopause, you’ve got to be mindful. It makes it harder, but it doesn’t mean we should give up.”
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Women entering perimenopause tend to gain about 0.5kg (roughly 1lb) a year. That means the average woman can expect to put on more than a stone between the ages of 45 and 60.
The good news? According to experts, it’s not inevitable. But what causes menopausal weight gain and bloating, and what can you do about it? Does HRT help or hinder? And will that pesky bloating ever go away? Find out how to beat the stats with our complete guide to menopause and weight gain.
Menopause weight gain: why it happens
Getting older and becoming less active causes loss of muscle mass, which slows down the metabolism. According to experts, it’s this, rather than the menopause itself, that bears the brunt of the responsibility for weight gain in middle age. However, fluctuating hormone levels also play their part.
MORE: The LadyCare Menopause Magnet: What is it, and does it actually work?
New evidence suggests that plummeting oestrogen levels may encourage us to eat more and exercise less, lowers the metabolic rate and increases insulin resistance, making it more difficult for our bodies to deal with sugars and starches.
Our hormones also influence fat distribution. Perimenopause weight gain is often associated with the laying down of fat around the abdomen and internal organs, as opposed to the hips and thighs. Feeling stressed? Stress hormones like cortisol promote the growth of that pesky spare tyre. It’s not simply a cosmetic issue, either – the more inches you add to your waistline, the higher your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even certain cancers.
Whether or not you gain weight, you’re likely to feel bloated and uncomfortable during the menopause and perimenopause. Erratic hormone levels encourage water retention and intestinal gas, while reductions in bile (which keeps the intestines lubricated) can cause constipation, resulting in further bloating. Bloating can also be a side effect of HRT.
Minimise bloating by swapping processed carbohydrates like white bread, pasta and rice for whole grains, drinking plenty of water and herbal teas (peppermint, spearmint and fennel fight fluid retention) and cutting back on salt, caffeine and alcohol. Try switching ‘gassy’ foods like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts, peas, beans, onions, potatoes, pears, soft cheese and oats for foods that reduce gas, such as grapes, bananas, watermelon, watercress, cucumber, peanut butter, eggs, yoghurt and hard cheese. Cooking with hot peppers and black pepper can also help. A gentle post-dinner walk or yoga session may help to move gas around the digestive system, relieving the symptoms of bloating.
HRT and weight gain
Many women attribute their weight gain to hormone replacement therapy medication. However, according to experts, this is a myth. Although HRT may promote fluid retention and bloating, it can actually increase your resting metabolic rate and help you avoid or lose the belly fat associated with perimenopausal weight gain.
Long-term weight gain
The good news? That pesky bloated belly should deflate as you go through the menopause. The bad news? Reductions in oestrogen and muscle mass will leave you liable to weight gain. Don’t panic though: you can still lose weight after the menopause – simply follow the tips above. Eat right, move more and whittle that waistline away.
What you can do about menopause weight gain: losing weight during menopause
Reducing your thickening waistline can be super tricky during the menopause So can you avoid, curtail or reverse menopausal weight gain? According to experts, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
Most women need about 200 fewer calories a day in their fifties than they did in their thirties and forties. Pick more filling, nutritious foods and eat smaller, more frequent meals to keep your metabolism revved up and your blood sugar stable.
Try to eat a small meal or snack including protein and complex carbohydrates every 3-4 hours, limiting alcohol and sugar.
Staying (or getting) active is also key. The waistlines of those who do just 10 minutes of aerobic activity a day are, on average, 6 inches narrower than the waistlines of those who do no exercise at all.
Want to age-proof your figure? Try to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down and combine aerobic activities like walking and swimming with strength-training exercise. Remember, the more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest.
Menopause diet: foods for menopause
A menopause diet – which involves eating the right foods for menopause – can help to ease the menopause weight gain we all experience as we reach our mid-life.
So which are the right foods for menopause?
As is correct for anyone hoping to lose weight, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and starchy fibres, such as brown rice and wholemeal bread, is always preferable.
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, women who are post-menopausal are also at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, so keeping your heart healthy is imperative during and after the life stage. Post-menopausal women should avoid saturated fats, instead replacing them with things like olive and sunflower oils and spreads.
Oily fish should also be eaten twice a week, whilst salt intake should be kept to an absolute minimum. And of course, alcohol should not be consumed to excess – the NHS recommends no more than 14 units a week, with alcohol free days too.
To find out more about the food and supplements you should be taking during the menopause, .
And never fear – the menopause weight gain doesn’t have to be inevitable!
Weight Gain: Dirty Menopausal Trick
As if the hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats and sexual challenges weren’t enough, now you can add weight gain to the menopausal whammy.
That’s right. In case you hadn’t noticed (fat chance!), women tend to gain about 10 to 15 pounds on average—from 3 to 30 pounds is the typical range—during and after menopause. And because our entire metabolic mechanism is different now, that weight is blessedly hard to take off.
“I feel like my body has betrayed me,” said one of my patients.
“Prior to menopause I was able to maintain a weight loss of 70 pounds. I see that 25 pounds have come back and nothing I seem to do is helping,” said another woman.
Weight gain during menopause isn’t totally related to “the change.” Lifestyle, genetics, and, yes, hormonal fluctuation all play their respective roles, for better or for worse. But the weight goes on, and the way that happens is different from weight gain in previous years.
So, if you’re accustomed to losing weight easily—or not gaining it in the first place—this development may come as a puzzling and unpleasant surprise. And if you struggle with your weight, be forewarned: The deck is about to be reshuffled, and that struggle may become harder yet.
The single bright spot is that you’re in a very big boat with a lot of other menopausal gals—up to 90 percent of us gain weight during this transition, according to this article.
Menopausal weight gain is different because:
- It’s slow and steady—one or two pounds per year. Not enough to really notice, but the cumulative effect sneaks up on you.
- It accumulates attractively around the abdomen. Belly fat. The kind that’s linked to heart disease and diabetes.
- Breasts are bigger and the back is fattier. This might be nice for those of us who’ve always been lacking in that department, except that now, accompanied by a slowly enlarging belly, not to mention the back fat, the overall effect is less than flattering to our contemporary visions. And for those who were always well-endowed, well, a little (or a lot) more may simply be overkill.
- It’s hard to lose. While “hard to lose” is a functional definition of weight gain, this is different because it’s part and parcel of a more profound change in how your body processes energy.
- Body shape changes. Previously, you may have been a string bean or a curvaceous plum. Now you’re a round apple.
Why does this happen?
To effectively tackle this unsettling turn of events and to grasp why the things you did before aren’t working now, it helps to understand the underlying mechanism.
For one thing, muscle mass, which is an efficient burner of calories, slowly decreases with age. Now, even your resting metabolism (when you aren’t active) is lower. Adding insult to injury, loss of estrogen compounds this effect. Studies of lab animals suggest that estrogen has a regulating effect on appetite and weight gain. Animals with lower estrogen levels ate more and moved less.
Learn more about how to Speed Up Your Metabolism at Midlife.
When the ovaries stop producing estrogen, fat cells tend to take over. Ovaries produce estradiol, a “premium” estrogen; fat cells produce estrone, which is a weak, inefficient estrogen. This hormonal change increases the body’s efficiency at depositing fat, especially, we find, around the abdomen.
A recent study confirmed that certain proteins and enzymes that enable cells to store more fat and burn it less become more active in post-menopausal women.
“Taken together, these changes in bodily processes may be more than a little surprising—and upsetting—for women who previously had little trouble managing their weight,” comments Sylvia Santosa, assistant professor in Concordia University’s Department of Exercise Science in this article.
You got that right, sister.
Menopause packs a couple more weight-inducing changes: insomnia and stress. When you don’t sleep well (and who does, what with night sweats and cratering mood swings?), levels of ghrelin, known as the “hunger hormone,” rise and levels of the “fullness hormone” leptin drop. That’s why you get the nighttime munchies.
A study of over 1,000 volunteers (The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study) found that those who slept less had higher ghrelin levels and lower leptin levels—and also had a higher body mass index (BMI), i.e., they weighed more.
And we all know what stress eating does to our waistline.
Learn more about Menopause and Anxiety.
So, what’s a stressed-out, sleep-deprived, menopausal woman to do?
It’s a challenge, without doubt. However, when we understand the mechanism—what’s happening to our bodies on a biological level—then we realize that doing what we did before isn’t going to work. We need to change the paradigm if we want to control our weight and maintain a healthy, active post-menopausal lifestyle.
This paradigm shift involves a different approach to both diet (Note: I did not say dieting!) and exercise. No magic pharma pill or painless regimen. Still, we can regain control of the bathroom scales despite the slings and arrows of our slowing metabolism and estrogen-storing fat cells. And honestly, we might end up with better health habits than we ever had before.
Learn more about 7 Ridiculously Simple and Realistic Ways to Lose Weight After 50.
Barb DePree, MD, has been a gynecologist for 30 years, specializing in menopause care for the past 10. Dr. DePree was named the Certified Menopause Practitioner of the Year in 2013 by the North American Menopause Society. The award particularly recognized the outreach, communication and education she does through MiddlesexMD, a website she founded and where this blog first appeared. She also is director of the Women’s Midlife Services at Holland Hospital, Holland, Michigan.
Healthy living and treating menopause symptoms are key to maintaining a healthy weight
Weight gain and increased abdominal (belly) fat is common among women at midlife.
However, research suggests that menopause alone does not result in significant weight gain. Weight gain in women at midlife is primarily the result of physical changes that come with ageing, and the lifestyle changes that often accompany them.
These changes can be further influenced by menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbances and mood disorders.
A review published by the Mayo Clinic shows women can prevent weight gain at midlife by adopting healthy lifestyle measures and addressing symptoms associated with menopause.
The review – by the Women’s Health Clinic Division of General Internal Medicine and Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Nutrition – also recommends that doctors support women by educating them on weight management strategies, offering psychological support and advice on lifestyle and behaviour change.
Jean Hailes endocrinologist Sonia Davison says that while weight gain is common around the time of menopause, “there are many contributing factors”.
“We notice that weight gain also tends to occur around the central, or abdominal region, and this can increase the risk of illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer,” Dr Davison says.
What causes midlife weight gain?
Women tend to gain weight as they age, whether they are in menopause or not. On average, women gain about 1kg per year during midlife, regardless of their initial body weight.
This is due to physical changes. Ageing causes a decrease in lean body mass, which slows down the metabolism. This means the rate at which a woman burns calories slows down, so her energy (food) needs decrease.
The decrease in energy needs is often coupled with a decrease in physical activity, so unless a woman not only eats less, but also maintains physical activity, she will gain weight.
“Women often comment to me that they haven’t noticed any change in their diet or exercise patterns, but will still put weight on around the time of the menopause, which they find distressing,” says Dr Davison.
“At every life stage, we need to make adjustments to ensure our health is on the right track, and menopause is no exception.”
Although menopause itself does not seem to cause weight gain, it does influence where the fat is stored.
Postmenopausal women tend to have a greater percentage of body fat around the abdominal area. In fact, belly fat in postmenopausal women accounts for between 15% to 20% of the total body fat, compared with 5% to 8% at premenopause.
Increased abdominal fat in women not only increases the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases, but also increases the occurrence of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes.
Symptoms of menopause
Dr Davison says that alongside the weight gain many women experience around menopause, a woman may also be dealing with bothersome symptoms such as sleep disturbance, mood fluctuations and hot flushes/sweats. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to reduced physical activity and, in turn, increased weight gain.
As a result, she says, “women may not feel like their ‘normal’ selves and may struggle to adopt good routines in terms of physical activity and healthy eating”.
The right combination
Dr Davison says there is “no single strategy to tackle the weight gain associated with menopause”.
“However, physical activity, and healthy eating, and treating bothersome symptoms will help women on the right path,” she says.
“Doing some form of brisk activity on most days of the week will be useful for weight loss and prevent further weight gain; the current recommendations are that women do 150 minutes of brisk activity on a weekly basis.”
Weight management around menopause and beyond is about behaviour change; setting up new habits that will help a woman to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. This includes overcoming barriers, problem solving and goal setting. Identifying and addressing any potential non-physical health issues, such as depression and anxiety, is also a critical part of weight management.
Dr Davison encourages women to eat healthily and mindfully. Eating less food, but eating more often, can also help.
“Lowering portion sizes, eating small but frequent meals to maintain metabolic rate, lowering carbohydrate and caloric intake and reducing alcohol intake can all be effective for weight loss,” she says.
Find more information on healthy living and weight management at midlife.
Prevent Midlife Weight Gain
Even if you’re not close to menopause yet, it may already be on your mind. It is for many of my clients over the age of 35, who worry about the impact of hormonal changes on their shapes and weights. The truth is, menopause, and the preceding perimenopause, can wreak some havoc with your metabolism. However, I’ve seen many women successfully lose weight during and after this life transition, and now new research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sheds a little more light on which strategies work.
In the University of Pittsburg study, researchers tracked more than 500 post-menopausal women for several years. After six months, they found that four specific behaviors led to weight loss: eating fewer desserts and fried foods, drinking fewer sugary beverages, eating more fish, and dining at restaurants less often. After four years, eating fewer desserts and sugary drinks continued to be associated with weight loss or maintenance. And in the long-term, munching on more produce and eating less meat and cheese were also found to be tied to weight loss success.
The great news about this research is that the same tried and true techniques we know to be effective earlier in life worked to support weight loss after menopause. In other words, you don’t have to resort to a drastic diet or feel doomed to grow wider as you grow wiser. And this isn’t the first study to show that midlife weight loss is achievable.
A Brigham Young study followed nearly 200 middle-aged women for three years and tracked information on their health and eating habits. Scientists found that those who did not make conscious dietary changes were 138 percent more likely to put weight, on average nearly 7 pounds. The silver lining here is that your habits do make a difference, so a lot of the control is in your hands, and that’s empowering. The key is to start now to stave off weight gain as you age and make weight maintenance later in life less daunting. Here are five savvy strategies to focus on today, and tips for putting them into action.
Banish sugary drinks
Replacing just one can of regular soda per day with water would save you the equivalent of five 4-pound bags of sugar each year. If you’re not a fan of plain water, check out my previous post about how to jazz it up and why diet soda isn’t recommended.
Replace concentrated sources of calories
Did you know that you could eat 1 cup (the size of a baseball) of fresh strawberries for the same number of calories in just 1 tablespoon (the size of your thumb from where it bends to the tip) of strawberry jam? As often as you can, choose fresh, whole foods rather than processed versions.
Get your fill of fiber
Fiber fills you up, but fiber itself doesn’t provide any calories because your body can’t digest or absorb it. Also, a German study found that for every gram of fiber we eat, we eliminate about 7 calories. That means consuming 35 grams of fiber each day could essentially cancel out 245 calories. The best sources are fruits and vegetables with an edible skin or seeds or those with tough stalks, as well as beans, lentils, and whole grains including oats, wild rice, and popped popcorn.
Eat more plant-based meals
Going vegetarian, even part-time, can give you a weight loss edge. Check out my previous post about the link as well as dos and don’ts for veggie-based meals.
Keep a journal
A Kaiser Permanente study found that keeping a food diary can double weight-loss results. One reason it’s so effective is that many of us overestimate how active we are, overestimate our food needs, underestimate how much we eat, and engage in a lot of mindless eating. In one Cornell study, researchers had a hidden camera filming people at an Italian restaurant. When diners were asked how much bread they’d eaten five minutes after the meal, 12 percent said they didn’t eat any and the rest ate 30 percent more than they thought they did. Journaling keeps you aware and honest, and can allow you to identify unhealthy patterns and change them.
What’s your take on this topic? Do you worry about menopausal weight gain? Or have you managed your weight through this phase of life? Please tweet your thoughts to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.
- By Cynthia Sass
How can I help you?
What you will learn in this post:
- Why your body starts gaining weight, especially around the belly
- Why menopausal weight gain is risky
- One thing you can do to beat belly fat
It seems like a cruel twist of fate, that just as we begin to relax because we are no longer menstruating, we get hit by a host of new challenges instead. Not only does menopause (and perimenopause) cause hot flashes, incontinence, vaginal dryness and more in some women, it can also cause us to gain weight!
Weight gain — even while maintaining the same diet and exercise routine — is a problem for many women, especially weight gain around the abdominal area. Yes, the dreaded belly fat! So many of my past patients and clients have complained about belly fat, and how hard it has been to lose.
In fact, I myself have been over 80 lbs overweight! And I lost it all! But then I hit menopause and again, put on over 20 lbs quickly. I had to figure out how to conquer that healthily and also why hormones and menopausal changes make us put on weight!
So you’re not alone!
Unfortunately weight gain during this time of our lives is common, though not unbeatable. Our body is going through changes, so the old methods used to keep us trim and in shape might not work as well as it used it, or sometimes it doesn’t work at all.
I’ve seen research state that it’s an average of 5 lbs weight gain. Well, that was NOT my experience or observation so I dug deeper and found that article was published in 1999¹ for Australian women aged between 47 to 57.
Maybe that explains it. A lot has changed in 20 years! In my estimates, it’s a 15-20 lb weight gain and others, like me have put on 25 lbs or more! What is your experience?
Perhaps some might wonder if it’s such a bad thing to gain a few pounds? Of course not! But the drawbacks of weight gain are more than just cosmetic.
Why Menopausal Weight Gain Can Be Risky
As we go through midlife, we start gaining fat around our abdomen — abdominal fat is largely visceral. This basically means that fat accumulates in the spaces between our organs. Researchers have identified various chemicals that link visceral fat to a surprisingly wide variety of chronic diseases.
Some of the conditions that visceral fat can lead to include (but not limited to), cardiovascular diseases, dementia, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and certain cancers (including breast and uterine cancers).
In fact, being obese can also exacerbate other menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. Not to mention how it affects our self-image, sexual libido, and function and our relationship with our partners. I can personally attest to this!
This isn’t about not loving our bodies, no matter its shape and size. This is about how this type of weight gain is caused by underlying symptoms that can lead to more severe symptoms. It affects our physical body, our emotions, and mental state.
But before we try and beat this weight gain, let’s explore why the body starts gaining weight in the first place!
What’s Going On With My Belly?
So here’s where things can get a little confusing. Weight gain is caused by quite a few factors. Scientist reviewed decades of research In a 2012 study by International Menopause Society and concluded that the hormonal shifts of menopause change the distribution of body fat, making it more likely to accumulate in the abdomen.
However, other research has emerged that also points to a few other factors. But let’s start with the most obvious one:
I’ve mentioned before that as we age, our bodies slowly decreases its production of our reproductive hormones — estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone. The decrease of estrogen especially leads to a shift of fat to the midsection.
A few years ago the Mayo Clinic conducted a study that compared fat tissue in pre- and post-menopausal women. They found that on a cellular level, two enzymes that work to synthesize and store fat were more active in postmenopausal women — something they attributed to a drop in estrogen.
So yes, a drop in estrogen does contribute to belly fat and obesity, but it isn’t the only reason.
And in fact, we are not really clear why it attacks our belly. Science has now shown that fat is an endocrine organ and does produce estrogen, so maybe in here lies part of the answer?
Less Movement And Decreasing Muscles Mass
Our hormones also contribute to the decrease of our lean body mass, so this means we lose muscle mass. Muscles help to burn calories while we work out as well as when we’re resting, so losing muscle mass means we are burning less fat.
Combine that with lifestyle changes such as sitting more, and moving less, and it’s a perfect recipe for weight gain! Exercises that used to work for you before might not have the same effect as it used to.
Other Menopausal Changes And Medication
Sometimes, menopausal symptoms such as sleep disturbances, fluctuating moods and more can also affect our ability to keep to our regular diet due to cravings. We might gravitate towards a candy bar as a pick me up, instead of a healthier snack.
Certain medication can also contribute to weight gain, such as antidepressants that are commonly prescribed for menopause or beta-blockers for palpitations, for instance. These little things add up and slowly contribute to weight gain.
Diet And Insulin Resistance
A big factor that contributes to abdominal weight gain is our diet. Insulin resistance and blood sugar imbalance is a huge problem that leads to increased belly fat.
So what kind of diet am I talking about here? A diet that is high in carbs, processed foods, sugar, alcohol and such. When you eat a lot of carbs on an ongoing basis, insulin is constantly stimulated. This can lead to a health condition called insulin resistance, where the cells start to resist the insulin.
And in menopause “a lot” of carbs really isn’t that much, and sadly the “good” carbs factor in here too, such as fruits and grains.
Getting Clear On Insulin Resistance
When you eat carbs your body’s blood glucose increases and spikes your blood sugar. Your body releases insulin as a reaction to elevated blood glucose levels. Insulin is produced to get the glucose from your body and into the cells.
There it gets converted to energy. Your body burns the glucose to make its energy and then insulin tells the cells to store their energy as carbs or fat (the unhealthy and dreaded belly fat).
When this happens, your blood sugar just continues to rise and you can become diabetic. Along with diabetes, many other health issues including heart disease and even dementia have been associated with insulin resistance.
Getting control of blood sugar can lead to the loss of inches around the waist practically overnight. Plus there is the added benefit of restoring balance to other hormones, like thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormones.
Beating Belly Fat And More
So as you can see, a lot of factors contribute to menopausal weight gain. Yes, the rules have changed, and it might feel as if no one told you, but with the right lifestyle changes, you can lose the fat and take control of your weight!
One of the biggest changes I made in my life in order to lose my excess weight and gain some sanity, was with my diet! I literally took a year off to travel around the world in the pursuit of knowledge that I’ve since shared with thousands of my clients (and now with you!).
Many of us think that we just have to eat less, and workout more. But this can be more damaging and doesn’t really address the underlying problem — our hormones are outta whack! This is why I recommend you start with your diet because you’re going to want to first and foremost, balance your hormones.
Once you get that balanced, it will automatically help you lose fat, and build muscles that will keep fat burning even when you’re not moving. Sure, you might have to change your workout a little bit, but at least your system will be working at an optimal condition to facilitate fat loss.
The Keto-Alkaline (Keto-Green) Diet
As I mentioned above, when I changed my diet, it changed my life. I kid you not. My Keto-Alkaline® Diet, became the perfect plan for fat loss and optimal health because it allowed my body to use fat for fuel while staying alkaline.
A keto-alkaline diet means eating a diet that is low in carbs, high in (good) fats and alkalinity which has been proven to reduce weight gain in postmenopausal women. What happens if you don’t eat (unhealthy) carbs? You eliminate the production of glucose — and the production of insulin — so your body looks around for something other than glucose to burn for energy… and what does it burn? Stored fat!
The ketogenic diet works by keeping the body’s carbohydrate stores almost empty. Your body starts burning its own body fat for energy, helping you lose weight quickly. It will also burn fat that you’re consuming through your diet, assuming you are eating healthy fats (not trans fats, etc.), giving you a more stable energy throughout the day (as opposed to the sugar spikes you get from carbs).
Start With Alkalinity
I encourage you to first get your body alkaline before introducing keto into your diet. When experts talk about alkalinity and maintaining optimal pH, they’re referring to urinary, not blood pH. We want to maintain a pH of around 7.4 and above for good health.
Getting alkaline basically means avoiding acidic foods like meats, and alcohol, while increasing alkaline foods such as vegetables, water, and good fats. Once you get your body to an alkaline state (you can test your urine with my urine test strips here), you can eliminate carbs from your diet to get to a ketosis state and start eliminating fat — especially belly fat!
Add Intermittent Fasting
Part of my healthy routine includes intermittent fasting as well as committing to a variety of other Keto-Alkaline lifestyle principles (such as good stress management, sleep, positivity, patience, pleasure, and exercise, etc.).
I usually fast 15 hours between dinner and breakfast, sometimes longer, and sometimes not. Then I eat two good Keto-Alkaline meals and possibly one light meal or protein shake in the 9-hour window, without snacking. I also will do 24 to 72-hour fasts from time to time.
Intermittent fasting improves cellular and molecular health. It supports enhanced mitochondrial health, repairs DNA and supports a process called autophagy. Autophagy is a form of cellular cleaning, and it is important because the accumulation of garbage cells is believed to be a hallmark of aging. In addition, these cells also have a greater risk of becoming infected or cancerous.
More and more research has examined the health benefits of fasting, finding many significant impacts to our bodies – at the cellular level – when we restrict the time we “feed” and increase the time we fast. One of these benefits is weight loss.
Let me just emphasize we want HEALTHY fasting. Some women take it too far and feeling unwell. When you are fasting, you need to be doubly sure that you are taking in the healthiest nutrients that your body needs, nourishing your body at the cellular level.
Keep It Simple
This might seem like a lot to digest, so I suggest taking it slow, and keeping it simple! Start with breakfast! It’s also a great way to kick-start your day with a bang! Make yourself a healthy green low carb smoothie that will set the tone for your day.
I find that my Mighty Maca® Plus is one of the best ways to get alkaline without having to spend a whole lot of time preparing a healthy a breakfast. Aside from maca, Mighty Maca Plus also contains over 30 superfoods, including turmeric which has been found to prevent postmenopausal weight gain.
Once you get that habit in place, you can move on to lunch and dinner, and then slowly add intermittent fasting to your diet too.
So To Sum It Up…
Losing belly fat is more than just eating less and exercising more. Once we understand why we’re gaining weight, then working to eliminate this weight becomes easier. Changing your diet is your first priority. Sometimes, it’s all that you need to kick-start your system. Before I leave, here are a few articles you can read to help get you started:
- Keto-Alkaline Diet
- Insulin resistance
- Intermittent Fasting
- Hormonal balance
As you hit your mid-to-late 40s, you may notice that besides battling the occasional hot flash or mood swing, your favorite black go-to pants are starting to feel noticeably more snug. This time it’s not your imagination.
The average woman gains about four-and-a-half pounds as she starts the transition to menopause in her 40s, according to a landmark study. And it’s a trend that doesn’t slow down, either: Women continue to put on about a pound and a half each year in their 50s and 60s, according to a new review published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
“The main reason is the natural loss of muscle mass that occurs with age,” explains Jo Ann Pinkerton, M.D., executive director of the North American Menopause Society and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Virginia Health System. “Since muscle burns more calories than fat, your metabolism slows down, causing you to put on weight.” Starting at age 30, research shows that you lose on average about a half pound of muscle each year; and that number rises to almost a full pound once you hit 50.
But as you glide through the big M, you may also notice something else: Even if the number on the scale is not rising considerably, any weight you do gain ends up accumulating around your abdomen, leaving you with what sure looks like someone else’s beer belly. “After menopause, your ovaries stop producing estrogen, and the only place where it can be generated is in your abdominal fat cells,” explains Deborah Clegg, M.D., a professor of internal medicine at the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. As a result, “your body naturally gravitates towards storing fat in that area, in an effort to get estrogen,” says Clegg, who notes that the stomach’s been called “the third ovary.”
But this type of fat, known as visceral fat, is toxic. “It produces hormones such as the stress hormone cortisol as well as inflammatory proteins known as cytokines,” explains Pamela Peeke, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction. These chemicals force your body to churn out more insulin, which not only ramps up appetite, but also increases the storage of fat in fat cells. This, in turn, causes you to put on even more belly weight and also sets you up to develop insulin resistance, a key factor in the development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Sounds daunting, but there are expert-approved ways to reverse your scale’s upward spiral. Here’s how:
Crank it up. If you’re sedentary, starting an exercise program will help you shed pounds as well as relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, according to a study published last year in the medical journal Menopause. But if you’re already active, you’ll need to crank things up a notch. The best way to do this is through a short duration of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), where you alternate brief periods of intense physical activity with more relaxed recovery periods. Obese postmenopausal women who did 10 minutes of HIIT five times a week lost twice as much weight as those who did more traditional endurance exercises, like brisk walking, according to a University of Scranton study published last October in Menopause. “This doesn’t have to be a lot — it can just be tweaking your morning walk to throw in some hills,” says Peeke.
Add in resistance training. “In order to remove weight as you get older, you have to lift weights,” stresses Peeke, who notes it’s key to reversing that metabolism-wrecking muscle loss that occurs naturally with age. A 2016 study of post-menopausal women in their late 50s and 60s found that those who did an hour of strength training twice a week for eight weeks not only significantly reduced their body fat compared to a control group, they also reported less physical pain and felt better overall. If you’re resistant to pumping iron, consider yoga. It has the same kind of weight-bearing benefits, and a 2016 German review that looked at 13 studies concluded that yoga also helps relieve menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes.
Watch what you eat. In a study of 17,000 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79, researchers found that those who followed a low-fat diet that included five servings of fruits and veggies and six servings of whole grains were three times more likely to lose weight than those in a control group. “In general, we recommend that women going through menopause try to keep their fat intake under 20 percent, with most of it coming from good-for-you fats such as olive oil, fish or avocados,” says Pinkerton. One suggestion: Start your meal with veggies and protein and eat your starch last. This significantly reduces your body’s blood sugar and insulin levels, which will help keep you feeling fuller longer, according to a 2015 study published in the medical journal Diabetes Care.
Stop eating after 7 p.m. Research shows that intermittent or alternate day fasting, where you eat normally for a day and restrict calories dramatically the next, can work. People who slashed their calories to between 750 and 1,100 for five days a month for three months lost significantly more abdominal fat — and improved blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels — than those who didn’t, according to a University of Southern California study published last year. But since that’s hard to stick to, “I generally recommend that my patients only eat during a 12-hour window each day — for example, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and then put the kitchen on lockdown after that,” says Peeke. “They’ll get some of the health benefits of intermittent fasting without the hassle or excessive hunger.”
Get enough shut-eye. Not catching enough zzz’s doesn’t just feel awful, it leads to weight gain over time. One study showed that women who slept less than five hours a night had a 30 percent higher risk of gaining 30 pounds over a 16-year period, compared to those who got a full seven hours. “Lack of sleep causes your hunger hormones to go haywire: It lowers the levels of leptin, which suppresses appetite, and increases ghrelin, which stimulates your appetite,” says Peeke. If getting the rest you need is made challenging by, say, menopausal hot flashes, one option to consider is a short course of cognitive behavior therapy, a type of counseling where you’re taught new behavioral techniques to help promote sleep. Both menopausal and postmenopausal women who used this technique showed a significant reduction of insomnia two to three months later, according to a study published this past January in the medical journal Sleep. Hormone replacement therapy, certain antidepressants such as low-dose paroxetine (Brisdelle), venlafaxine (Effexor), or escitalopram (Lexapro), or the migraine drug gabapentin (Neurontin) are all also options to discuss with your doctor, says Pinkerton.
The biggest reason you gain weight as you age has nothing to do with your metabolism
You’ve probably heard that once you hit 40, it’s all downhill when it comes to your weight.
That inexplicable force we call our metabolism does begin to grind a bit slower every year from age 30 onward.
Here’s the good news: The rate at which your metabolism slows down is actually rather minimal. In reality, most weight gain that happens in midlife isn’t the result of a slower metabolism at all.
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Instead, it comes down to a simple but changeable truth: As we get older, we get less and less active.
While this might sound depressing, it’s actually great news. There’s plenty we can do to counteract the slow, seemingly inevitable onset of poundage. But first, here are some basics about what metabolism is — and what it isn’t.
How your body burns energy
Our resting metabolic rate is a measure of how much energy we expend — or “burn” — when we’re at rest. It’s determined by a combination of factors, including your height, sex, and the genes you got from your parents, and it can’t be altered much, no matter what you do.
Beyond that, our bodies appear to enter into three more distinct phases of calorie burning, depending on what we’re doing. These three are the types of metabolism that most people are referring to when they say doing certain things, like eating spicy food or working out, can “boost” your metabolism.
Most of the things that people say will boost your metabolism won’t
Eating sheds a small amount of calories /Foxys Forest Manufacture
When we’re eating, we burn a small number of calories (roughly 10% of our total calories burned for the day). This is called the thermic effect of food, and it’s the first of those three phases I mentioned earlier. We can turn up the heat on this process a tiny bit (but not by a whole lot) by doing things like drinking stimulant beverages like coffee and eating large amounts of protein.
“Eating foods like green tea, caffeine, or hot chili peppers will not help you shed excess pounds,” notes an entry in the ADAM Medical Encyclopedia, hosted by the National Institutes of Health. “Some may provide a small boost in your metabolism, but not enough to make a difference in your weight.”
Instead, get active
The best way to burn calories is to exercise /pikselstock
Unsurprisingly, the most important calorie-burning activity we engage in is just that — activity.
Whether we’re taking the stairs, stepping away from our desks for a coffee, or sweating it out in a hot yoga class, we’re expending energy. Researchers call this second phase physical-activity expenditure.
After a strenuous workout, we continue to burn more calories than we would while at rest — and that’s the third phase, or what’s called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.
When it comes to counteracting weight gain, these two phases — the ones related to physical activity — are the most important. Your best bet for burning more calories throughout the day is to increase your levels of any kind of activity, be it running or walking.
Many people think strength training or weight lifting fits into this category, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
Weight lifting can only do so much for your metabolism. Why? Because muscles don’t burn a whole lot of calories, as the NIH points out. As far as calorie-melting organs go, your brain is actually far more efficient than your bicep.
“Brain function makes up close to 20% of” resting metabolic rate, Dr. Claude Bouchard, a professor of genetics and nutrition at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center of Louisiana State University, told The Los Angeles Times.
“Next is the heart, which is beating all the time and accounts for another 15-20%. The liver, which also functions at rest, contributes another 15-20%. Then you have the kidneys and lungs and other tissues, so what remains is muscle, contributing only 20-25% of total resting metabolism,” Bouchard said.
So while strength training is a healthy habit that will certainly have a helpful effect on things like agility and balance, it won’t change your metabolism a great deal.
“This idea that one pound of muscle burns hundreds of extra calories per day is a myth,” Gary Foster, Weight Watchers’ chief scientific officer and an adjunct professor of psychology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told Business Insider.
And be mindful about eating
According to the NIH, in addition to getting less active as we get older, we also appear to become less perceptive about our body’s nutritional needs over time.
Our natural appetite-control mechanism seems to dull. A good way to be more mindful of how full you’re getting is to eat smaller meals and get more only when you’re still hungry, rather than sitting down with a large plate of food, which might encourage you to overeat.
“By staying active and sticking with smaller portions of healthy foods, you can ward off weight gain as you age,” the NIH website says.
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Becoming Obese From Age 25 to Midlife Knocks Years Off Life
Compared to having a normal weight at age 25 and at midlife, going from being nonobese to obese during those years was linked with an increased risk of premature death from heart disease, or all-causes, in later life, researchers report.
Remaining obese at all three life stages analyzed by researchers — early adulthood (age 25), middle adulthood (roughly age 47), and older adulthood (roughly age 57) — was associated with an even higher risk of premature death from these causes in later life (roughly age 57 to 69).
However, parodoxically, moving from being obese in midlife to nonobese in older adulthood was also associated with the same increased mortality risk, in this cohort of participants in a US national survey.
“The findings imply that maintaining normal weight across adulthood, especially preventing weight gain in early adulthood, is important for preventing premature deaths in later life,” write Chen Chen, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China, and colleagues in a study published October 16 in BMJ.
“Young adulthood is a critical period when weight gain (mostly with body fat increase) is common,” senior author An Pan, PhD, a professor at Huazhong, told Medscape Medical News in an email.
Therefore, the study suggests that “monitoring weight change since young adulthood and preventing the middle-aged spread could have a major impact on population health,” he said.
“At the individual level,” Pan advised, “people need to choose healthy lifestyles (such as a healthy diet, being active, less sedentary) to maintain optimal weight.”
“At the societal level”, the government should establish a non-obesogenic environment (such as food, housing options, social environments) “to make healthy choices easy, accessible, affordable, and even as a default choice.”
However, other experts advise against selectively interpreting the study findings.
And they caution against lumping the categories “overweight” and “obesity” together because — at least in this study — there were no deleterious associations with mortality with the overweight category. In fact, in some categories, being overweight was linked to a lower risk of premature death.
The researchers also acknowledge several study limitations — including that weight at age 25 and midlife was based on patient recall decades later, and the age ranges for midlife and older adulthood overlapped.
Nevertheless, given that people find it very difficult to go from being obese to nonobese (attained by only 1.4% of participants in this cohort), they stress that the takeaway message is that it is important to prevent weight gain in young adulthood.
Weight Change in Adulthood and Risk of Premature Death
A high body mass index (BMI) in adulthood is associated with a greater risk of premature death, Chen and colleagues write, but it is not clear how weight changes throughout adulthood affect this risk, they say, noting that prior scientific evidence on this topic “is not entirely consistent.”
To examine this, they identified 36,051 participants in the 1988–1994 and 1999–2014 US National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES).
The participants completed the survey and were weighed and measured when they were older adults (mean age 57, interquartile range 46 to 66 years; range 40 to 90 years).
At this baseline, they were asked to recall their weight at age 25 (young adulthood) and 10 years earlier (middle adulthood, mean age 47, interquartile range 36 to 56 years; range 30 to 80 years).
The primary study outcomes were mortality from heart disease, cancer, or all-causes during an average 12.3-year follow-up from baseline (roughly from ages 57 to 69).
During this follow-up, 10,500 participants died.
After adjusting for multiple confounders, compared with participants who maintained a normal weight from age 25 to midlife, those who went from nonobese to obese during this period had a significantly increased risk of all-cause mortality and death from heart disease during follow-up (hazard ratio , 1.22 and 1.49, respectively).
Being consistently obese was associated with even worse survival.
Specifically, being obese from age 25 to midlife, from age 25 to older adulthood, and from midlife to older adulthood, was associated with a 72%, 61%, and 20% increased risk of all-cause mortality in later life, respectively.
However, going from being nonobese in midlife to obese in older adulthood was not associated with significantly increased risk of premature mortality.
And being overweight had a very modest or null association with mortality across adulthood.
And there were no significant associations between weight change patterns and cancer mortality in later life.
“Weight-Loss Story Is More Complicated”
Regarding the paradoxical findings on losing weight at an older age — going from being obese in midlife to nonobese in older adulthood (which was associated with a significantly increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in later life ) — Pan said, “The story is more complicated.”
“We do not know whether those weight losses were intentional or unintentional,” he explained.
People may have had unintentional weight loss from preclinical cancer and diabetes, which increase mortality risk.
Or they may have been trying to lose weight and keep it off, but their weight may have been constantly fluctuating, or they may have chosen unhealthy ways to lose weight, which increased their risk of dying early.
More studies are needed to better understand these findings.
In contrast, several clinical trials, Pan noted, have shown “that weight loss through healthy lifestyle interventions (such as energy restriction, dietary changes) for most people, and bariatric surgery for certain morbid obesity, are beneficial for health outcomes and long-term longevity.”
“Therefore, I do think we should still recommend people to lose weight if they are overweight or obese,” he said, “but it is much better to be monitored and in scientifically proven weight-loss programs.”
Important Study Limitations
Commenting on the study, Andrew W. Brown, PhD, assistant professor at Indiana University School of Public Health in Bloomington and a spokesperson for the Obesity Society, told Medscape Medical News that “the mixed results, in which some analyses showed beneficial and detrimental associations with both weight gain and loss, highlight that the relationship between weight and mortality is complex, and between gaining or losing weight and mortality even more so.”
Keisuke Ejima, PhD, assistant research scientist at IU School of Public Health who is studying life-course mortality, concurred with Pan, adding that “these results need to be considered in the context of reasons for weight gain or loss (eg, disease, stress, disorders, psychosocial factors, social determinants, medication use), as well as all other analyses that have looked at the relationship between weight and mortality.”
Brown also stressed that it is important to note that there were likely weight recall errors and the age categories were blurred.
“We know there are issues with people self-reporting what they weigh today, let alone what they remember years, sometimes decades, into the past,” he said.
And the age categories were fuzzy, since in middle adulthood (ages 30 to 80), 25% of the participants were older than 56, and in older adulthood (ages 40 to 90), 25% of the participants were younger than 45.
“Overweight Is Not the Same as Obesity”
Brown also cautions against lumping overweight and obesity together.
” important takeaway,” he said, “is that overweight is not the same as obesity.”
“The authors did not see deleterious associations with mortality with the overweight category,” Brown pointed out.
The investigators report “stable overweight was not significantly associated with mortality risk except for an inverse association in the 10-year period before baseline,” and “the overweight to normal pattern was consistently associated with higher mortality risk in the three time periods.” In addition, say the authors, “the normal to overweight pattern was associated with lower mortality risk from age 25 years to baseline…and in the 10-year period before baseline.”
Thus, “overweight in these cases was associated with lower mortality,” Brown summarized.
“We cannot selectively interpret the results,” he maintains. “If we are okay concluding that ‘stable obese’ (as they call it) represents consistent increased risk of mortality, then we also need to highlight that ‘stable overweight’ not.”
“We…cannot ignore that modest weight gains were not associated with increased mortality,” according to Brown.
All agree that further studies are needed.
“Many Things Could Be Done”
In the meantime, Pan said “there are many things that could be done” to combat obesity and lower the risk of premature death, and these are discussed in a comprehensive Lancet Commission report published in January that he coauthored, titled “The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change.”
The report authors urge “a radical rethink of business models, food systems, civil society involvement, and national and international governance to address the global syndemic of obesity, undernutrition, and climate change,” stressing their belief that “the current approach to obesity prevention is failing despite many piecemeal efforts, recommendations and calls to action.”
The current study was funded by grants from the National Key Research and Development Program of China, the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation, and the International Postdoctoral Exchange Fellowship of the China Postdoctoral Council. The study authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
BMJ. Published October 16, 2019. Full text
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