Menopause is inevitable for women. The menopause journey is a bumpy road. You experience hot flashes, wake up in a pool of sweat, have mood swings, and put on weight. Weight gain and menopause go hand in hand. I’ll explain the reason for this connection between weight gain and menopause in just a bit.
Menopause doesn’t happen overnight. Most people believe that menopause is the time when a woman transitions out of her fertile years when she can have children when, in reality, that’s perimenopause. For me, everything started changing when I turned 46. At 53, I still go through plenty of ups and downs, including weight gain, with menopause symptoms.
If you are going through perimenopause or menopause, I have great news for you! Changing your diet and lifestyle can ease the transition from perimenopause to menopause, including menopausal weight gain.
I will explain weight gain and menopause and give you my proven solution to balance your hormones naturally and maintain optimal weight. Before we get into that, let’s talk about what’s happening in your body during perimenopause and menopause.
Your Body Going Through Menopause
Your ovaries’ production of estrogen and progesterone slows significantly during perimenopause and eventually stops. This marks the end of your menstrual cycle. When you experience 12 months without a period, you have officially finished perimenopause and reached menopause. Perimenopause can begin in your 40s or 50s, yet it typically begins after age 45.
Menopause lasts about four years. However, it can take as little as 10 months for some women or 10 years for others. More commonly, most women reach menopause by the age of 55.
Not everyone experiences symptoms during perimenopause, and they can be subtle if you do. As you get closer to menopause, symptoms tend to get worse, including weight gain. Here is a list of symptoms you could experience during perimenopause:1
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Mood changes
- Weight gain
- Loss of breast fullness
- Thinning hair and dry skin
Moreover, menopause increases your risk of thyroid dysfunction and autoimmune conditions.2 A malfunctioning thyroid is one factor that links weight gain and menopause.
While perimenopause and menopause are natural parts of a woman’s life, it doesn’t mean you have to deal with weight gain caused by menopause. Before I get into my proven solution, let’s discuss the relationship between weight gain and menopause.
What Causes Menopause Weight Gain?
Weight gain is typical once you reach menopause and during menopause. Several factors can lead to the dreaded menopause weight gain, including aging, genetics, lifestyle, and hormone fluctuations. It’s important to remember that every woman’s menopause journey is different. Let’s talk about the factors that link weight gain and menopause for some women.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, weight gain happens as you get older because your muscle mass decreases and your fat mass increases. Fat is less metabolically active than muscle, meaning you don’t need as many calories to maintain fat mass as you would to maintain muscle. On average, women gain one pound per year.
Unfortunately, perimenopause and menopause cause hormonal changes as you age, which also links aging to weight gain and menopause.
Not only are your muscles up against aging, lower estrogen levels caused by menopause also lead to lower muscle mass and increased fat stores. That may seem like you’re facing an uphill battle, yet you don’t have to be. I’ll explain why in more detail later.
Estrogen comes in three forms: estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). For this discussion, I will discuss estradiol. Estradiol regulates metabolism and body weight, yet it significantly decreases at menopause. This causes weight gain and increased fat mass around the midsection and abdomen.3
You can test your hormone levels at home with a female hormone test from LetsGetChecked. It tests for estradiol through a simple finger prick blood test. You can do the test in the privacy of your own home and then take your results to your functional medicine doctor.
Muscle mass decreases as you age, and your metabolism slows down. The slow down in metabolism means your body turns calories into fat, which makes it harder to exercise it off. Living a sedentary lifestyle and a poor diet will speed up how fast fat accumulates in your abdomen during menopause.
Sleep is a vital part of learning, memory retention, and detoxifying your body. When you don’t get enough quality sleep, your risk of developing chronic issues, including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and weight gain, increases dramatically.
One of the most uncomfortable symptoms women experience during perimenopause is night sweats and hot flashes, which affect sleep quality. I am a hot sleeper naturally, so I use my Chilipad by Sleep.Me at night to maintain a relaxed, comfortable temperature to help me fall asleep faster and enjoy a more restful, restorative sleep. It was very beneficial as I transitioned into menopause.
If you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, try the original Rest and Restore™. For those who need even more support, Rest and Restore Max™, which includes melatonin and valerian root, could be the right choice for you.
There are serious risks with weight gain and menopause, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and breathing problems.4 Let’s talk about the risks associated with menopause weight gain.
How Risky Is Weight Gain After Menopause?
Remember, estrogen levels decline once you reach menopause. This drop in estrogen levels is a factor in the increased risk of heart disease.5
Studies suggest that estrogen plays a positive role in heart health by helping keep blood vessels flexible, which reduces stress on the artery wall so it can expand to accommodate blood flow. As estrogen levels drop, blood vessels may become stiff and rigid, increasing blood pressure.
Your cholesterol levels may also change due to the decreased estrogen production, leading to an increased risk of heart disease. As a result of these changes, you may be more prone to atrial fibrillation, an irregular, often rapid, heart rate that causes poor blood flow. Atrial fibrillation can lead to more serious heart conditions.
Low estrogen levels also can lead to insulin resistance. Estrogen helps optimize the action of insulin, the hormone that prevents high blood sugar levels. Consequently, low estrogen levels may lead to insulin resistance or impaired insulin action. Insulin resistance is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
I know this can sound scary. However, I don’t want you to worry. The good news is there is a solution, starting with lifestyle changes, including your diet
How to Prevent Menopause Weight Gain
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula to prevent weight gain during menopause. However, lifestyle changes are a good start to maintaining a healthy weight. These include more exercise, changing your diet, and balancing your hormones naturally. Here are a few steps you can take.
Increasing physical activity through simple actions, such as walking more, can improve your slowed-down metabolism from menopause. Building muscle can increase your metabolism and help you burn more calories at rest. Good options to increase muscle mass include light weightlifting, body weight exercises, and Pilates. I enjoy yoga, hiking, and swimming with my daughter, Elle, to get my body moving.
Not only does exercise boost your metabolism, it also helps balance your hormones naturally. Women experiencing menopause symptoms caused by low estrogen levels can find relief by engaging in daily activity, particularly high-intensity exercises such as running, spin classes, or even jumping rope.6
Ditch Alcohol and Sugar
Drinking alcohol may also increase your appetite, leading you to consume more calories. I recommend reducing your alcohol consumption to an occasional glass of wine or eliminating it if you’re trying to break the link between weight gain and menopause.
Alcohol adds unnecessary calories and sugar to your diet, not to mention most cocktails are loaded with processed sugar. When you eat a lot of sugar, your body begins to resist the hormone leptin, which regulates weight loss by controlling hunger. Another weight control hormone affected by sugar is insulin, which leads to high blood sugar and excess fat storage.
Soda and other sugary soft drinks are also big culprits of weight gain. Don’t be fooled — diet soda is not better. Diet soda contains artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and often caffeine that can disrupt your health. Diet soda can also interfere with your hormones, increase your appetite, and lead to weight gain.
Balance Your Hormones Naturally
The good news is that you can balance your hormones naturally during perimenopause and menopause by eating more protein, eliminating gluten and dairy from your diet, exercising, ditching plastic cookware and water bottles, and choosing non-toxic body products.
One of the easiest ways to restore proper hormone balance is to fill your plate with natural, whole, nutrient-dense foods. I recommend incorporating more wild-caught salmon, kale, grass-fed beef, cherries, and maca root powder to regulate your hormones.
Chronic stress increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, which leads to high insulin levels and weight gain. If you are under chronic stress, your body is always in fight or flight mode and looking for quick bursts of energy to fight off danger, which comes from simple carbohydrates and sugary snacks.
You may even end up craving more sugary and fatty junk food, resulting in more stubborn pounds and belly fat. Managing stress will increase your overall well-being and help prevent menopause weight gain.
I enjoy breathing exercises, meditation, dancing, and listening to uplifting music as some of my favorite ways to reduce stress. I also take Adrenal Support every day to promote a balanced stress response.
The above steps can help break the link between menopause and weight gain. The good news is that you can reverse a slowed metabolism and achieve optimal weight during menopause.
My Optimal Weight Solution
Reducing stress is only part of the solution. As a 53-year-old woman who has been through perimenopause and is now reaching menopause, I know firsthand about the connection between weight gain and menopause.
I created my Optimal Weight Breakthrough™ Program with perimenopause and menopause in mind. This program gives you the tools to tackle stubborn weight gain from menopause, support your metabolism, and promotes optimal weight. It features three pharmaceutical-grade supplements to facilitate fat metabolism and stop sugar cravings.
The superstars of the Optimal Weight Breakthrough™ Program are CLA Metabolism Support and Lean Metabolism Support. Lean Metabolism Support and CLA work synergistically on your gut-brain axis to accelerate fat metabolism. The combo also helps stop cravings caused by too much cortisol.
Lean Metabolism Support is a functional medicine-inspired approach to healthy weight management. Lean works by influencing the control center of your body –the brain. The nutrients in Lean work together to increase your serotonin levels, the neurotransmitter responsible for controlling appetite.
Also included is Double Chocolate Paleo Protein. This physician-formulated protein powder is made from 100% grass-fed hydrolyzed beef and is gluten-, dairy-, and sugar-free. A high-protein meal can help regulate estrogen levels and boost levels of other chemical messengers that regulate energy, metabolism, and hormones.
The Final Word
Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life. As unpleasant as the symptoms can be, you don’t have to live with them. Changing your diet and lifestyle can break the link between weight gain and menopause. For added support, the Optimal Weight Breakthrough™ Program promotes the healthy metabolism needed to maintain optimal weight during menopause and helps you develop the best long term habits to overcome stubborn weight gain.
- Menopause. Mayo Clinic. 2022.
- Vulvovaginal candidiasis in postmenopausal women: the role of hormone replacement therapy<br>. Gayle Fischer and Jennifer Bradford. Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease. 2011.
- Can estrogen levels affect weight gain?. Nicole Galan, RN. Medical News Today. 2018.
- Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age spread. Mayo Clinic. 2021.
- Menopause and Heart Disease. American Heart Association. 2023.
- How exercise helps balance hormones. Piedmont. 2021.