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Oregon Family Magazine

The Menopause Weight Gain Myth

07/05/2023 ● By Ayushi Singh
Menopause is a natural biological transition that occurs in every woman's life as she reaches her late 40s or early 50s. Along with the hormonal changes and various physical and emotional symptoms, women often hear about the dreaded weight gain during menopause. This notion has perpetuated a common myth that menopause inevitably leads to weight gain. However, it is important to dispel this myth and provide women with accurate information regarding menopause and its impact on weight.

According to the Science Daily, “Globally, around 1.5 billion adults are overweight, and of these around 300 million women are obese. Obesity rates have doubled since 1980, especially in Western countries. There are a variety of reasons for the increase, not only lifestyle reasons. In general, more women than men are obese, and fluctuations in sex hormones have been proposed as being implicated in the weight gain.”

Understanding Menopause:

Menopause marks the end of a woman's reproductive years, characterized by the cessation of menstruation for a continuous period of 12 months. During menopause, the ovaries gradually produce fewer hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. These hormonal fluctuations can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, and changes in body composition.

Are hormonal changes during menopause directly linked to weight gain?

“No, they are not, but a decline in estrogen, which is what defines menopause, affects where women gain weight.  When you're in perimenopause and are gaining weight in your 40s and 50s, it can be difficult to believe that weight gain isn't a result of hormonal changes, but it's important to remember that women are aging at the same time as they are going through perimenopause, which can last from four to 10 years,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN, Co-author, The Menopause Diet Plan, A Natural Guide to Managing Hormones, Health and Happiness.

Lifestyle Factors:

Several lifestyle factors contribute to weight gain during menopause. These factors include reduced physical activity, decreased muscle mass, and changes in dietary habits. Many women also experience an increase in appetite and cravings, often for high-calorie foods. Emotional factors like stress, anxiety, and mood swings can also affect eating behaviors.

Tips for Managing Weight during Menopause:

Regular Exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity is crucial for managing weight during menopause. Here are some key points to consider:

Cardiovascular Exercises: Include activities like brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling to increase heart rate, burn calories, and improve cardiovascular health.

Strength training, or resistance exercise, is a must for midlife and beyond. The suggested amount is at least twice a week on two different days. Strength training is the key to making and keeping muscle. Women should also get a total of 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity exercise weekly, which amounts to about 30 minutes, 5 days a week of brisk walking, jogging, or other aerobic activity, ” Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN said.

Strength Training: Incorporate resistance exercises such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises to build and maintain muscle mass. This helps boost metabolism and support weight management.

Flexibility and Balance Exercises: Practices like yoga or tai chi can improve flexibility, balance, and overall body strength, enhancing overall fitness levels.

Balanced Diet

Adopting a balanced and nutritious diet is essential for weight management during menopause. Consider the following guidelines:

Eat a variety of whole foods: It's important to take a good look at what you're eating and how much to prevent midlife weight gain. A balanced, plant-based (but not necessarily free of animal foods, such as low fat dairy and lean meat, seafood, and poultry) with the right number of calories for your goals (weight loss or weight maintenance) is the best approach. Also, ,” she says.

Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your meals.

Portion Control: Be mindful of portion sizes to avoid overeating. Use smaller plates and practice mindful eating techniques to savor your food and recognize feelings of fullness.

Limit Processed Foods and Added Sugars: Minimize consumption of processed snacks, sugary drinks, and desserts, as they are often high in calories and low in nutritional value.

Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to maintain hydration, support metabolism, and prevent overeating.

Stress Management

Managing stress levels is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight during menopause. Here are some strategies to consider:

Relaxation Techniques: Practice stress-reducing techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or mindfulness to alleviate stress and promote emotional well-being.

Engage in Enjoyable Activities: Pursue hobbies, engage in social activities, or participate in activities that bring joy and relaxation, as this can help reduce stress levels.

Seek Support: Share your experiences and concerns with trusted friends, family members, or support groups. Consider professional counseling if needed.

Prioritize Sleep

Getting sufficient and quality sleep is important for weight management during menopause. Consider the following tips:

Create a Sleep Routine: Establish a regular sleep schedule and create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal your body that it's time to wind down.

“Adequate sleep is a must for weight control. Women should sleep about 7-8 hours a night to better help regulate hunger and satiety hormones. However, it's important to note that sleep can be illusive during perimenopause because of hot flashes, anxiety, and needing to pee during the night,” she says.

Create a Restful Environment: Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet. Use comfortable bedding and consider using white noise machines or earplugs if necessary.

Limit Stimulants: Avoid consuming caffeine, alcohol, or stimulating activities close to bedtime, as they can interfere with sleep quality.

Regular Health Check-ups

Schedule regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor your overall health, hormonal balance, and discuss any concerns or questions related to weight management during menopause.

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