Hot flushes and night sweats may be the most talked-about symptoms of the menopause, but unfortunately, they don’t end there. I’ve talked about the 34, yes 34, other symptoms of menopause in previous blogs, but one of the most misunderstood symptoms is menopausal weight gain. Research shows that the average woman gains around 4.5lb during perimenopause and continues to put on about 1.5lb each year during and after menopause. As well as it being easier to gain weight, fat distribution also shifts to the upper body, particularly the abdominal area. Menopause is a time when you may need to try new tactics. By making changes to your diet, exercise and lifestyle, you can bring your hormones back into equilibrium. This will make it easier to maintain a healthy weight and also improve your overall health.

Why do we gain weight in menopause?

Once oestrogen levels begin to fall during the perimenopause, your body starts to lay down fat around your middle and your internal organs. This kind of fat is called visceral fat or ‘internal fat’. It is why menopausal weight gain tends to occur around the upper body. Visceral fat is also partly to blame for the increased risk of heart disease, insulin resistance, and some cancers women face after menopause. To add insult to injury, you may also lose a small amount of muscle tissue as part of the ageing process. This slows metabolism down, making you less efficient at burning calories. The combination of declining oestrogen and slowing metabolism means that most women will gain weight. And that’s without eating more or being less active.

And even if you’re lucky enough not to gain weight during menopause, the drop in oestrogen affects fat distribution. So, even though you might not weigh more on the scales, how fat commonly migrates from the hips and buttocks to the abdomen may change your shape.

Beating the menopause weight gain

Reduce your calorie intake by 200 calories per day 

It’s recommended that you eat 200 fewer calories per day when you’re in your fifties. To keep menopausal symptoms and belly fat at bay, focus on a diet rich in meat and plant-based proteins like avocados, legumes and black beans, healthy fats, fresh fruit, and mineral-rich green leafy vegetables. Also, think about reducing or eliminating processed grains and sugars.

Start by analysing what you eat right now and decide where the savings can be made. It may be helpful to keep a food diary for a few days so that you can better understand your eating habits throughout the day before deciding what can be improved.

Exercise the right way

Not all exercise is good for menopausal women. high-intensity exercise puts too much stress on the body, so you produce more cortisol (which leads to insulin and blood sugar imbalance), and this will cause you to accumulate more fat around the middle. Instead, if you want to see results, exercise at a consistent, moderate intensity. Try walking, running, tennis and swimming. Pilates and yoga are also very beneficial. Gentle resistance exercise will keep your muscles strong, too. Opt for lifting weights, using resistance bands or even gardening!

Dancing is an excellent exercise for alleviating stress whilst improving your balance and boosting your flexibility. When you dance, your brain releases the feel-good chemical dopamine. Plus, it can be a great way to meet other women who are also experiencing the changes of menopause.

Manage stress levels

As mentioned above, any type of physical or emotional stress can spark cortisol production, making it harder to lose weight. That’s fine in the short term, but if cortisol remains elevated for too long, this starts to cause hormone and blood sugar imbalance.

Do more of the things that help you feel positive, practice mindfulness, spend time with people who bring you joy and take some time to go for walks in nature. Studies show that taking just 10 minutes each day to focus on your breath can positively impact both your physical and psychological wellbeing.

Optimise your hormone levels

Visceral fat can increase your risk of heart disease and other conditions, such as diabetes. As well as implementing healthy habits in your daily life, Bio-identical hormone therapy (BHRT) will help reduce increasing fat around the midsection after menopause and improve your heart and bone health. BHRT stands for Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy, which means that the hormone supplement exactly resembles the one your body makes, therefore making it “bioidentical”.

Bioidentical hormone prescriptions are personalised for each patient, and it’s essential for a practitioner to initially assess a patient’s medical history and symptoms and action a blood test. They can then prescribe a treatment plan and monitor a patient’s progress, along with regular follow-up tests. Your doctor will also support you with the nutrition and lifestyle advice and adjustments needed to enjoy a healthy and happy life post-menopause.

If you’re struggling with menopause weight gain, let’s chat about how we can get you looking and feeling yourself once again. Click here to book a consultation.