There are some things you can't stop from occurring in life, and for women, it's called menopause. Weight gain during menopause can be one of the most frustrating things to experience. The reason you are gaining weight during menopause can be the result of things that are entirely out of your control, like genetics, normal aging, and fluctuating hormones. At the same time, you might have more control over variables such as overall lifestyle choices.
Gaining weight during menopause is caused by multiple factors besides a decrease in estrogen.
Changes in lifestyle habits could offer helpful methods to reduce weight gain.
Women going through menopause typically see increased abdominal fat, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Exploring the background of weight gain during menopause can help you fight back against the pounds and reverse the complications you could face.
Weight gain during menopause
Women undergo many changes during menopause and dealing with the weight gain adds insult to injury. There could be several reasons you are dealing with this situation, and each could be working in tandem with the other, further complicating the situation.
While it's easy to blame this change on estrogen levels alone, there might be more reasons behind it.
It's part of normal aging
As we get older, the amount of total and lean muscle mass declines and fat will then be the replacement. The fat gets placed in unproportionate places, meaning it does not go to places evenly in the body and tends to accumulate in the abdomen.
As you age, your metabolism tends to slow down too. Metabolism is a necessary process that your body does naturally by converting food into energy. With a slowed metabolism, there is less energy for the body to create muscle mass, so we end up with more fat.
Genetics could be an issue
Genetics are the qualities and traits in our DNA given to us by our parents. Variations in genetics can alter how people respond to specific treatments and have a linkage to the likelihood of developing certain family diseases.
If your mother experienced weight gain during menopause (or other symptoms), you would likely experience the same or similar.
Lack of sleep
Getting a good night's sleep is essential because this is when the body resets and much physiological processing happens, including metabolism. Chronic lack of sleep can lead to other diseases, including diabetes and obesity.
There have been studies that show there is an increased risk of obesity from a lack of sleep. Increased food intake, changes in metabolism, and a decrease in energy and physical inactivity are contributing factors.
Hormones may come to blame as it's common to experience hot flashes and night sweats, leading to unrestful sleep. Hormonal changes in your mood, including depression and anxiety, could also lead to a lack of sleep. A lack of estrogen and progesterone hormones experienced by women during menopause can also cause sleep apnea. Sleep apnea means waking yourself up from snoring and not even realizing it, thus decreasing your sleep quality.
Changes in lifestyle
We tend to become less active as we age. We are already aware that we must stay active to burn calories and maintain weight. As stated earlier, as we age, we lose muscle mass, and fat gets put in its place. To maintain muscle mass, we have to remain active.
It is also possible that changes in diet can lead to an increased gain in weight during menopause. Mood changes from fluctuating hormones and decreased sleep may lead to stress eating and late-night snacking.
There is a fluctuation in the number of sex hormones that happen with menopause, which could also be contributing to weight gain. The ovaries will continue to secrete androgens, such as testosterone, and with this increase in testosterone, there is less estrogen in your body. The increase in testosterone could lead to an increase in fat accumulation in the abdomen.
Other metabolic changes that could be seen with menopause include an impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and issues with cholesterol. These changes could lead to an increase in the amount of belly fat women going through menopause could experience.
Body locations prone to weight gain
Women going through menopause tend to get fat accumulated in the abdominal area. This change in body fat distribution is typically associated with decreased estrogen levels.
Estrogen deficiencies are associated with insulin resistance and lipid imbalances. In most cases, insulin resistance manifests in the midsection of the body.
Issues surrounding menopause weight gain
The problem with how some women gain weight during menopause, aside from the psychological effects it has on women, results from that abdominal culmination of fat.
A large amount of abdominal fat can lead to other diseases like atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes mellitus, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Decreasing weight gain during menopause
We cannot control some things, like genetics and the normal aging process. The good news is that we have other options to combat weight gain during menopause.
Modify your lifestyle. Stay as active as possible by incorporating aerobic exercise and strength training like lifting weights to maintain muscle mass. Start walking and gradually increase activity to integrate exercises that increase your heart rate. Include strength training exercises into your routine at least a couple of days a week. Yoga or Pilates might be an excellent exercise as it helps maintain flexibility and increases strength. Watch your eating habits and consult a nutritionist about decreasing your calorie intake. Consider a plant-based diet and remember to include less processed and high-sugar foods.
Get the sleep your body needs. Just as a baby needs a sleep time routine to make falling asleep easier, you may also benefit from this. Getting into a ritual before sleep is an unconscious way to tell your body it will be sleep time. You should think about the activities you engage in before bed and create a timetable for sleeping and waking up at the exact time every day. Avoid taking that late afternoon nap and opt for going to bed at an earlier time instead. Avoid caffeine too late in the day, even if you think it doesn't usually keep you awake. Caffeine can be found in chocolate and some teas as well. If you enjoy winding down with a cup of hot tea, go for herbal teas like chamomile or ginger, as these do not usually contain caffeine. Laying off of playing around with your phone or watching TV might be beneficial as sometimes this can be an overstimulation to the brain. Invest in some fans and ensure your room temperature is cool enough if you experience hot flashes.
Seek support when needed. There are some instances when behavioral therapy might be helpful. This therapy helps set goals, assists with problem-solving and emotional eating, and prevents relapse. This type of therapy aims to help the person stick to the recommended dietary and exercise regimens.
Sometimes it is not solely menopause to blame for the weight gain, and while it does happen, there are things that you can do to prevent it. This basic understanding of the different reasons for weight gain gives you the foundation to make this time less stressful and emotionally taxing.