Menopause is a natural part of ageing and happens around the age of 50 (although it can occur earlier or later) when the ovaries’ estrogen levels deplete.

Many women go through this change suffering the classic menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and a loss of sex drive. However, some women experience weight gain.


What causes menopausal weight gain?

As you age, you may notice that maintaining your current weight becomes more difficult and many women report gaining weight around the menopausal transition.

There are many reasons why women gain weight during or after the menopausal transition. One is because muscle mass decreases during menopause, meaning the body needs fewer daily calories. If you fail to reduce your calorie intake, this will tell you you are over-eating, and you will put on weight as a result. According to the NHS, women going through menopause may need around 200 fewer calories per day.

Another factor in menopausal weight gain is the changing hormone levels in the body. During menopause, the body stores more calories than it burns, which can cause weight gain.


READ MORE: What Causes Menopause Brain Fog

Image with small tiles spelling Hormones, symbolising menopause hormones

The menopause also causes other symptoms that can contribute to weight gain. For example, if you are experiencing severe night flushes and can’t sleep, you will likely have less energy and struggle to remain physically active. This lack of physical activity can also lead to weight gain.

Some women think that taking hormone replacement therapy will make them gain weight, but there aren’t enough studies to prove this.

The good news is that weight gain isn’t inevitable for all women, and you can do plenty to help prevent it, such as eating a healthy diet and leading an active lifestyle.


How risky is weight gain after the menopause?

Weight gain during the menopause can pose risks to your health. If you’re overweight and carry visceral fat around your midsection, you increase your risk of falling ill with health issues such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart disease
  • Blood vessel problems
  • Certain types of cancer including breast, colon and endometrial

How to lose weight during the menopause

It’s important to maintain a healthy weight during the menopause and there are plenty of things you can do to ensure optimal weight throughout, including:


Eat a healthy diet

long board with an array of fruits and vegetables laid out, from fish to fruits and vegetables

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help to prevent weight gain and prevent you from falling ill with certain illnesses associated with being overweight.

Some quick and easy changes you can make to your diet are:


Eating smaller portions

A great place to start is by eating smaller portions. After 40, our metabolism slows down, and after menopause, we begin to lose muscle mass. This means our bodies need fewer calories. If you’re a foodie, cutting back can be challenging, but watching your portion sizes is an easy way to still enjoy the food you love and stop putting on weight. Consider using a smaller plate to help; don’t keep snacking if you feel full.

In addition to portion control, you can look at your diet to ensure it’s as balanced and contains as many whole foods as possible. Your plate should include fruit or vegetables, a small portion of carbohydrates (ideally brown) and a good portion of lean protein sources such as lean meats, tofu, fish, pulses or eggs.

Limit salt, sugar, saturated fat, caffeine, and alcohol in your diet, as these can worsen hot flashes and disrupt sleep.

If you’re worried about your nutrition, you can take plenty of supplements; however, it’s always best to check with your doctor before taking anything new.


Get regular exercise

Menopause and Exercise

Physical activity has a multitude of benefits. It can help with your physical and mental health and help you manage symptoms of the menopause much better. It’s recommended to vary your exercise to reap the rewards, including:


Strength training

Strength training of any kind can help build muscle mass, which helps offset the loss of metabolism caused by the ageing process and loss of estrogen. Strength training activities also help slow age-related bone loss and can play a big part in preventing osteoporosis in later life.

It’s recommended that adults take part in muscle-strengthening activities at least twice per week to see the benefits.


Low-impact aerobic activity

Low-impact aerobic activities push your heart to beat faster without putting too much strain on your joints and bones. Although this will look different for different people, it’s usually attributed to brisk walking, cycling, golfing, and swimming. Regular exercise that causes your heart to beat faster can help reduce your risk of heart conditions, type 2 diabetes, and much more. The NHS recommends that adults get 150 minutes of exercise each week.


Get quality sleep

Menopause and Sleep

Research has shown that the amount of sleep you get can affect how your body stores and burns energy. Sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain, as the hormones for hunger and satiety are disrupted, resulting in feeling hungry.

Suppose you’ve noticed that your sleep is disrupted due to symptoms of menopause. In that case, it can be beneficial to practice good sleep hygiene, such as meditation before bed, avoiding screen time two hours beforehand, and staying away from liquids before hitting the hay!

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Speak to a medical professional about hormone therapy for menopause weight loss.

Once you have tried to change your diet and lifestyle by working with a healthcare professional, you may need to talk to your Doctor about Hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

This helps to relieve many of the symptoms associated with menopause and prevent certain conditions from occurring by supplementing the body with estrogen and progesterone.

Hormone therapy can reduce the risk of chronic diseases and make it easier to reduce belly fat and gain muscle mass (depending on your activity levels). Talk to your doctor about the benefits of menopausal hormone therapy and how it can help you deal with this natural transition.

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