Women at menopause often experience weight gain, particularly around the abdomen. This is often due to declining estrogen levels, age-related loss of muscle tissue and lifestyle factors such as diet and lack of exercise.
Menopausal weight gain is best managed through healthy eating and exercise.
Body changes at menopause
As you age, muscles decrease in bulk and metabolism slows down. These changes can contribute to weight gain around the time of menopause.
Other physical changes associated with menopause may include:
- Skin changes, such as dryness and loss of elasticity
- Vaginal dryness
- Hair growth (or loss).
These changes may affect a woman’s body image and self-esteem. Taking steps to manage the symptoms of menopause can help.
Estrogen and fat distribution
Estrogen levels may influence body fat distribution. Many women in the early menopausal years gain fat mass as their estrogen levels drop. Women of childbearing age tend to store fat in the lower body (‘pear-shaped’), while men and postmenopausal women store fat around the abdomen (‘apple-shaped’). Animal studies have shown that a lack of estrogen leads to excessive weight gain, although the exact mechanisms are not yet understood.
Other contributors to weight gain at menopause
Apart from declining estrogen levels, other factors that may contribute to weight gain after menopause include:
- Loss of muscle tissue with age
- Lowered metabolism
- Reduced physical activity
- Altered habits – for example, more freedom to eat out.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Menopause and cardiovascular disease
As women get older, their risk of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease increases. This may be partly due to the postmenopausal tendency to put on weight around the abdomen. Body fat stored within the abdominal wall and around the internal organs (visceral fat) is a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease.
Managing menopause-related weight gain
To manage weight after menopause, try to:
- Eat a low-fat, high-fibre diet, like the Manna Diet.
- Take a natural supplement to increase estrogen levels without any side effect. The Manna Menopause Support supplement is packed with phyto-estrogens (Plant derived estrogens), which can help to increase estrogens the natural way.
- Engage in regular and sustained aerobic exercise. This will give your metabolism a boost. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day
- Build and maintain your muscle mass with strength training such as weight training or weight-bearing exercise like walking. (See your doctor before starting a new exercise program)
- Accept the changes to your body.
Avoid crash diets
A crash diet involves severely reducing the amount you eat over a short time. Your body responds to this reduced energy supply by using muscle tissue as fuel. Muscles use up a lot of kilojoules, so if you lose muscle tissue, you have further reduced your body’s ability to burn kilojoules. This means you are likely to put on more weight when you start eating normally again.
Leptin (the ‘fat hormone’) plays an important role in body weight management, as it contributes to appetite control and metabolic rate. Studies show that leptin levels drop after a crash diet, which increases the appetite and slows metabolism.