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Why Exactly Does Menopause Cause Weight Gain?

Menopause is an unavoidable part of aging that everyone woman will one day experience. Along with hormonal changes and resulting hot flashes, menopause often results in weight gain. Most adults have to work hard at maintaining a healthy weight, but when women hit menopause, they may have to work even harder. Some women even find that, although they are sticking to their regular healthy diet, the scale is still moving in the wrong direction. Wanna understand a little more about what’s causing this issue? Read on to learn why menopause causes weight gain and what can be done to help minimize it.

Change in hormones: Though it may seem like the villain here, hormonal changes in estrogen are just a small piece of the weight gain puzzle. The drop in estrogen levels is just one of the culprits. As women approach menopause, they sometimes experience disturbed sleep. This can lead to an increase in cortisol, our stress hormone. This increase, along with the decrease in estrogen, can cue our bodies to hold on to belly fat.

Metabolism slows with age: You can try to fight it all you want, but the older you get, the slower your metabolism becomes. As muscle mass decreases with age, the body will then reduce the rate at which it burns calories. (Yup, more reason to build muscle!)

Decrease in activity: With age and menopause may come a lack in physical activity. Aging can also bring with it aches and pains that prevent you from getting an appropriate amount of exercise. Exercise reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Without exercise, cortisol levels can increase, and we already know why that’s a problem!

Menopause can disturb sleep: As was touched on above, a good night’s sleep helps to manage the body’s levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a fat storage hormone. If you are not getting good quality sleep, your body may be making too much cortisol. The end result of this is almost always belly fat. Not to mention irritability, fatigue, concentration issues, etc…..

Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes, or lack thereof, can also contribute to weight gain. You may be eating the same healthy diet that kept you at a comfortable weight for decades. Once menopause arrived, that same diet resulted in a few extra pounds. This may mean you need to vary your diet as you are responding differently to foods you once tolerated well.

The good news is that you can make some changes and reduce or prevent the weight gain that menopause is known for. You can find my tips here. Also, Chopra’s Weight Loss Module details how women can make changes and improve their weight. Here’s how:

1. Eat a healthy diet: This is great advice for any time in your life. As you age, be sure to incorporate nutrient-dense foods. Fuel up on iron rich foods such as lean meat and eggs. Get the right amount of sunlight to improve Vitamin D levels. Avoid spicy foods and caffeine to help manage hot flashes.

2. Start an exercise routine: Aging women will want to keep moving. Create an exercise routine that includes stretching, resistance training, and aerobics. This can include long walks, swimming, and jogging along with light weights and resistance bands.

3. Behavioral therapy: Try goal setting to help stay on course with your new routine. Committing to take a 30-minute walk three times per week will help you to stay the course and build healthy habits.

It may be tough not to dread menopause and its potential side effects. However, now that you are armed with some good information about why it causes weight gain and how to manage it, you will be well-prepared to make the appropriate lifestyle adjustments when the time comes.

Want to move ahead further in your fight against menopausal weight gain? Get my Menopause Weight Control Program today!

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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