How to Stop Weight Gain During Menopause

Hormonal changes that occur during menopause often contribute to weight gain. Many studies have confirmed that menopausal and postmenopausal women are likely to gain weight and have larger midsections than women who have not gone through menopause. But the reason why this weight gain occurs is not clear.

One research study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology questions how different factors such as age, menopause, and lifestyle changes account for the weight gain often experienced by midlife women. They studied the activity levels of over 3000 women across the country. They found that by remaining active, many women prevented weight gain.

In another study where both men and women were studied over the course of 20 years, researchers found that those who maintained a very high level of physical activity experienced smaller increases in BMI and waist circumference.

mature woman running on treadmill
 Gary John Norman/Getty Images

How to Stop Weight Gain

So, what really causes midlife weight gain? In addition to the hormonal changes that happen in women's bodies during middle age, consider some of the other life changes that often occur.

  • Kids move away from home
  • Decreased workload around the house
  • Retirement
  • Increased travel
  • Increased interest in leisure activities
  • Increased time for social activities, such as cooking/entertaining/dining out
  • Change in life priorities, slower pace in life

Not every person will experience these changes, but many of them result in a decrease in our overall physical activity level. When our physical activity level decreases, so does our metabolism. This pattern has led some researchers to wonder if weight gain occurs because of a change in lifestyle rather than a change in our hormones.

To achieve weight loss or to prevent weight gain during menopause, stay active and eat a healthy diet.

If your lifestyle begins to change as you age, try to keep physical activity and portion control at the top of your priority list.

  • When kids move away from home, use your extra time to exercise. Join a gym, organize a hiking or walking group, or learn a new sport.
  • If you have more time to entertain, learn a few healthy cooking tips and share low-calorie, low-fat meals with friends and family.
  • Travel and leisure activities can include exercise. Many travel companies specialize in active vacations. Instead of laying on the beach, bike, hike, or paddle through your favorite tropical destination.

Can Hormone Replacement Therapy Stop Weight Gain?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the use of prescription estrogen, progesterone or testosterone to reduce menopausal symptoms. In some women, hormone replacement therapy has prevented weight gain. But HRT is also associated with side effects, such as an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

If you would like to consider hormone replacement therapy, speak to your healthcare provider. Together with your physician, you can determine the best treatment for your menopausal symptoms.

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  1. Davis SR, Castelo-Branco C, Chedraui P, et al. Understanding weight gain at menopause. Climacteric. 2012;15(5):419-29. doi:10.3109/13697137.2012.707385

  2. Gold EB, Block G, Crawford S, et al. Lifestyle and demographic factors in relation to vasomotor symptoms: baseline results from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation. Am J Epidemiol. 2004;159(12):1189-99. doi:10.1093/aje/kwh168

  3. Hankinson AL, Daviglus ML, Bouchard C, et al. Maintaining a high physical activity level over 20 years and weight gain. JAMA. 2010;304(23):2603-10.

  4. National Institutes of Health. More Guidance For Hormone Replacement Therapy. Published October 28, 2013.

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