If you’re entering menopause, you might’ve noticed you’re feeling bloated, tired, and your clothes don’t seem to fit quite like they used to. Well, women entering perimenopause tend to gain about 0.5kg a year. So that means that the average woman can expect to put on more than 7kg between the ages of 45 and 60. The good news? According to experts, it’s not inevitable. Here’s all you need to know about menopause weight gain.
But what causes menopausal weight gain and bloating, and what can you do about it? Does HRT (hormone replacement therapy) help or hinder weight fluctuation? And will that pesky bloating ever go away? Find out how to beat the stats with this handy need-to-know info.
Why menopause weight gain happens
Getting older and becoming less active causes loss of muscle mass, which slows down the metabolism. According to experts, it’s this, rather than the menopause itself, that bears the brunt of the responsibility for weight gain in middle age. However, fluctuating hormone levels also play their part.
New evidence suggests that plummeting estrogen levels may encourage us to eat more and exercise less. These estrogen levels also lower the metabolic rate and increase insulin resistance, making it more difficult for our bodies to deal with sugars and starches.
Our hormones also influence fat distribution. Perimenopause weight gain is often associated with the distribution of fat around the abdomen and internal organs, as opposed to the hips and thighs. Feeling stressed? Stress hormones like cortisol promote the growth of that pesky bulge. It’s not simply a cosmetic issue, either – the more inches you add to your waistline, the higher your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even certain cancers.
Whether or not you gain weight, you’re likely to feel bloated and uncomfortable during menopause and perimenopause. Erratic hormone levels encourage water retention and intestinal gas, while reductions in bile (which keeps the intestines lubricated) can cause constipation, resulting in further bloating. Bloating can also be a side effect of HRT.
Minimise bloating by swapping processed carbohydrates like white bread, pasta and rice for whole grains, drinking plenty of water and herbal teas. Also consider cutting back on salt, caffeine and alcohol.
Try switching ‘gassy’ foods (like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, beans, onions, pears, soft cheese and oats) for foods that reduce gas. Gas-reducing foods include grapes, bananas, watermelon, watercress, cucumber, peanut butter, eggs, yoghurt and hard cheese.
Cooking with hot peppers and black pepper can also help. A gentle post-dinner walk or yoga session may help to move gas around the digestive system, relieving the symptoms of bloating.
HRT and weight gain
Many women attribute their weight gain to hormone replacement therapy medication. However, according to experts, this is a myth.
Although HRT may promote fluid retention and bloating, it can actually increase your resting metabolic rate and help you avoid or lose the belly fat associated with perimenopausal weight gain.
Long-term weight gain
The good news? That pesky bloated belly should deflate as you go through the menopause. Sweet relief!
The bad news? Reductions in estrogen and muscle mass will leave you liable to weight gain. Don’t panic though: you can still lose weight after the menopause – simply follow the tips above. Eat right, move more and whittle that waistline away.
Losing weight during menopause
Reducing your thickening waistline can be super tricky during menopause… So can you avoid, curtail or reverse menopausal weight gain? According to experts, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
Most women need about 200 fewer calories a day in their fifties than they did in their thirties and forties. Pick more filling, nutritious foods and eat smaller, more frequent meals to keep your metabolism revved up and your blood sugar stable.
Try to eat a small meal or snack including protein and complex carbohydrates (whole grains and veggies) every 3-4 hours. Also try limiting alcohol and sugar intake.
Staying (or getting) active is also key. The waistlines of those who do just 10 minutes of aerobic activity a day are, on average, 15cm narrower than the waistlines of those who do no exercise at all.
Want to age-proof your figure for menopause weight gain? Try to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down and combine aerobic activities like walking and swimming with strength-training exercise. Remember, the more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest.
Ideal foods for menopause
A menopause diet – which involves eating the right foods for menopause – can help to ease the menopause weight gain we all experience as we reach our mid-life.
So which are the right foods for menopause? As is correct for anyone hoping to lose weight, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and starchy fibres, such as brown rice and wholemeal bread, is always preferable.
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, women who are post-menopausal are also at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, so keeping your heart healthy is imperative during and after the life stage. Post-menopausal women should avoid saturated fats, instead replacing them with things like olive and sunflower oils and spreads.