Why Women Gain Weight During Menopause (And How To Reverse It) – Part I
This article is the first part in a three-part series on weight gain that women may go through during menopause, and what to do about it.
Menopause occurs when a woman hasn’t had a menstrual cycle for at least 12 consecutive months. Women will also experience perimenopause, which is the transition between regular menstruation and menopause. This time can of course be quite troublesome. Lower levels of estrogen along with lower progesterone levels, and in some cases underactive thyroid hormones, can contribute to many changes such as unwanted weight gain.
Menopause makes you feel a little bit off energy-wise and may cause troublesome weight gain that doesn’t seem to go away. You may be eating healthier, such as including high-fat and low-carb foods into your diet or exercising more, yet the number on your scale is increasing.
So the question is why is gaining weight a major issue for women over the age of 50 after they’ve experienced menopause? And what can you do to ease through these changes?
What Exactly Does Menopause Entail?
Menopause starts when your ovaries no longer release eggs, or when you don’t have a period for a consecutive year. It also occurs when you get an oophorectomy, when the ovaries get removed, or if you have a hysterectomy which also involves the removal of the ovaries. Most women undergo menopause between the ages of 48-51, but it can occur earlier or later.
You undergo perimenopause before menopause. Both of these instances are not easy to deal with, and many people struggle with this as a health issue, since it is a significant bodily change.
How Is Perimenopause Different?
Perimenopause differs from menopause for two reasons alone:
- You still get periods, so there is a chance of pregnancy
- Your hormones undergo wild fluctuations
You also may get irregular periods which can last for up to 15 years in most women; however, the average is around seven or eight years. The average age you start perimenopause is about 45 years old, but some women in their late thirties may start to experience the symptoms of perimenopause.
Perimenopause and menopause have symptoms that come from your body’s inability to create as much progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone, and you may produce more FSH and LH hormones.
This can cause the following symptoms to occur:
- Weight gain
- Dryness of the vaginal area
- Lowered libido
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes that create a sudden sense of heat within the body
- Dry skin
- Night sweats
- Hair loss
- Tender and smaller breasts
Most of the symptoms listed here will go away when you experience menopause because your hormones will stabilize or steadily decline.
Menopause and Weight
Some women can gain 10 pounds during both menopause and perimenopause. This is quite common, and it’s actually healthy. This additional weight will act as a reserve if you get sick or your immune system suffers. Your ovaries will start to produce less estrogen, so the fat tissue helps to bring those levels up.
Gaining weight after your hormones have settled is usually a sign that you have too much estrogen compared to progesterone, so you’ll need these hormones to balance out. If you have normal estrogen levels but lower progesterone, this can be problematic.
If you’re dealing with menopause and perimenopause, you need to manage two things. First, your hormones so that they’re balanced out. Second, you need to change your workout and diet. Below, we’ll tell you how.
Have Your Hormones Tested And Get Checked Regularly
During menopause, your progesterone and estrogen levels will change in many cases, your levels will drop immensely and then stabilize. However, did you know that testosterone also lowers too? This change is responsible for low sex drive, depression, and fatigue, and it also contributes to dry skin and hair loss.
You should get your thyroid and testosterone checked along with your estrogen and progesterone levels. For thyroid hormone testing, get the entire panel of thyroid hormones and antibodies done. Just checking TSH levels and not T3 and T4 levels will not provide you with enough information. Usually, during hormone level checks, a doctor might suggest taking a small amount of thyroid and testosterone to help with any symptoms. The results can be note-worthy.
This is a process, so your hormones and feelings may change every couple of months. This can be frustrating, since something that once worked for so long now doesn’t. If you notice the scale’s going up and you’re not feeling so hot, go see your doctor for hormone and thyroid tests.
Menopause and perimenopause are not predictable. One day you feel great, but the next day you suddenly are bloated, struggle to move around, and even walking can feel like you’re running a marathon.
Stress tolerance also decreases, which causes frustration and anxiety, and it can be hard to mitigate those feelings. Unfortunately, this is quite common during perimenopause and menopause. It’s important to keep track of your hormones, and if you notice something off, adjust as needed.