This post is part of the Gorgeous 50’s series inspired by a book given to me by one of my sisters on my 50th birthday – ‘Grown up and Gorgeous in your 50’s’ by Pamela Robson. I will be sharing some of Pamela’s words and my own thoughts along the way. To see all posts published as part of this series, go here.
During and just after menopause, losing weight becomes almost impossible. About two-thirds of woman will put on weight during this time (typically between 5 and 10 kilos). Weight comes on gradually, and tends to accumulate around the middle, because of hormones. Hormones have a direct impact on appetite, metabolism, and fat storage. Some people develop insulin resistance – a condition where the body stores fat, rather than burning kilojoules.
I have not yet reached menopause, however I am more than certain that I am in the perimenopausal phase. Weight gain has already been an issue and weight is much harder to shift than ever before in my life. It does scare me to hear the stories of weight gain after menopause and that it is almost impossible to lose!
I decided a little research on this subject might be helpful to understand the WHYs and WHATs and the following is some of what I found.
A change in hormone levels, mainly oestrogen, may influence body fat distribution. Many women in perimenopause and early post menopause years gain fat mass as their oestrogen 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 oestrogen leads to unwanted abdominal fat, although the exact mechanisms are not yet understood.
Apart from declining oestrogen levels, other factors that may contribute to weight gain after menopause include:
- reduced physical activity and loss of muscle mass
- number of children
- family history of obesity
- anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs
- lowered metabolic rate
- altered lifestyle – for example, eating out more.
Contrary to common belief, weight gain is not linked to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). In fact, some studies suggest that use of HRT is associated with less fat gain and potential beneficial effects on muscle mass. If a woman is prone to weight gain during her middle years, she will put on weight regardless of whether she uses HRT. Some women may experience symptoms at the start of treatment, including bloating and breast fullness, and these may be misinterpreted as weight gain. These symptoms usually disappear within three months of the therapy doses being modified to suit the individual.
Pamela mentioned that some people develop insulin resistance. Unfortunately, my research has well and truly confirmed this to be true. Here is an article I found on How to Avoid Insulin Resistance.
To manage weight gain
To manage weight after menopause, try to:
- Eat a healthy diet (calorie control will help in losing weight)
- Engage in regular and sustained aerobic exercise. This will give your metabolism a boost. Aim for at least 60 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 that are age related and work towards decreasing your risks by taking healthy lifestyle measures.
Avoid crash diets. Consult with your doctor if you need some assistance and/or guidance!
A quick search of Booktopia found the following books on the topic of ‘Menopause and Weight Gain‘ that might be of interest to you:
Are you on the other side of Menopause or perhaps you’re in the perimenopause phase like me? Has weight gain been a problem for you? Please do share your experiences so we can all learn from each other!
Ciao for now,
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