A woman's metabolism begins to slow down during her 40s, while the average woman enters menopause around the age of 51. During this period, women often begin to notice extra pounds around their tummy and hips. Dr. Holly L. Thacker from the Cleveland Clinic Center for Specialized Women's Health explains it this way: "Your metabolism is slowing, and your muscle mass is decreasing. Your body is producing less estrogen, which affects your organs and physical processes."
Does menopause cause weight gain? The answer is sometimes, because you aren't helpless or forced to accept weight gain as a normal part of the change of life process. It's possible to take action to guard against gaining weight during menopause. However, there are factors working against you that can contribute unwanted pounds during this new phase in your life.
Hot flashes and night sweats are the calling cards of menopause and perimenopause. The most annoying part of these uncomfortable symptoms is that they frequently occur at night and cause interrupted sleep patterns. It's impossible to sleep if your body is soaked in sweat one minute and then shivering with cold bumps the next. Hot flashes are normal for most women when their estrogen and progesterone levels drop as their bodies become infertile.
Often, menopause and perimenopause strike women during their most productive years. For some, not all of their children have flown the nest, and many become caregivers of elderly parents. Working women might be at the point in their careers when more is demanded of them. Finding a balance between professional demands and responsibilities at home raises stress levels at a time when a woman's body is going through intense changes with difficult-to-manage symptoms.
Instead of controlling their calories as metabolism slows down, many women develop food cravings during menopause. High levels of stress don't help, either, encouraging emotional eating or grabbing quick, high-calorie meals on the run. During menopause, women should begin to make changes if their diets are high in calories, saturated fats, processed foods and salt or if they risk developing health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke or type 2 diabetes as they get older.
Fluctuating estrogen levels are also working against women during menopause. Menopausal bodies turn to secondary production sites such as body fat, organs and skin when estrogen production decreases. When a woman's body tries to balance estrogen levels and bone mass, it transmits an internal message to protect its fat cells. This internal process makes it even more difficult for you to lose weight, because your body instinctively wants to hold on to extra body fat.
Prevent menopause weight gain
Menopause is the right time to get serious about developing a healthy lifestyle. Your diet should consist mostly of vegetables, fruits, lean meats like fish and poultry, and high-fiber grains. Because your metabolism is slowing down, in order to lose weight you'll have to burn more calories than you consume by adding aerobic exercise to your lifestyle. Adding regular exercise to your lifestyle adds heart-healthy benefits and raises energy levels, which many menopausal women struggle to keep up.
Does menopause cause weight gain? It does when women ignore the signs without taking action. When you find yourself shopping for a larger dress size, take the steps necessary to help your body find a healthy balance once again.