Dealing With Post-Menopausal Weight Gain

Reaching menopause has a lot of benefits, but gaining weight may not be seen as one of them.

The extra pounds are likely a result of your body's natural aging process, which causes muscle loss. Another cause of extra pounds? Hormonal changes. Estrogen is naturally stored in fat cells but during perimenopause and menopause, estrogen supplies dwindle. The body ends up holding onto any extra fat it can find to maintain estrogen stores. 

Age and estrogen aren't the only factors to blame. There are plenty of reasons why middle-aged women gain weight and have trouble keeping it off:

  • Busy lifestyles. Many middle-aged women are either re-entering the workforce after years at home raising children or busier than ever at the height of their careers. That means they're spending more hours at their desks and fewer hours being physically active.
  • Increased stress. Aging parents, college-bound kids, marital transitions, increased workloads, community demands, financial name it. Some women respond to stress by eating more and exercising less.
  • Medication side effects. Many health conditions are treated with medications that can cause weight gain. Steroids, hormones, antidepressants, and even some cardiac medications can cause the pounds to pack on.
  • Side effects of health conditions. Autoimmune disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure, migraines, depression, anxiety, fatigue, thyroid disorders, diabetes, and hormonal conditions are common health complications for middle-aged women. All of these can zap energy and make it hard to hit the gym, resulting in an altered metabolic rate.

A slow metabolism and post-menopausal weight gain aren't written in stone, however. You can prevent and counteract post-menopausal weight gain by speeding up your metabolism, increasing your exercise level, and reducing your calorie consumption. 

Speeding up your metabolism requires a two-pronged fitness plan:

  • Cardio/aerobic workouts like jogging, biking, or swimming to burn extra calories.
  • Strength training exercises like weight lifting or bodyweight workouts help increase muscle mass. 

The more calories you burn and the more muscle mass you have, the quicker your metabolism will be.

Reducing calories requires a common-sense healthy diet plan that includes lean proteins and whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. Low-fat dairy and healthy oils are key as well. Some foods such as grapefruits, yams, and brown rice are particularly helpful in boosting metabolism.

Talk to a nutritionist, your physician, and a fitness expert to help you design a total wellness plan and kick your metabolism into high gear. Not only will you keep your weight under control, you'll boost your energy level, ward off mood swings, improve your sleep, and maximize your ability to concentrate and perform at the top of your game during your peak years.