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Why does menopause cause you to gain weight?

While menopausal symptoms vary for everyone, some might struggle with changes in their weight and shape.

Why does menopause cause you to gain weight?
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During menopause, a change in hormones can alter regular functions like digestion and appetite. It can also result in changes to the distribution of body fat and mass.

While menopausal symptoms vary for everyone, some might struggle with changes in their weight and shape. This is extremely common and while it can be incredibly distressing, know that there are ways you can treat this.

In fact, this is why Juniper exists — to help women access holistic and clinical healthcare that treats menopause and weight gain while also breaking the stigma connected to these topics.

To gain a better understanding of the relationship between menopause and weight gain, we've compiled a handy guide just for you.

What is menopause?

In scientific terms, menopause marks the end of a woman's ovulation, and by definition, is the stage of life beginning 12 months after her last period [1]. It is brought on by a natural decrease in female sex hormones, like oestrogen and progesterone.

Typically, menopause begins between the ages of 45 and 55, however, one can also experience early menopause as a result of illness, injury or other disruption to one's hormones [2][3].

In menopause, the ovaries stop releasing eggs and your periods will cease. It can also result in a number of physical and mood-related changes.

Perimenopause, on the other hand, describes the period prior to menopause, where the body adjusts to the ongoing reduction in sex hormones.

What changes occur in menopause?

The symptoms of menopause and peri-menopause vary for all, but can include:

  • Changes to — and eventual end of — the menstrual cycle
  • Reduced skin elasticity and increased dryness
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Hair loss
  • Hot flashes and variations in body temperature
  • Changes in energy levels and mood
  • Reduction in sleep quality, e.g. insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Changes to body composition, which can include weight gain, weight distribution and increased abdominal fat etc [3][4].

Why do you gain weight during menopause?

There is a combination of factors that can potentially contribute to weight gain after menopause.

Firstly, your metabolism tends to slow down during this period and in some cases, you can develop greater insulin resistance. You may also experience an increased appetite [1].

It's also common to feel like you have less energy, which can result in less movement and exercise. It is thought that the weight gain many women can experience is related largely to a reduction in spontaneous activity [5].

And finally, changes in oestrogen and androgen levels also affect the distribution of body fat, which can shift to your abdominal area.

It is important to note that a range of factors can contribute to weight gain at any age. These include genetic, socioeconomic, lifestyle and other health factors [1].

What is the average weight gain during menopause?

The amount of weight gained during menopause will vary from person to person and research can only give a ballpark figure. Keep in mind that every person's body reacts differently and not everyone will gain the same amount of weight.

A study of women in the 1980s found that the cohort gained an average of 2.5kg over three years during menopause. 20 per cent of the women gained 4.5kg or more, while three per cent lost 4.5kg or more [6].

Other studies claim the average menopausal weight gain is around 2.1kg [7].

Having said that, a lot of research concludes it is difficult to put a precise figure on weight gain related to menopause. It is agreed, however, that everybody tends to gain weight as they age and this is considered to be pretty normal.

Generally speaking, studies have found that people gain an average of 0.5kg per year, related to ageing [8].

Why is menopausal weight gain often around the stomach?

It's common for menopausal women to experience an increase in belly fat or weight around the midsection, which is related to a drop in oestrogen hormones — this is known as hormonal weight gain.

The dominant female sex hormone, oestrogen, typically encourages weight to gather in subcutaneous tissue around the hips. During menopause, oestrogen drops and androgens rise. This encourages more fat to gather in the abdominal area [1].

Does weight gained in menopause go away?

Many women wonder whether menopause weight gain is inevitable and permanent, or if it is avoidable and temporary. Unfortunately, there isn't a straightforward answer to this question.

As we mentioned, all people tend to gain a small amount of body weight each year as they age. But, the symptoms of menopause and the bodily changes that occur during this time can make it extremely difficult to prevent weight gain from occurring.

It can also feel near impossible to lose menopausal weight just through a healthy diet and exercise routine. This is where Juniper comes in.

How to manage weight gain in menopause

While there's no one right way to manage weight gain during menopause, there are a few things you can do to make the menopausal transition slightly easier. In fact, Juniper has a whole program dedicated to helping you improve your health through weight loss.

Juniper's weight loss treatment program is designed to help you achieve long-term weight management with the assistance of medical experts and health coaches. The program includes a breakthrough medication, which works to regulate digestion, decrease appetite and shift your approach to food, as well as health coaching, peer support and one-on-one health tracking with your doctor to track your progress.

When you consider that up to 80 per cent of your weight is determined by your genes, diet and exercise don't often cut it [9]. This is why Juniper's medication address weight on a biological level, coupled with behavioural changes, for lasting weight loss.

We know that a healthy weight looks different for everyone and methods of achieving this is not one-size-fits-all.

Healthy habits to help manage menopause

Diet

If you are instructed to lose weight by a medical professional, you may consider reducing your calorie intake while maintaining a nutritious diet. This can be most easily achieved by cutting back on complex carbohydrates, high-fat and high-sugar foods, and following a balanced, nutritious eating regime.

If you're finding it difficult to manage your calorie intake, replacing your meal with weight loss shakes is an easy way to get the nutritional needs of a balanced meal while being low on carbs, calories and sugars. Juniper's nourish shakes are easy meal replacements and can be purchased on a subscription or a one-off if you want to try before you commit.

Considering menopause can lead to insulin resistance and high blood sugar, avoiding sugary and processed foods and consuming more low-GI foods is also recommended. Some have also found a Mediterranean diet can help with weight loss in menopause. [8]

Fad and crash diets should be avoided as these won't help you lose weight and keep it off in the long term.

Exercise

It is important for folks of all ages to maintain physical activity. For women transitioning to menopause, consider trying

  • Aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercises like swimming, cycling or brisk walking can give your metabolism a little kick. Do at least two to three hours of moderate aerobic exercise per week, or 30 minutes per day.
  • Strength training or resistance training two or more days per week. This can help increase muscle mass and support bone strength. Before doing any weight training, however, check in with a medical professional for guidance [4][8].

NOTE: An individual's exercise requirements may vary depending on body mass and other health factors. Consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

Medication

Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT) also offers a path to managing weight gain and other symptoms.

For example, for the management of menopause symptoms more generally — including hot flushes and night sweats — there is MHT, previously referred to as hormone replacement therapy and Juniper's Menopause Treatment, which includes unlimited follow-up consultations with a doctor online.

It’s more than just weight loss

Thousands of Australian women have found new confidence with Juniper.

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