Navigating Weight Gain During Perimenopause and Menopause: Understanding the Changes

Person at their desk with head down

Navigating Weight Gain During Perimenopause and Menopause: Understanding the Changes

Person at their desk with head down

Weight gain is a common concern among women as they transition through perimenopause and menopause. Many find themselves grappling with shifting scales and stubborn extra pounds, especially around the belly. For many, what used to work to get themselves “back on track” like extra miles on the treadmill or spin bike or eating less is not working like it used to. This can be so frustrating and confusing as women hit their 40’s and 50’s and suddenly you have weight gain in places that you never have before!

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal fluctuations are a hallmark of perimenopause and menopause. As estrogen levels fluctuate, women often experience changes in body composition. Estrogen influences over 400 functions in the body, including fat distribution. With lower estrogen levels, fat tends to accumulate in the abdominal area, leading to an increase in waist circumference, which in addition to changes in appearance, can mean increased cardiovascular health risks. [1]

Metabolic Slowdown

Metabolism, the body’s calorie-burning engine, tends to slow down with age. This slowdown is exacerbated during perimenopause and menopause as the decline in estrogen contributes to a decrease in resting metabolic rate. [2] This means you may burn fewer calories at rest, making weight management more challenging. Not to mention, desk jobs and taxiing kids to various activities all week, really lends itself to less overall movement each day.

Lifestyle Factors

While hormonal changes play a significant role, lifestyle factors also contribute to weight gain during this phase, including diet, exercise, and regulating blood sugar. Research emphasizes the importance of diet and physical activity as women who adopt healthier eating habits and engage in regular exercise tend to experience more favorable changes in weight and body composition. [3]

However, exercise and diet alone are not enough if you’re experiencing significant stress, because no matter how well you eat, your body will prioritize your survival…storing any excess calories as fat around the middle. Often, adding more cardio and restricting essential calories, will exacerbate this phenomenon even further.

Weight gain during perimenopause and menopause is a multifaceted issue influenced by hormonal shifts, metabolic changes, and lifestyle choices. While these changes are a natural part of the aging process, they don’t have to derail your health and well-being.

Understanding the factors at play is the first step toward managing weight during this transitional phase. It’s important to remember that every woman’s experience is unique. Working with someone who specializes in the unique challenges of the perimenopausal and menopausal phases can provide tailored guidance and support for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

If you’re looking for a holistic approach to managing your changing hormones in perimenopause and menopause, I help women navigate both the physical and emotional aspects of perimenopause and menopause so you can go from feeling exhausted, foggy, and irritable to clear, confident, and energized, in a way you can keep up with.

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1. **Lovejoy JC, Champagne CM, de Jonge L, et al.** “Increased visceral fat and decreased energy expenditure during the menopausal transition.” *Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.* 2008;93(9):3365-3370.
2. **Poehlman ET, Toth MJ, Gardner AW.** “Changes in energy balance and body composition at menopause: a controlled longitudinal study.” *Obstetrics & Gynecology.* 1995;86(5): 751-757.
3. **Davis SR, Castelo-Branco C, Chedraui P, et al.** “Understanding weight gain at menopause.” *International Journal of Obesity.* 2012;36(1):8-11.

Written by Allison Poole, PT, MPT, WHC

Allison takes a modern approach to women's hormone and pelvic health by taking the hard work and confusion out of caring for your body. She combines her 20 years of clinical expertise, compassion and personal experience to help women navigate perimenopause and menopause with ease.

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