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Team Inspiriko - August 2022

Middle-Age Weight Gain:
Is (Peri)Menopause to Blame?

If you’ve been stepping on the scale lately and discovered you’ve gained some kilos despite doing absolutely nothing differently, then menopause weight gain may be knocking on your door. Your 40s and 50s will be full of changes, mostly related to your hormones. Among those changes is weight gain, which is one of the most common menopause signs. The average woman puts up around 4-5 kg during this period! (1).

The reasons why these unwanted extra kilos appear are complex. Hormones, your lifestyle, a slower metabolism and sleep deprivation are the main culprits behind that extra fat you suddenly gain around your waist.

But don’t fret: weight gain during perimenopause and menopause is far from inevitable. Staying fit and healthy is possible by adjusting your lifestyle, exercising more intensely, and eating healthy foods. Below, we discuss everything you need to know to fight those kilos and get rid of middle-age weight gain for good.

Why Do You Gain Weight During Menopause?

If you’re gaining some extra kilos during menopause, you may be noticing a difference in where the fat is deposited. Different from your younger years, when fat deposits mainly around your thighs and hips, when you gain weight during menopause you may notice that fat accumulates around your belly (2). This happens mainly due to decreasing levels of estrogen, which influences where fat is distributed in the body.

It’s clear, then, that weight gain is common during perimenopause and menopause, but why does this happen? Research shows that many factors may be behind weight gain during menopause, such as the following:

Changes in Lean Mass

During perimenopause and menopause, the amount of body fat increases and lean mass decreases, as shown by this study conducted in 2019 (3). Researchers discovered that weight and fat usually climbs at a double the rate and lean mass declines during perimenopause and menopause. This continues until about 2 years after the Final Menstrual Period, suggesting there’s a close relationship between the stop of menstruation and gaining weight. 


Learn where you are in your menopause / perimenopause journey with the help of a personalised report.


Changes in Your Metabolism

Your metabolism also changes over the years as you go through perimenopause and menopause. In particular, your body starts to become less sensitive to insulin (the hormone that “takes” the glucose you eat to your cells to be burned as fuel).

As a result, whenever you eat something high in refined carbs, sugars or alcohol, it will cause a huge sugar spike and cause your insulin to spike, too. This results in sugar cravings, starting a never-ending circle that ends with you gaining weight. And let’s not ignore that becoming insulin resistant can lead to heart failure, breast cancer, dementia and other serious health problems (4).

Recent studies have also discovered that, as we age, we produce more of an enzyme called DNA-PK, which slows down our metabolism and makes it harder to burn fat and lose weight (5). Finally, menopause impacts your gut microbiome (that is, the bacteria and fungi that live in your intestines and help digest everything you eat), changing its composition and making your metabolism slower (6).

This means that if you continue to eat as you did before without increasing physical activity, you’ll likely gain weight.

Lack of Sleep

Staying up all night counting sheep is unfortunately very common during perimenopause and menopause. Particularly in women who suffer from night sweats and hot flashes. To make matters worse, there’s a close relationship between sleeping only a few hours per night and gaining weight (7).

First, if you haven’t been able to sleep properly, you’ll probably be exhausted the next day and without the energy needed to do exercise and burn some calories. Additionally, sleep deprivation can change your appetite, eating patterns and cravings, making you eat more than you should and promoting weight gain.

Your Hormone Levels

The hormonal imbalance caused by menopause is also a contributing factor to weight gain. Some studies, like one conducted in 2012, have associated estrogen deficiency with less energy expenditure, meaning you are likely to do less exercise and gain weight as a result. (8). Also, as your estrogen levels start to decrease, cells starting to store more fat than before (9), especially around your belly.  

What to Do About Unwanted Weight Gain in Menopause?

Did you know that increased belly fat during menopause is so common there’s even a name for it? Many experts call that extra roll of fat around your waist “middle-age spread” when it appears during menopause (7). But in addition to being annoying, having more fat around your belly can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It can even compress your lungs, making it harder to breathe.

So, it’s clear that you should take the bull by the horns and do away with that unwanted fat that has deposited around your belly. But how?

Keep on reading and discover all the ways you can transform your body and recover your confidence and health even during menopause.

Sleep Better

As mentioned above, there’s a close link between the hours you sleep at night and the way your body responds to sugar the next day (10). This means that making an effort and improving the quality of your sleep will pay off in terms of managing your weight and preventing blood sugar spikes. The CDC recommends that adults sleep for at least 7 hours each night! (11)

Some tips to improve the quality of your sleep:

● Avoid screens at least an hour before going to bed. Screens (cellphones and computers in particular) have blue light, which suppresses melatonin production- that is, the hormone that makes you sleepy (12).
● If you have a bad night and don’t get a lot of sleep, avoid consuming sugary foods during breakfast. Go for high-protein options instead, like a chicken omelette or greek yoghurt parfait. This will help prevent sugar spikes and subsequent cravings (13).
● Develop a night routine to relax and slowly drift off to sleep, like using candles or calm music and meditating.
● Limit the number of naps you take during the day so you’re tired at night.
● Avoid caffeine and other stimulants after noon.
● Exercise regularly! It will do wonders to tire your body and calm your mind.

Exercise More

Don’t worry: you don’t need to suddenly become an Olympic athlete to successfully manage your weight during menopause. Current guidelines by the CDC (14) suggest that adults should do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise and introduce muscle-strengthening activities, too. This is particularly important for women who are at a higher risk of osteoporosis.

But what does moderate-intensity exercise mean? Well, anything that gets your heart rate going, like dancing, cleaning your home, going for a brisk walk, swimming… The key is to move your body and fast! For muscle-strengthening, you can do yoga, lift weights or use resistance bands. Even small activities are better than none at all and can bring about immense health benefits, like sharper thinking skills and reduced risk of heart disease, in addition to helping you manage your weight (15).

Supercharge Your Diet

This is a biggie. You’ll need to pay attention to what you’re eating not only to stop gaining unwanted kilos but also to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need while supporting your heart, brain, and bones.

And instead of subjecting yourself to restricting diets that will undoubtedly make you suffer, you can try out a change in your eating habits and adopt, for example, the Mediterranean diet.

This eating pattern focuses on getting all the nutrients and calories you need from vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and whole grains, avoiding all processed foods. Research shows that this type of diet is particularly effective when dealing with menopause weight gain (16).

Track Down What You Eat With a Useful App

If you are to deal with menopause weight gain, then you’ll need to keep track of what and when you’re eating to make sure you stay fit and healthy. If you are stressed out or even worse, sleep deprived, then it may be hard to remember everything you eat in a day.

This is when apps and journals can help you get a clear picture of your eating habits. Some options include Nutrients and My Fitness Pal. Journaling may also be helpful to identify food sensitivities that can develop during this period.

Have Some Miraculous Green Tea

Did you know that green tea can also help you with menopause signs and symptoms? It contains catechins, substances that can accelerate your metabolism and help you burn calories. Researchers claim that having green tea before doing exercise can boost your body’s fat-burning power, helping you lose weight. For instance, in one study people who took green tea before working out burned 17% more fat than those who didn’t (17).   

Embrace the Changes 

No matter what you do, your body is inevitably going to change during this period. The best thing you can do, then, is to embrace this change and accept yourself. Yes, your belly will probably be softer and your hips may be rounder. But that’s OK as long as you’re healthy! 

Get a Little Help From Your Friends

And let’s not neglect the importance of having a good support network during this beautiful but undeniably hard stage in life. Being part of a community of people who are going through the same can help you release stress and anxiety, as you’ll share experiences and feelings that can make the whole experience better. For instance, you can talk with your new friends about the strategies that work for you when trying to fall asleep or share the most low-calorie yet delicious recipe you tried out the other day. 

Talk to a doctor

Last but not least, talk to your doctor about what’s going on with your body. Your physician will be able to reassure you about these changes, help you identify whether your weight gain is on normal levels or not, and devise a diet plan that provides you with all the nutrients you need to stay healthy. 

Final Takeaway

All in all, there are no secret ways to avoid menopausal weight gain or make those kilos disappear. It all comes down to leading a healthy lifestyle, eating all the nutrients you need, and doing an extra effort to exercise regularly. But as long as you’re taking care of yourself, a few extra kilos or a bit more fat around your belly is nothing to be worried about.

These changes in your body are natural and inevitable, so you need to give yourself a little bit of grace. Embrace these changes, love yourself, and make sure you stay healthy so you can enjoy this stage as much as possible!


Learn where you are in your menopause / perimenopause journey with the help of a personalised report.



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3. Greendale, G., Sternfeld, B., Huang, M., Han, W., Karvonen-Gutierrez, C., Ruppert, K., Cauley, J., Finkelstein, J., Jiang, S. and Karlamangla, A., 2019. Changes in body composition and weight during the menopause transition. JCI Insight, 4(5).
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