Weight Gain

The good news is that menopause alone does not necessarily cause weight gain. The bad news is aging does, and so do lifestyle habits and genetics. The weight gain doesn’t have to be inevitable though. You can make changes now that will help you to maintain your healthy weight or get to a healthy weight!

What causes weight gain as we age?

Muscle mass starts to diminish with age and fat increases. This impacts your metabolism. Hormonal changes can cause extra weight around your abdomen, which can cause additional health issues. You need to make some adjustments to your diet and physical activity now in order to meet the changes in your body as you age. 

In the United States, nearly two-thirds of women aged 40 to 59 years and about three-fourths of women 60 years and older are overweight.

The average woman gains about four-and-a-half pounds as she starts the transition to menopause in her 40s, according to research. Women continue to put on about a pound and a half each year in their 50s and 60s.

What do you need to do to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight?

Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet. The key to a healthy weight is what we’ve been told our whole lives: Move more. Eat less. 

But for women journeying through menopause, you may need to move in new ways and eat even less. 

  • Building muscle mass is important as you age. As you gain muscle, you burn calories better and it can help you better maintain (or lose) weight. Muscle strength also helps to protect your bones as you age, so that’s an added benefit to keep in mind!
    • If you’re already at a healthy weight, experts recommend moderate aerobic activity (walking at a fast pace) at least 150 minutes a week or more robust aerobic activity (e.g., jogging), for at least 75 minutes a week.
    • Strength-training exercises are recommended at least twice per week. 
    • If you want to lose weight or have other fitness goals you may need to increase the frequency and intensity of your workouts. 
  • You can’t eat like you used to. Experts suggest you might need about 200 fewer calories a day during your 50s than you did during your 30s and 40s. And that’s just to maintain your current weight. If you need to shed a few pounds, you’ll need to reduce your calorie intake even more. 
    • Focus on low-calorie density foods that make you feel fuller and are healthier for you too. Things like fruits, vegetables and broth-based soups are great low-calorie density foods to try to get more of each day.
    • Limit sweets and alcohol. These temptations can add a lot of calories and pack on pounds, so try to tame your sweet tooth and don’t over imbibe. 
    • Stop eating earlier in your night. If possible, don’t eat anything heavy after 8 pm. 
  • Get more sleep. This may seem ridiculous for women who have menopausal symptoms like insomnia, sleep disturbance and night sweats, but restful sleep really is important to maintaining a healthy weight. See the Symptom Summary on Insomnia and Sleep Disruption for tips on how to deal with these issues. 

Why do you need to worry about weight gain?

It doesn’t seem fair that you need to worry about weight as you get older. It would be nice to just relax a bit. But, remember, healthy aging is the goal and weight gain comes with all kinds of health issues you don’t want to have to deal with, such as: breathing problems, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. And being overweight also increases your risk of various types of cancer, including breast, colon and endometrial cancers.

What else do you need to know?

Now that you understand why weight gain can occur, you can choose whatever lifestyle changes and good habits work for you! Another important thing to remember – your body changed during puberty and perhaps post childbirth and you adapted. The same is true for menopause. Acknowledge and accept that your body is changing and it’s okay. The goal doesn’t have to be to stay the same size as when you were in your 20s. The goal should be to maintain your health so you can enjoy the decades of good living you have ahead of you!

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