If you’re finding you’re gaining weight during perimenopause or menopause, you’re not alone. According to recent data, ‘menopause weight gain NHS’ is typed into Google more than 7,000 times a year, making it the one of the most-searched-for menopause symptoms in the UK.
It’s common for women to experience sudden weight gain in their mid-40s onwards despite no changes in diet or exercise. In fact, one study found that it happens to around half of all women going through this phase of their lives.
The average weight increase is around 1.5 pounds or 0.7 kilograms per year. And while some of this weight gain can be attributed to the challenges of mid life, (the 40’s to 60’s are one of the busiest times in a woman’s life) hormone changes can make weight loss harder.
In this article, we’ll look at the common reasons for weight gain in menopause, and how you can drop the pounds as well as the associated health risks. Let’s begin!
What is the menopause?
The menopause is the period in a woman’s life where her natural body rhythms change. A woman is officially in menopause when she hasn't had a period for 12 months. The ovaries are no longer producing the levels of the hormone estrogen she has before her 40’s.
Menopause usually happens to women aged between 50 and 55 and the average age in the UK is 51. Monthly bleeding isn’t the only consequence of the oestrogen (estrogen) shortage, there are many other mental and physical symptoms as women's bodies change. Women describe brain fog, night sweats, dry skin, thinning hair and bloating. Mood swings tend to be more prominent in perimenopausal women.
Before periods stop and menopause sets in, there’s a period called perimenopause which generally happens when a woman is in her mid forties. The hormones produced by her ovaries start to fluctuate although she is still producing eggs and having periods and she can still get pregnant.
Over production and under production of hormones from one month to the next can include symptoms such as missed periods, heavier periods, high blood pressure, bloating, constipation, midlife weight gain and more intense PMS. Managing hormones can be tricky and you'll need to work with your doctor or health practitioner if you want to replace them ( HRT) to reduce symptoms.
Why does the menopause cause weight gain?
There are a few things happening during menopause which can cause a woman to gain weight and forces against her which can make losing weight more difficult. It's not just about decreasing her dietary fat and healthy eating. That won't necessarily help with weight loss.
Fat storage can increase
As the menopause approaches, the ovaries stop producing their previous regular- as- clockwork levels of oestrogen( estrogen). The body then relies on backup supplies of a type of oestrogen produced by the adrenal glands and fat cells called estrone to make up the shortfall. Fat storage is increased to access more estrone and in midlife, this fat is concentrated around the midsection. If the adrenal glands aren’t producing estrone the body relies more heavily on fat for hormones.
Muscle mass can decrease
Just like estrogen, when menopause starts, the body produces less testosterone. This drop in testosterone can cause your metabolism to slow down which means it takes longer for your body to burn fat. As testosterone levels drop, this can also causes a decrease in muscle mass which burns more calories than fat.Less muscle means less fat burning. Less fat burning means more fat storage and an increase in belly fat.
More stress can increase fat
An increase in anxiety, and stress are common during perimenopause and menopause and usual eating habits can go haywire. Many menopausal women turn to food or alcohol for comfort when stressed and that food is often refined carbohydrates or something high in fat or sugary foods. This, in turn, can contribute towards weight gain in menopause. Not only that, but stress causes cortisol levels to rise, and cortisol can directly increase belly fat.
You can't get a good night's sleep
Difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep is another very common menopause symptom. This can deplete energy levels and make us less likely to be motivated to exercise, feel hungrier and make bad food choices. This, of course, can also have a knock-on effect on our weight. You need to clean up your diet to get better sleep.
How long does menopause weight gain last?
If you’ve noticed weight gain, you might be wondering if it’s temporary. And while it’s possible that this weight gain might only last a short time, it’s not uncommon for it to persist until the end of the menopause, which for most women is 8-10 years from their last period.
Being overweight carries serious risks to women's health which can include Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease. Fortunately, however, weight gain is not insurmountable, and there are some steps you can take to decrease the risks it carries.
One thing to remember is the way your body works is affected by hormone levels and the tactics you’ve used in the past to lose weight, probably wont yield the same results as they used to.
How do you know if you need a menopause diet plan?
Firstly it’s important to have a clear idea about how much excess weight you’re carrying so you have a clear goal. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence ( NICE) in the UK has updated its guidance on the identification and classification of overweight and obesity. The 2022 updated NICE guidelines advise you to keep your waist measurement to less than half your height.
What is a healthy waist measurement for adults?
How To Measure Your Waist Size
- Place the tape measure around your middle halfway between the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips - which should be just above your belly button.
- Pull the tape measure so it’s snug but isn't digging into the skin.
- Breathe normally, no sucking in your stomach, and take your measurement.
What is a Menopause Diet Plan?
The Menopause Diet plan is based on a mediterranean style diet which is considered one of the world's healthiest diets and includes nutritious food to support a healthy lifestyle. It can also help with weight control and decrease levels of ldl cholesterol.
There is scientific evidence that a mediterranean style diet can help to reduce blood pressure and is also good for regulating blood glucose levels. This is perfect for women in menopause as they can struggle with blood sugar and high blood pressure as a consequence of less oestrogen.
Is there enough protein in the Menopause Diet Plan?
The diet ensures you are both eating protein regularly and you get enough protein. This includes plant protein like pea protein and fatty fish like salmon and sardines. The diet includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes which wont make regulating blood glucose levels harder. Healthy fats like avocado and dairy products are also included.
You’ve probably heard it before, but the only way to lose weight is to be in a calorie deficit. If your goal is to maintain a lower weight, you should aim to consume less calories than you burn.
As a rule of thumb, this NHS guide suggests 1800 calories for menopausal women as well as physical activity. The NHS recommends that to lose 1lb per week you need to decrease your calorie intake by 500 calories which would give you a goal of 1300 calories a day if you want to lose weight.
Exercise routines - it's non negotiable
According to the NHS, regular exercise and physical activity is the best way to increase your body’s ability to burn calories which makes losing weight easier as well as decreasing your risk of heart disease. You should focus on aerobic exercises like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming as these increase your hear rate and can also help you get a better nights sleep.
A study has shown that strength training can help keep your metabolism in good shape, too, so it’s a good idea to incorporate some of that into your exercise routines.
To summarise – a calorie deficit healthy eating plan which includes enough protein and anti-inflammatory foods like olive oil, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and plant proteins can help to mange weight during menopause.
A steady, calorie controlled, consistent food intake, reviewing your exercising routines and getting enough physical exercise will give you the best chance of improving your overall health.
Not only will these things help with weight loss, but they’ll also help fight back against the other challenges life presents which include menopause symptoms, like tiredness and anxiety.
The Menopause Diet Five Day Plan To Lose Weight
Making sure you have a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine can be tough, even for those of us who enjoy it. It’s important to allow yourself some time off – doing so will help you stick to your goals in the long term. That’s where following The Menopause Diet 5 Day Plan To Lose Weight can be really helpful. The diet focuses on Monday to Friday and lets you ease up a little on weekends.
The Menopause Diet 5 Day Plan to Lose Weight combines menopause meal replacements and healthy meals with real food and exercising five days a week. On Saturdays and Sundays , you can treat yourself to some of the foods you fancy in moderation and relax a little more with light exercise/activity.
It doesn’t matter which days you choose as your treat days – you can save them for the weekend, or spread them out across the week. The most important thing is that you’re sticking within your calorie goals and incorporating moderate or rigorous exercise into your day, five days out of every seven to help burn calories,keep your heart healthy, muscles toned and bones strong.
Eve Biology Meal Replacement Shakes For Menopause
Eve Biology Menopause Meal Replacements are low calorie, vegan, with plant based protein in each serving and come in at 209 calories to help you stay in a calorie deficit. Based on a 1300 calorie goal, replacing breakfast and lunch with Eve Biology shakes would still leave you with 880 calories for dinner and snacks while helping you to feel satisfied during the day.
26 vitamins and minerals have been balanced to help you feel more energetic and improve your immunity. They’re also formulated with ingredients to target anxiety, hot flashes, bloating and brain fog symptoms associated with menopause.
Made with a unique prebiotic fibre they’ll help to increase the diversity of the gut microbiome to support overall health within 7 days. For the Menopause Diet 5 Day Plan To Lose Weight you'll replace breakfast and lunch Monday to Friday and eat a healthy, balanced calorie controlled meal at night.
The bottom line
Menopause weight gain is something that affects many women, but it’s not inevitable. With a good diet and regular exercise, it’s possible to maintain a healthy weight throughout the menopause years if you understand the effect of hormones, the nutrition and exercise your body needs to attain and maintain a healthy weight which decreases your risk of serious disease as you get older.
Sustainable weight management is the key to success. By following a five-day menopause diet plan short term to lose weight, reach a healthy waist to height ratio and understand your calorie needs in your 50’s and 60’s it’s possible to keep the extra weight off in the long term.
Do meal replacement diets work?
Provided the meal replacement meets a strict criteria re calories, nutrients and vitamins dictated by the European Food Safety Authority they can claim to help people loss weight or maintain weight after weight loss based on a science based cause and effect link.
Why am I gaining weight on meal replacement shakes??
Some meal replacement shakes contain more than the recommended calories for weight loss or are missing nutrients or vitamin levels which support weight loss.