Midlife Weight Gain

When you were younger, I bet you could eat, drink and be merry without worrying about weight gain.  In perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause) and menopause, weight gain is a common complaint.

Your estrogen levels begin to decrease. The extra weight suddenly appears in your midsection.  Your metabolism naturally slows from a loss of muscle mass and decreased activity.  Fatigue from a lack of sleep due to anxiety, worry, or night sweats encourages you to crave unhealthy foods.   All this allows those calories to add causing your weight to increase.  

Unfortunately, metabolic changes can also occur along with the increased belly fat so common in menopause.  Post-menopausal women who are overweight are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol.  

There is no quick fix to midlife weight gain but hormone therapy may help. In The Postmenopausal Estrogen/Progestin Interventions Study women using hormone therapy weighed 2.2lb less after 3 years than non-hormone users. Estrogen has been show to help support metabolism and muscle mass.

Fad diets come and go. Choosing instead to focus on lifestyle changes helps promote weight loss and prevents the weight from creeping back on over time.  

Here are simple tips to battle your scale moving in the wrong direction at midlife:

  1. Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night. The Nurses Health Study revealed that women who slept 5 hours or less gained more weight than women who slept 7 hours.
  2. Add resistance training (resistance bands, free weights, kettlebells) 3-4 days per week to naturally boost your metabolism. Muscles burn more calories at rest. There are great fitness apps that are low-cost or even free! New literature recommends focusing on lifting heavier weights to build muscle.
  3. Drink 8 glasses of water daily. Staying well-hydrated prevents your body from confusing thirst with hunger.
  4. Keep a food diary.  It is eye-opening to measure what is actually considered one serving/portion.  There are many great apps to track your daily food intake. Studies have shown tracking your food intake at least 21 days per month helps you stay on track for weight management and loss.
  5. Limit your alcohol intake.  Cocktails add empty calories to your diet.
  6. Try Intermittent fasting. Current science supports intermittent fasting can help with weight loss, especially in menopause.
  7. If you are suffering from menopause symptoms, seek treatment. Hormone therapy improves your quality of life and can help prevent weight gain.
Barbra Hanna, DO, FACOG, MSCP

Barbra Hanna, DO, FACOG, MSCP

Dr Barbra Hanna, a board-certified OB/GYN and Menopause Society Certified Practitioner has 25+ years experience in women's health. She founded MyMenopauseRx to fill the void in menopause healthcare.