Weight Gain: Top Tips
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
It's estimated that women gain 2–5 lbs (1–2 kgs), on average, during the perimenopausal transition. However, some gain far more weight. Unfortunately, this appears to be particularly true for women who are already overweight or obese. Weight gain may also occur as part of aging, regardless of hormone changes.
When researchers looked at weight and hormone changes in women aged 42–50 years over a three year period, there was no difference in average weight gain between those who continued to have normal cycles and those who entered menopause.
Another factor contributing to weight gain in perimenopause may be the increased appetite and calorie intake that occurs in response to hormonal changes. In one study, levels of the "hunger hormone" ghrelin were found to be significantly higher among perimenopausal women, compared to premenopausal and postmenopausal women.
The low oestrogen levels in the late stages of menopause may also impair the function of leptin and neuropeptide Y, hormones that control fullness and appetite. Therefore, women in the late stages of perimenopause who have low oestrogen levels may be driven to eat more calories and store fat.
Progesterone's effects on weight during the menopausal transition haven't been studied as much. However, some researchers believe the combination of low oestrogen and progesterone could further increase the risk of obesity.
One predictor of weight gain may be the age at which menopause occurs. A study of over 1,900 women found that those who entered menopause earlier than the average age of 51 had less body fat.
Additionally, there are several other factors that may contribute to weight gain after menopause. Postmenopausal women are generally less active than when they were younger, which reduces energy expenditure and leads to a loss of muscle mass.
Menopausal women also frequently have higher fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance, which drive weight gain and increase heart disease risk.
Although its use is controversial, hormone replacement therapy has shown effectiveness in reducing belly fat and improving insulin sensitivity during and after menopause. Keep in mind that the averages found in studies do not apply to all women. This varies between individuals.
Here are our top tips for managing your weight naturally:
Stop calorie counting, trying different ‘faddy diets’ and instead focus on eating foods that are nutritious, fill you up and give you energy
Make changes to your daily diet that you know you’ll stick to and make new ‘everyday habits’ for life
Consider speaking to one of our nutritionists for expert personalised advice - you can register for early access here
Eat as nature intended. Choose foods that resemble how they’re produced and don’t eat manufactured food e.g. crisps, biscuits, ready-made meals
Portion sizes should relate to hand size; meat, nuts & seeds size of palm; fish, pasta & veggies size of hand; mini-meal size of both fists clenched
Aim for 8 portions of various veggies and two of different fruits each day
Make time to relax and get enough sleep in order to keep your hormones and appetite under control, consider hypnotherapy for insomnia if you are struggling
Eat some protein (lean meat, fish, tofu, eggs, sprouted beans, nuts, seeds, whole-grains, lentils & peas) at every meal
Ditch low-fat, no-fat and fatty foods and eat ‘good’ fats (oily fish, avocadoes, nuts, seeds) regularly
Stop eating white carbohydrates (white bread, rice & pasta) and eat small amounts of brown instead but not after 4pm
Resist simple sugar foods & drinks (sugary drinks, sweets, biscuits, cakes & alcohol) to stop bloating and cravings. Drink plenty of water instead.
Consider taking a daily multivitamin (FEMA 45+), Omega 3 (Pure Fish Oil) and Probiotic (Acidophilus Extra 4) to support digestion & weight loss
Exercise (becoming breathless, hot and sweaty) at least three times a week for a period of 30 minutes
Set exercise goals and rewards (not weight goals) to help you stick to new healthy eating and exercise daily habits
Consider trying intermittent fasting and time-limited eating - find what suits you