Menopause Weight Gain: Is It Inevitable?
Weight gain is common during perimenopause and especially after menopause. But it’s not inevitable. These six tips will help you avoid middle-age spread.
In your 20s, you could live on pizza and donuts and still button your jeans without a second thought. Now you’re squarely in middle age and it seems that you can put on 5 pounds just by looking at a box of cookies.
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Is menopausal weight gain (what our mothers terrifyingly called “middle-age spread”) inevitable?
“Weight gain is more common before and especially after menopause,” confirms internist Lynn Pattimakiel, MD, a certified menopause practitioner. But that doesn’t mean you have to grin and bear it. “It may take more mindfulness to maintain your weight, but it’s possible,” she adds.
Why (oh why) is it so much easier to put on pounds as you get older? During perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause), estrogen levels start to decline. That hormonal shift slows your metabolism, says Dr. Pattimakiel. “Every year we get older, our metabolisms slow down. Then around menopause, it’s common to see a significant drop.”
That sloth-like metabolism means even if you eat the same (mostly) healthy diet you ate in your 30s, you’re more likely to gain weight. It also makes it that much harder to drop pounds you’ve already put on. “When your metabolism is slower, it’s harder to lose weight,” she says.
As if that’s not frustrating enough, mid-life pounds tend to settle around your middle. (So long, waist, I hardly knew ye…) Unfortunately, extra fat in the abdomen increases the risk of heart-related problems, Dr. Pattimakiel says. So it’s worth making some changes to keep your weight in the healthy zone as you get older.
Whether you’re just starting perimenopause or have already bid a fond farewell to your last period, it’s never too late to get your eating back on track. These strategies can help you avoid weight gain after menopause.
Your doctor can help you pinpoint the problems and work toward a healthier weight. Nutritionists and dietitians can also help figure out a sustainable way of eating to avoid putting on unwanted pounds in middle age.
“It’s easy for life to get in the way sometimes, so you have to figure out what works for you,” Dr. Pattimakiel says. “Weight gain after menopause can feel inevitable, but if you are mindful about what you eat, it doesn’t have to be.”