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Paige Waehner

Menopause and Weight Gain - Is It Inevitable?

By February 17, 2010

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While I do have some male clients, most of my personal training clients are female and most of them have something in common: They all called me because they'd started to gain weight and, even worse, it seemed to come from nowhere. This weight gain started happening for most of them in their mid-40s and they were mystified. The reason? Most of these women were healthy and fit. They exercised, watched their diets and had always managed to maintain the same weight. For that reason, it was both frustrating and mysterious: Why were they suddenly gaining weight and why was that extra weight showing up around the middle?

Unfortunately, many of them were working their way towards menopause, a time when hormones decline and weird things begin to happen, including weight gain. The reason is a sort of Bermuda Triangle effect that comes from declining estrogen (one of the hormones that helps us manage our weight): A decreased resting metabolism, an increase in calorie intake and a decrease in spontaneous physical activity.

The trouble comes from the fact that this increase in calories and decrease in activity often happens without us being aware of it, especially because many menopause symptoms (such as lack of sleep, fatigue and depression) seem determined to keep us from moving around much.

The good news is, there's something you can do about it and you won't be surprised that the best action you can take has to do with exercise. Learn more about menopause and weight gain and please tell us about your experiences. Have you gone through this or do you know someone who has? How have you dealt with your changing body and what can other women do to avoid gaining weight?

Comments
February 17, 2010 at 10:14 am
(1) Katie says:

Thyroid disease is often part of the picture as women approach menopause. A lot of doctors will dismiss complaints of fatigue, weight-gain, etc as part of menopause, even in women who have a long history of an active, healthy lifestyle. Ask your doctor to run lab work to test for hypothyroid disease. I was diagnosed in my 20′s during routine bloodwork. Severaa=l months ago I told my doctor I was tried after a good night’s sleep & was finding it difficult to follow my normal exercise routine. Her first response was to tell me it was part of getting older & I had to learn to accept it. Or maybe I was depressed. I pointed out that my thyroid levels had not been checked in over a year. Sure enough I needed an increased dose of medication. Within a few weeks I’m back to doing everything I want to do.

February 17, 2010 at 10:37 am
(2) Diane says:

I found that calcium intake was incredibly important though this phase of my life. By adding a supplement, I seemed to be able to fight some of the weight gain.

February 17, 2010 at 10:46 am
(3) scout09 says:

I started gaining about 5 pounds a year in my mid forties, but took off about 30 pounds this year by revving up my exercise routine (more days, more interval training), eliminating some of the more fatty indulgences (fries for one) and cutting back slightly on portion sizes, especially when eating out. I’ve gone from a size 12 to a size 6 and I am very pleased and so is my doctor. The key for me was to not feel deprived or to do any activity that I didn’t fully enjoy. The plateaus have been tough, but I’ve gotten through them, because I know that it is all worth it in the end. I feel better; I look better; I’m healthier, with more energy, stamina and a vibrant attitude. Plus, I will be the weight I was in my 20′s on my next birthday. Who wouldn’t love that!

February 17, 2010 at 10:52 am
(4) scout09 says:

I guess I should comment that I added strength training to my workouts, primarily due to the prevalence of osteoperosis in my family. I also include yoga to increase and/or maintain mobility and flexibility.

February 17, 2010 at 11:23 am
(5) Floy-Dean DeLaune says:

I’m in post-menpausal status. It’s been around 5 years now since my last period. I’m 55 yo and also a PT. Menpause is a tough number to handle. I fought the weight gain and the fatique. You have to get up and move. It’s a lot easier to knock off 5 lbs than wait until you’ve 20 lbs to start a tough routine. The secrete, don’t wait! Reduce your calories especially the trans fat and the saturated fats. I found that to be the real villian. I didn’t need to take any supplements to get me thru it. Sure you have hot flashes but those were controlled by increasing the aerobic activity. It will reduce those hot flashes. Black Cohost helps with the sleeping issues. I’ve never had trouble sleeping until menopause. Weight training is very important. Add lots of weights to your workouts. The more muscle you can add on, the more the body will fight. I found lots of fresh fruits and juicing an important element. Menopause is not pleasant in any woman’s life but you have to fight it. Your body will slow down but you have the power to rev it up and that’s the secret. Being healthy and active going into menopause also is a key factor.

February 17, 2010 at 4:18 pm
(6) Andi says:

I was on hormones for 11 years after a hysterectomy. After a possible TIA scare, they took me off of my hormones which threw me into menopause. I have gained 30 pounds now in 3 years. I had lost 60 pounds years ago and was keeping it off until now. It seems I stay hungry and just don’t have the will power that I used to do. Even when I get strict with my eating habits, I will now only lose maybe a 1/2 pound where it used to be 3 or 4. Then I get discouraged and start eating bad all over again. My body seems to fight me in my attempts. Even before a hot flash, I will feel like I am starving to death. If I wait it out, usually I will have the hot flash, then the hunger feeling is gone. It’s a battle now.

February 18, 2010 at 5:28 am
(7) LuvGH says:

I have managed my weight most of my life. When I gained weight I was able to diet and get it off. I looked great at age 50! I had a mild menopause and was unable to use hormones for health reasons. I was thin and toned and my skin looked good. And I was post menopausal. Well let me tell you, the weight problem gets worse with age after menopause. bad. I’d gain 10 and lose it. And it was very hard to get the weight off. At age 55, my body just seemed to age overnight and I gained weight fast. I lost 15 lbs 2 years ago due to illness. The past year I have gained 20 lbs. I’m always hungry in the evenings, have no urge to exercise due to fatigue. At age 57, I have fat around my middle and just feel frustrated. My skin has not tone and I know this all started when my estrogen level. Depressed? Oh yeah!

February 23, 2010 at 10:54 am
(8) Shayli says:

Battled it for 10 years, now have gotten a handle on it: Less food and more Abs exercise: I am 66 and do about 200 crunches a day, plus some weight work. It seems to be working have lost a total of 23 lbs. since last April.
I am not on a diet plan, just watching the carb intake, and holding to whole wheat everything, and eating lots of salad, without all the extras on it.

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