- Hot flashes and hormonal imbalances come with the territory during menopause — but weight gain doesn’t have to. Here’s how to tip the scale in your favor.
- By Juhie Bhatia
- Menopause Weight Gain Inevitable?
- Eat Less Sugar, Lose More Weight
- Some Eating Behaviors Weren’t Sustainable
- Eat Less, Exercise More to Avoid Weight Gain
- About Weight Gain during Menopause
- Symptoms of weight gain
- Risks of weight gain
- Causes of Weight Gain during Menopause
- Hormonal Causes of Weight Gain
- Other causes of weight gain
- Weight Gain during Menopause Treatments
- How to fight weight gain in menopause
- Gunman opens fire at Pittsburgh synagogue
- Could your DNA help solve a cold case?
- Former FBI profiler on synagogue shooter
- Mail bomb suspect caught but concerns remain
- Trump threatens to “tone up” his rhetoric
- Which party has the edge right now?
- Fall’s first nor’easter brings heavy rain
- Controversy over wild horse roundup in Calif.
- How AI could impact global relations
- San Diego hopes to be largest U.S. smart city
- Marie Antoinette’s jewels heading to auction
- Inside the Cirque Du Soleil creative process
- 8 little mistakes that bring big weight gain
- Three Approaches to Treating Weight Gain
- 1. Lifestyle Changes for Weight Gain
- 2. Alternative Medicine for Weight Gain
- Phytoestrogenic supplements
- Hormone-regulating supplements
- 3. Medications and Surgery for Weight Gain
- Medications for regulating hormone levels
- Other Medications
Warding Off Menopausal Weight Gain
Hot flashes and hormonal imbalances come with the territory during menopause — but weight gain doesn’t have to. Here’s how to tip the scale in your favor.
By Juhie Bhatia
Hot flashes and night sweats aren’t the only unwelcome changes that can accompany menopause. Many women may also notice that their clothes suddenly fit a little more snugly. Although the amount of weight gain varies based on the individual and her activity level, it is not uncommon for a menopausal woman to see an increase of 2 to 10 pounds over a two-year period, says Rebecca Hulem, RN, a certified menopause clinician and author of the menopause book Feelin’ Hot? And those extra pounds aren’t just annoying — recent research suggests that weight gain may increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer post-menopause. The good news? Packing on the pounds is preventable.
“We have much more control over weight gain than we would like to admit,” says Hulem. “Although we would like to blame weight gain that arises around the menopause transition on menopause, it’s not the only thing that’s responsible.”
A Menopause–Weight Gain Connection?
It’s not clear why some women pack on the pounds around the time of menopause. It could be due to hormonal changes associated with menopause or perhaps other factors, such as natural aging and a slowed-down lifestyle. One study found that women transitioning through menopause gained about five pounds and increased their waist circumference by about an inch. These changes, however, weren’t associated with their stage of menopause, suggesting that other culprits may be behind the additional weight.
“The metabolic rate slows with age. This means that a woman eating the exact same number of calories a day will maintain her weight at age 20 but will gain weight at age 50,” says Nanette Santoro, MD, professor of ob-gyn at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “Add menopause to this, and for some women, it’s the perfect storm.”
Dr. Santoro notes that two other factors can also play a role. Insulin sensitivity decreases with age, and many women lose lean body mass (muscle) around the time of menopause. Both can facilitate weight gain.
Warding Off Menopausal Weight Gain
To add insult to injury, it’s often harder to shed these new pounds than it was in previous years. “All weight is harder to lose with aging, because the metabolic rate is slower and, with aging, people tend to get less active or more injury prone,” says Dr. Santoro.
Although there’s no magic formula to avoid weight gain as you age, these strategies can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight:
- Be proactive. “Anticipate that weight gain is in the cards,” says Cynthia A. Stuenkel, MD, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego. Don’t wait for the weight to add up before switching to a healthier lifestyle.
- Increase your physical activity. “Find an activity, preferably aerobic, that you enjoy, and do it regularly for at least 45 to 60 minutes, four to five days a week,” says Hulem. Aerobic exercise, such as jogging and dancing, boosts your metabolism and helps burn fat.
- Do strength training. Exercises such as weight lifting can boost your metabolism, as well as increase muscle mass and strengthen bones. Building muscle mass is also more likely to protect against future weight gain, says Santoro.
- Watch your diet. “Take a good look at your diet, and see what you can do to improve it. Cut refined carbohydrates, and limit alcohol ingestion,” says Dr. Stuenkel. Also be aware of portion sizes, and try to consume fewer calories each day, particularly fat calories. Women need about 200 fewer calories a day to maintain their weight as they enter their mid- to late 40s, according to the Mayo Clinic. One word of caution though: Because menopausal women are at increased risk of bone density loss, it’s especially important to keep up with daily calcium requirements if you’re simultaneously trying to lose weight.
- Rule out a thyroid problem.Hypothyroidism, which often develops in women at midlife, can also contribute to weight gain, so have a thorough checkup if you are rapidly gaining weight.
These lifestyle changes can have other benefits too, says Stuenkel, such as improving your state of mind and lowering your risk of serious health conditions such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and more. “All that leads to enhanced self-esteem and what [world-renowned anthropologist] Margaret Mead called PMZ — postmenopausal zest.”
Keys to Weight Loss After Menopause
Fewer Desserts, Sugary Drinks Linked to Long-Term Weight Loss
This content has not been reviewed within the past year and may not represent WebMD’s most up-to-date information.
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“>From the WebMD Archives
Aug. 28, 2012 — As she approached her 50s, Susan Williams found it harder and harder to maintain her weight, let alone shed the extra pounds she had been working to lose for some time.
“I was working out as hard as I ever have, but I was gaining weight,” the Atlanta-based film production executive says. “It’s a constant struggle.”
Now 52, Williams says she has recently revamped her diet to include more fruits and vegetables and less sugar and white flour — and she’s managed to lose a few pounds.
Menopause Weight Gain Inevitable?
Conventional wisdom says weight gain is inevitable with menopause and that losing weight is difficult. But a new study questions this wisdom.
Researchers examined eating behaviors among postmenopausal women in their 50s enrolled in a weight-loss study. They identified those behaviors that were common in women who managed to shed pounds and keep them off.
Cutting way back on sugary desserts and drinks topped the list, followed by limiting meats and cheeses and eating more fruits and vegetables.
“People who were able to decrease their consumption of desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages tended to have more success losing weight and keeping it off,” says researcher Bethany Barone Gibbs, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh.
Eat Less Sugar, Lose More Weight
The study included about 500 overweight and obese postmenopausal women with waist sizes greater than 31.5 inches. None of the women had high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes.
Half the women followed a weight loss plan that included regular meetings with nutritionists, exercise specialists, and psychologists. None of these options were available to the other women, but they were given the opportunity to attend seminars on general health.
The women were followed for four years. During this time those in the nutrition and exercise group lost an average of 8 pounds, compared to around half a pound among those in the general health group.
Behaviors associated with weight loss at six months in the combined groups included eating:
- Less sugar (desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages)
- Fewer fried foods
- More fish
- Eating out in restaurants less often
After four years, behaviors linked to long-term diet success emerged:
- Also eating fewer desserts and drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages
- Eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer meats and cheeses
The study appears in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Some Eating Behaviors Weren’t Sustainable
Barone Gibbs speculates that strategies that led to short-term but not long-term weight loss, such as restricting fried foods and eating out less often, may be difficult to sustain.
Margery L. Gass, MD, who is executive director of the North American Menopause Society, tells WebMD that while weight gain is common among women in their 40s and 50s, menopause is not to blame. Gass is a professor of obstetrics at the University of Cincinnati.
“It happens to men as well as women,” she says. “For some reason, as we get older weight seems to redistribute to our middles. This is not good because fat in the abdomen increases [heart disease and stroke] risk.”
Eat Less, Exercise More to Avoid Weight Gain
Gass says that while weight gain is not inevitable, most middle-aged women need to eat less and exercise more than they once did to maintain their weight.
“Virtually all of my patients who have been successful tell me they have done this,” she says.
She notes that weight gain around the time of menopause is much less common in Japan than in the U.S., suggesting that Western eating patterns are largely to blame.
Women in Japan typically eat more fruits, vegetables, and fish, and less sugar, red meat, and fast food than women in the United States.
“Japanese women also live longer than women in any other country (an average of 88 years), and their healthier diets are a major reason for this,” Gass says.
Barone Gibbs, B. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Aug. 28, 2012.
Bethany Barone Gibbs, PhD, assistant professor, department of health and physical activity, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Margery Gass, MD, executive director, North American Menopause Society; professor of obstetrics, University of Cincinnati.
Susan Williams, film producer, Atlanta, Ga.
How To Lose Weight In Menopause And Keep It Off
The most common concerns expressed by my menopausal and postmenopausal patients are how easy it is to gain weight and how hard it is to lose weight. It’s a real challenge, so much so that many women believe menopause causes a shift in the body that makes it impossible to lose weight. But is this really the case?
A recent study tried to answer the question by examining the eating habits of 419 overweight and obese menopausal and postmenopausal women.
Some women were encouraged to make eating behavior changes through regular meetings with nutritionists, exercise physiologists and psychologists while the other “controls” received only limited health education.
After four years, 57 percent of the postmenopausal women encouraged to make lifestyle changes maintained at least a 5-pound weight loss compared with 29 percent of the controls.
What food changes worked best to get weight off and to keep it off? Eating more fruits and vegetables but fewer desserts and sugar-sweetened drinks, as well as less meat and cheese, were key.
I know you’ve probably heard this before. But now it’s a proven fact. And so is the reality that increased weight affects most menopausal women, and that this increases the chances of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, particularly of her hips and knees.
The other thing that this study suggests: As you enter menopause and beyond, the rules for weight control are really the same as they are before menopause.
So how can you best use this information? Here are five steps you can easily take to lose weight in menopause and keep it off.
1. Make time to exercise daily. You don’t have to run a marathon. Just 30 minutes daily walking or gardening or dancing. It doesn’t even have to be at the same time — add the times together for a total of 30 minutes.
2. Talk with a nutritionist. You’ll be amazed at the stuff in your refrigerator and cabinets that isn’t good for you that can be swapped out for healthier choices.
3. Keep the soda and sweetened juices out of the house. Try seltzer water with a lemon or lime wedge. So refreshing!
4. Keep fruit in a bowl in plain view. You’ll be amazed at how it encourages snacking on them (and keep sweets out of view or better out of the house and use only as a treat). I love to snack on sliced apples flavored with cinnamon.
5. Pick a partner to exercise or walk with and pick a time to do it. It will become part of your schedule and, therefore, much more likely to do.
Click here for a free healthy recipe from my cookbook, Eat To Defeat Menopause.
Weight Gain during Menopause
Did You Know
Up to 64% of American adults are considered either overweight or obese.
As women approach menopause they experience many symptoms, including menopausal weight gain. While it is one of the more frustrating symptoms of menopause, it is also one of the most common.
In fact, up to 90% of menopausal women will experience weight gain to some degree. Although weight gain is a natural and common aspect of getting older, there are ways to reduce it. By better understanding why it occurs during menopause, women can work to prevent menopausal weight gain. Continue reading to learn more about weight gain, its causes, and treatment options.
About Weight Gain during Menopause
Weight gain takes place when body mass increases, whether as a result of fat deposits, additional muscle tissue, or excess fluid. However, weight gain associated with menopause typically increases fat around the abdomen.
On average, women gain between 12 and 15 pounds between the ages of 45 and 55, when menopause typically occurs. This extra weight generally does not evenly distribute itself throughout a woman’s body, but instead accumulates around the abdomen. Read below to learn the common symptoms associated with weight gain during menopause.
Symptoms of weight gain
Women generally know when they have gained weight and do not need to learn how to identify this menopause symptom. Some of the indicators, however, are unique to weight gain associated with menopause. At the right is a list of symptoms of weight gain during menopause.
Risks of weight gain
Weight gain during menopause entails more than just aesthetic concerns. Several diseases and other conditions can develop as a result of a body burdened with excess pounds. Here is a list of conditions weight gain can lead to:
Weight Gain and Breast Cancer
Women who gain in excess of 20 pounds after menopause increase their breast cancer risk by nearly 20%, but those who lose 20 pounds after menopause reduce their breast cancer risk by as much as 23%.
- Heart disease, stroke
- High blood pressure
- Breast cancer
- High cholesterol
- Kidney disease
- Sleep apnea
- Insulin resistance (increasing diabetes risk)
- More severe menopause symptoms
Click on the following link to learn more about weight gain, or continue reading below to learn what causes weight gain during menopause.
Weight gain is often reported as a symptom of menopause and, if it is not dealt with, can have serious effects on health. The causes are numerous and so it is important to be aware of possible personal triggers. This article is a guide to menopausal weight gain.
Weight gain in middle-aged women is a common trend, but it does not mean a woman should simply resign herself to this fate. Excess weight can cause health problems, so it should be avoided. This article explains why middle-aged women are more likely to gain weight and the health problems this can pose.
Causes of Weight Gain during Menopause
As the years progress, metabolism slows, setting the physiological stage for weight gain. Although age itself can lead to weight gain, women approaching menopause have particular cause for concern. As a woman’s hormone levels fluctuate prior to menopause in preparation for the end of menstruation, they are likely to experience weight gain.
Hormonal Causes of Weight Gain
A drop in estrogen and progesterone can increase a woman’s appetite and cause her to eat up to 67% more, according to one study. An increase in appetite coupled with a slower metabolism with the onset of menopause can cause weight gain in women. This could, perhaps, account for the 12% jump in the number of women who are overweight during midlife compared to women in their 20’s and 30’s.
Hormones have complex functions in the body, including weight control. Here’s a list of the different hormones that can affect weight gain and how:
As a woman’s ovaries produce less estrogen, her body attempts to draw from other sources of estrogen. Fat cells can produce estrogen, so her body works harder to convert calories into fat to increase estrogen levels. Unfortunately, fat cells do not burn calories the way muscle cells do, which causes weight gain.
Water retention is often linked to menopause because water weight and bloating can result from a decrease in progesterone levels. Though this doesn’t actually result in weight gain, clothes can feel a bit tighter and a woman may feel as though she’s heavier.
The amount of this hormone increases at the onset of menopause. It’s responsible for redistributing weight to the midsection instead of to the hips.
Hypothyroidism and Weight Gain
Women with an underactive thyroid often experience weight gain because their metabolic rate slows down as a result of the condition. In some cases, hyperthyroidism can also cause weight gain, but that is rare. Thyroid hormones essentially regulate calorie consumption in the body. With an underactive thyroid, fewer calories are burned and converted into energy. Instead, they are stored in the body.
Other causes of weight gain
Although hormones are largely responsible for weight gain during menopause, there are other factors that can play a role as well. They are separated into two categories: age and lifestyle factors.
Age and Weight Gain
Beginning at about age 30, an individual’s physical abilities begin to decrease and continue deteriorating until about age 60 or 70. The body’s abilities then level off and decline at a slower rate. The rate of decline depends largely on an individual’s physical activity and particular lifestyle. This decreasing physical ability affects weight because a person becomes less able to engage in physical activities that help to maintain a stable weight by burning calories. To compound the potential for weight gain with age, the metabolic rate begins to slow after age 30, which also leads to weight gain.
Lifestyle and Weight Gain
Even though physical changes are an unavoidable part of getting older that leads to weight gain, a woman’s lifestyle is also a hugely important variable that can either tip the scale in favor of extra pounds or fend off weight gain. Below are some lifestyle factors that can lead to weight gain:
- Reduced physical activity
- Changes in eating habits
- Medication use
- Drinking excess amounts of alcohol
Click on the following link to learn more about the causes of weight gain during menopause, or continue reading below to find out some of the best treatment options for weight gain associated with menopause.
Many people trying to adopt a healthy diet pay a lot of attention to the foods that cause weight gain, but drinks are often forgotten. Many of them, however, are highly calorific, and if care is not taken to reduce intake of certain beverages, weight can still increase, regardless of diet.
The link between smoking and weight gain is hazy, and there is often contradictory advice, meaning people are divided in opinion. This article examines the evidence available in order to determine what the link between smoking and weight gain really is, and whether smoking is the cause of piling on the pounds.
Weight Gain during Menopause Treatments
When looking for treatments for weight gain, it’s important to begin with methods that are the least obtrusive, with the least likelihood of side effects, and progress from there.
Did You Know
Most women experience a 5% decrease in metabolic rate per decade. Because metabolism slows as women approach menopause, they need about 200 fewer calories a day to maintain their weight as they enter their mid to late 40s.
This means that lifestyle changes are the best place to begin. The tried and true way to cope with weight gain is to exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet, practicing moderation.
Typically, combining lifestyle changes and alternative medicines will produce the best results. When seeking out alternative medicines, keep in mind that because weight gain during menopause is associated with hormonal imbalance, so look for herbal supplements that bring a natural balance to hormonal levels, as this will go a long way toward curbing weight gain at the source.
Finally, if a woman is still experiencing weight gain, there are different prescription medications and surgeries she can explore, such as diet pills or bariatric procedures. This final option comes with the most risk and side effects and should be considered a last resort. A healthcare professional should be consulted before undergoing one of these options.
Click on the following link to learn all the specifics about treatments for weight gain during menopause, which begin with lifestyle changes, move onto alternative medicines, and finally, if those options don’t seem to help, medications and surgery.
Weight gain around the abdomen, which is the most common type of weight gain during menopause, is associated with heart disease and diabetes. This means that losing weight during menopause is not just an aesthetic choice, but one that can also significantly improve your health.
Diet plans that promise a quick, easy way to lose weight are very rarely effective, especially in the long term. Beware of any weight loss program that depends on diet pills or eating only prepackaged foods or drinks. The best way to lose weight is to focus on healthy eating and healthy activity.
Tips On How To Lose The Belly Fat After Menopause
As a woman progresses in her later years, aka her menopause years, she loses estrogen. One frustrating consequence of this lost estrogen is that the normal contours of her body change. What she now finds that instead of weight settling on her hips, it goes to straight to her belly.
Even a thin woman may be frustrated to discover that, as her estrogen levels decline during perimenopause, she is suddenly sporting belly fat, a place that she may never have had to worry about before now.
And it is not only women that suffer this fate.
Men often refer to their belly fat as “the beer belly”, beer gut, pot-belly or front butt. For men, this sudden increase in belly fat can be due to the loss of testosterone levels that results in them suddenly developing belly fat in their later years.
Whatever the reason, belly fat occurs when excessive abdominal fat accumulates around the stomach and abdomen and has built up to the extent that it is likely to have a negative impact on health.
Making it a priority and trying to lose some of your belly fat is important, not only for personal appearance and vanity, but also for your health with research showing the significance of belly fat and its role in the risk of acute myocardial infarctions, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as other inflammatory conditions.
Understanding the Causes of Belly Fat After Menopause.
Stubborn belly fat is a major problem for many people. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to get rid of it through various diets or different exercise routines; this fat remains and seems impossible to remove. Hence, why it’s called stubborn fat!
Women are more likely to gain excess belly fat, especially deep inside the belly, as they go through perimenopause and into menopause. This is due to the fact that as estrogen levels drop, body fat is redistributed from the hips, thighs and buttocks to the abdomen.
For men, the natural reduction in testosterone that occurs as they age means excess calories are often stored as visceral fat and thus the accumulation of belly fat occurs.
The increase in stress levels and the cortisol connection that goes with this added stress, have been attributed to the reason behind belly fat also. Research findings support the hypothesis that cortisol secretion might represent a connection between stress and abdominal fat distribution.
Here are a few suggestions on how to lose weight after menopause.
1. Simple dietary changes that help your body lose its fat stores.
The number one rule in trying to reduce belly fat means that you DO NOT start by decreasing your fat intake. Not all fats are created equal and not all fats are bad fats. In fact, eating certain fats can help you in decreasing belly fat.
Good fats that you need to be adding to your eating regime include avocado, olives, salmon and coconut oil. A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that eating three 5-ounce servings of salmon per week for four weeks as part of a low-calorie diet resulted in approximately 2.2 pounds more weight loss than following a diet that didn’t include fish.
Dan Mendilow shares some fantastic points on what you need to do to turn your body into a belly-fat burning machine by replacing a few unhealthy foods with healthy foods. Dan goes on to explain the importance of eating certain fats and why you should not be shunning them in your quest to lose your belly fat.
Apple cider vinegar is a great way to kick-start your metabolism and get belly fat moving. The acetic acid in the vinegar produces proteins that can help you burn up fat stores. With stress and the resulting increase in cortisol secretion, your body starts to produce more insulin as you age, since your muscle and fat cells aren’t responding to the increased levels of cortisol properly. With the increase in insulin comes fat storage, especially around your belly. A diet high in protein may protect you against insulin resistance, thus decreasing belly fat.
Zack Arnold helps to put things in perspective by saying the following: There is no such thing as the perfect diet, only the perfect diet for you.
Zack continues to explain, what works for one person perfectly may be a miserable failure for another person. Diet is based on individual tastes, ethnic background, environment, genetic makeup, as well as your caloric needs based on your level of physical (and mental) activity.
These are just a few tips to help you with your belly fat challenge. I would love to hear if you gained belly fat in your later years and, if so, do you have any tips you would like to share?
Julie Dargan is a Nurse, Naturopath BHSc and has worked in the wellness industry for over 30 years. Julie’s FREE 5 Day Kickstart Program is excellent to get you on the right track to help you lose weight and find hormonal harmony in the menopause. Sign up now and enjoy the free program in 2016. Julie recently released an exciting eBook that explores why diets do not work and how to get you in the correct mind frame to lose weight. Julie also has a Facebook page for women over 50 and looking for solutions to halt weight gain in the menopause.
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Weight gain in menopause: Why does it happen, and what can you do?
All too often the “change of life” results in unwelcome changes in the number on the bathroom scale. Many women find that no matter how sensible their diet or how frequently they exercise, they still start packing on the pounds once menopause begins.
This problem is primarily driven by estrogen loss that occurs during menopause. Estrogen loss causes a number of health issues, one of which is deterioration of muscle mass. Because muscle burns more calories than fat, less muscle also means fewer calories burned, all of which adds up to a recipe for a slower metabolism.
Speaking with CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook, Dr. Lori Warren, a gynecologist and a partner with Women First of Louisville, said weight gain is one of the top complaints among her patients.
“As a gynecologist one of the biggest things I’m asked is, ‘What is going on with this weight gain as I’m aging and going through menopause,'” she said. “And it kind of creeps up on women and all of the sudden they’re angry about it when they come in for an annual visit and they’ve gained 10 pounds and they say, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me that I might gain weight?'”
8 little mistakes that bring big weight gain
Think saying no to “super size” is the only way to limit your portions? Think again
Sudden weight gain is not only frustrating; it can have a long-term, detrimental effect on a woman’s health. Menopausal weight gain tends to be isolated to the mid-region of the body — known to many as a “muffin top.” Belly fat isn’t just unattractive. It also increases risk for a number of serious health problems, including diabetes, heart attack and stroke.
Warren, who is also the founder of passthepearls.org — a non-profit organization that educates about women’s health and gynecologic surgery options — says first and foremost, it’s crucial to take a close look at your diet. “The most potent medicine we can put in our mouths is the food we eat. You have to eat the right food,” she said.
Women need to understand that eating and exercising the same way they have in the past may not be good enough as they age.
Warren recommend cutting down on bread and other carbohydrates, and eating foods that are low on the glycemic index, which is a system that ranks foods from 1 to 100 based on the effect they have on blood sugar. And of course, be aware of portion control.
Studies have found moderate diet modification efforts can also make a difference when it comes to other common complaints during menopause. One study of 17,473 post-menopausal women, published in the journal Menopause, examined how diet impacts woman’s health in midlife. The women enrolled in the trial were randomly assigned to either a control group or required to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. A year later, the researchers found not only did the women on the healthier diet lose weight, they also experienced fewer hot flashes than women in the control group.
But Warren said it’s not just about choosing the right foods and knowing when to put down the fork. Staying trim later in life also requires more frequent and consistent exercise.
“My prescription for every patient who leaves my office is you have to walk 30 minutes a day. That’s the minimum,” she told LaPook. “If you really want to keep your weight the same and not gain weight in your waistline, you have to increase your heart rate somehow — whether that’s a cycle class or aerobics of some kind or Zumba — whatever you like to do. But you have to really get a sweat, you have to move your heart rate up.”
Weight Gain Treatments
Few women complete the menopausal transition without incurring at least slight weight gain. Up to 90% of women experience some amount of weight gain between the ages of 45 and 55 as they enter menopause, and on average, they will gain between 12 and 15 pounds (5.5 – 7.0 kg) during this period of time.
Since menopausal weight gain often occurs due to changes in estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone levels, it is possible to stop the gain by treating the hormonal imbalance.
Although it was once typical to prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopause symptoms, the medication’s connection severe side effects – including an increased risk of heart disease – has caused many doctors to reconsider this drastic option. Rather, they recommend a combination of lifestyle changes and alternative treatments to combat weight gain.
Three Approaches to Treating Weight Gain
Three approaches can be considered regarding weight gain treatment. These are divided into: (1) Lifestyle Changes, (2) Alternative Medicine, and (3) Medications and Surgery.
Women are urged to begin with the least-risky form of treatment, lifestyle changes, before trying other methods. Medications and surgery should only be turned to in highly severe cases.
1. Lifestyle Changes for Weight Gain
- Eat a balanced diet of moderate portions Exercise regularly
- Avoid excessive alcohol intake
- Sleep seven to eight hours per night
- Avoid sedentary activities
While the first level of treatment involves the lowest risk, it conversely demands the most self-control. Small lifestyle adjustments can often go a long way in controlling weight and improving overall well-being.
Fundamentally, regular exercise and an improved diet are the keys to limiting weight gain. Even if a woman has not made any substantial changes to her diet, she may experience weight gain during menopause. This is because fluctuating hormone levels also affect metabolism. During menopause, a woman may need to consume fewer calories than before to maintain the same weight.
Dietary Changes to Lose Weight
- Moderate portion size Choose unsaturated fats over saturated fats Replace refined carbs with whole grains
- Avoid soft drinks
- Focus on fruits and vegetables
- Avoid fried and greasy foods
- Consume estrogen-boosting foods, like soy and alfalfa
Easy Exercises to Control Weight Gain
Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, five days a week. A woman can start with lower-intensity exercises and gradually work up to a higher level.
Lifestyle changes are a healthy and wholesome way to manage weight gain, but the time commitment may prove difficult. In addition, they do not balance all the hormones whose levels can contribute to menopausal weight gain. Fortunately, alternative medicines are a safe and effective way to balance hormones and help fight weight gain. Continue reading to find out more about natural treatments for changes in weight.
2. Alternative Medicine for Weight Gain
This approach encompasses several treatment methods. Herbal supplements are the most prominent because they require less of a time and monetary commitment and are easier to follow. In addition, herbal supplements are the only alternative treatment form that can fully balance the hormonal system.
Herbal Energy Stimulants
Herbal Appetite Suppressants
- Green tea
As for herbal supplements, there are two primary types that can affect hormone levels: phytoestrogenic and hormone regulating herbal supplements.
These supplements, such as black cohosh, contain phytoestrogens, or estrogen compounds that originate from plants. Supplying the body with these compounds can help balance estrogen levels, but eventually, the presence of outside hormones can make the body less able to produce natural hormones, resulting in a deficiency in the long run. Therefore, extended use of these supplements is not recommended.
Alternatively, supplements like Macafem do not contain any hormones. Rather, these supplements support the hormonal glands with nutrients, which stimulates natural hormone production at proper levels. This balances not only estrogen, but also other hormones that affect weight, like testosterone. In sum, Macafem is safe and effective because it promotes natural hormone production and can be used long-term.
From “Nature and Health Magazine,” Dr. Gloria Chacon says:
“Macafem nutrients help restore natural hormones in women. Unlike hormone drugs, which are basically resumed in taking synthetic hormones, Macafem acts totally different in your body. It nourishes and stimulates your own natural hormone production by inducing the optimal functioning of the endocrine glands.” Click on the following link if you want to read and learn more about Macafem.
A combination of approaches is what most menopausal women use to control weight gain. Many find a mix of lifestyle changes and alternative medicines to be effective. However, in severe cases when other factors contribute to weight changes in addition to hormonal imbalances, medical invention may be needed. Nonetheless, women should not advance to this treatment stage without first assessing the potential risks.
3. Medications and Surgery for Weight Gain
The third approach involves the most risk and is typically the most expensive as well.
Medications for regulating hormone levels
In recent years, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been the most popular medication for menopausal weight gain. Though it can be a quick and effective way to treat symptoms, it also entails unsafe side effects, including an elevated risk of some types of cancer that affect women, as exposed in the study below.
In 1991, the National Institutes of Health began the Women’s Health Initiative, the largest clinical trial ever carried out. It was intended to research the pros and cons of HRT, but it was cut short 11 years later, when it was concluded that synthetic hormones raise the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease, blood clots, and stroke.
Some medications are available to promote weight loss, but they may not be effective on their own; they are best used when paired with a healthy diet and exercise.
- Orlistat – for blocking the absorption of fat
- Appetite suppressants
- Combination drugs
The most extreme of weight loss options, bariatric surgery is reserved for those with a body mass index over 40 who have not been able to lose weight in any other way. The different procedures include:
- Adjustable gastric band
- Gastric bypass
- Duodenal switch
- Vertical sleeve gastrectomy
The three approaches to treatment can be combined as necessary in order to best treat the symptoms. More and more women are finding that a blend of herbal supplements and changes in lifestyle produce the greatest results in managing menopausal weight gain.
Menopause Weight Gain And Loss
Fat weight gain around the midsection is something that normally occurs in many women around the time of menopause. Please note that I said normally, not inevitably. Understandably, this new tummy makes women very unhappy. Adding injury to insult, it has been clinically proven that midsection fat increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer, heart attacks, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s dementia, and high blood pressure, as well as high cholesterol levels.
In response to this midsection fat weight gain, women are typically advised by their physicians to “lose weight.” They are told to modify their diet, increase exercise or both. Sound familiar? Have you tried to lose your new tummy by changing how you eat and exercise? Are you frustrated and resigned because you have tried everything and it hasn’t worked?
The reason it hasn’t worked is not because you haven’t given it your all. It’s because the advice is wrong; it misunderstands the physiology underlying your newly acquired fat.
The truth is, you will never permanently get rid of this type of fat weight by decreasing caloric intake or increasing the amount of exercise you do. You could lose it for a few months, but it will always come back. In fact, decreasing calories or increasing exercise actually makes this type of fat weight gain worse because these weight loss methods cause further hormone imbalance.
In simplest terms, your new midsection fat weight gain is caused by your body’s response to your menopause, not by how much you eat or exercise. Therefore, the only way to counter this type of fat weight gain is to properly treat your menopause.
To put this in perspective for you, let’s start by understanding the physiology of why menopause triggers weight gain around the middle.
The Physiology of Fat: As explained in other articles in this series, menopause is the permanent loss of your sex hormone system. It is the time in your life when your body is no longer able to produce adequate levels of the sex hormones estradiol (the estrogen made in your ovaries) and progesterone.
Most people (and many physicians) think that sex hormones are only important for reproduction and physical beauty. This is far from true. In fact, these hormones play a number of important roles in your body, some of which I have noted here. They affect memory and mood because they are neurotransmitters and they affect the levels of other neurotransmitters. They help your immune system to work by modulating the inflammation that occurs in your body. They also are important in regulating digestion. In addition, balanced sex hormone levels affect the body’s ability to respond to insulin, improving insulin sensitivity. This helps you rebuild and repair tissue. For more information about the myriad ways in which the loss of your sex hormones affect your health, read: Blame it on Menopause.
Because of its importance in performing these other critical functions, when you lose the ability to produce sufficient estradiol and progesterone, your body looks for other ways to make them – especially estradiol.
Production of more progesterone is not as critical an issue as is the production of more estradiol because your adrenal glands are a secondary source of progesterone production. At any given moment the levels of progesterone in your body are at least 1,000 times that of the levels of estradiol. Unlike the production of estradiol by the ovaries that usually ends up at “zero,” the production of progesterone from the adrenal glands is life-long. So, the loss of the sex hormone system is really more about the loss of the hormone estradiol than it is the loss of progesterone. However, once you do begin to restore estradiol (see below), you will need to make sure that you also supplement with progesterone (especially if you have a uterus) to maintain the right balance between these two hormones.
So, what is the connection between fat cells and estradiol production? Well, as I have explained in previous articles, all of the systems and sub-systems of your body are interrelated and interdependent. When one system or sub-system is compromised or out of balance, the other systems and sub-systems of the body try to compensate for this imbalance. Fat production due to low levels of estradiol is a great example of this fact. Unfortunately, the degree of technical information and detail required to accurately explain everything that happens exceeds the scope of this article. Suffice to say, through a number of processes that involve other hormones such as insulin, ACTH, and the stress hormones adrenaline, cortisol, and DHEA, the body works to produce more estradiol. It does so by producing another type of estrogen called estrone that can then be converted to estradiol. The production of the estrone by conversion of DHEA occurs in fat cells. So, to enable this conversion, the body produces more midsection fat. Again, please remember, this is a very simplified explanation of a very complex process, but the point remains:
Your midsection fat weight gain is caused by your body’s stress response to insufficient amounts of estradiol.
And here’s the bad news – despite all the physiologic magic that takes place among all of these hormones and hormone systems, the body still cannot produce the amount of estradiol you need. You still have a hormone imbalance and a new tummy!
Now, Let’s Trim That Waistline with HBTx
So, if you understand the relationship between midsection fat weight gain and your sex hormone levels, then you also understand that getting rid of your newly acquired midsection fat is not simply a function of diet and exercise.
The fat weight gain is going to happen regardless of how little you eat and how much you exercise. In fact, if you over-exercise or under-eat, it can actually make things worse. That said, proper diet and exercise are extremely important to your health and metabolic balance. In the case of menopause, you must also restore your sex hormones. By doing so, the body no longer needs to build fat in order to produce estrone to convert to estradiol.
How do you restore your missing sex hormones? The only way to effectively and safely restore your missing sex hormones is with supplemental bioidentical estradiol and progesterone administered in a bioequivalent manner, through a protocol known as Hormone Balancing Therapy or HBTx™. See: “Treat the Problem Not Just the Symptoms With Bioidentical Hormones”
Whenever you lose a hormone system, your metabolism is affected. This is equally true for menopause. One of the first signs of menopause is fat weight gain around the middle. This is the same fat weight gain that numerous studies have shown to increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer, heart attacks, type 2 diabetes etc. To be absolutely clear, your risk for breast cancer increases when you lose your sex hormones.
Ironically, many women avoid “taking hormones” for fear that doing so will increase their risk for breast cancer. There is validity in this concern depending on how a woman supplements her lost sex hormones. Certain traditional approaches to sex hormone replacement, often called HRT, which use hormone drugs instead of bioidentical hormones, and do so in a continuous combined instead of a bioequivalent manner have, in fact, been shown to increase the risks both for breast cancer and for heart disease! So please be sure to read more and understand why HBTx is both effective and safe and why other methods fail to treat the cause of menopause and, in doing so, actually accelerate the aging process and increase long-term health risks.
To your health and happiness,
Diana Schwarzbein, MD
NOTICE: The information contained in this article: (i) is provided for educational purposes only; (ii) has not been evaluated by the FDA; and (iii) is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. You are advised always to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before making any decisions or taking any action that may affect your health. The publication of the information contained in this article and elsewhere on this website does not create a doctor/patient or any other professional relationship between you and Diana Schwarzbein, MD.
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