Even though weight gain during menopause might seem inescapable, there are some things you can do to lose it. In addition to looking and feeling better, maintaining a healthy weight during menopause can prevent heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes later in life.
If you are wondering how to lose weight during and after menopause, keep reading. In this article, we’ll discuss what causes women to gain weight during menopause, how inadequate sleep can impact the body’s fat storage during this phase of life, and the simple lifestyle changes you can make to beat the menopause bulge.
Why Women Gain Weight During & After Menopause?
Although menopause does not officially begin until the menstrual cycle has not occurred for 12 consecutive months, many women notice that they are already gaining weight up to a decade before, during perimenopause.
Considered the onset of menopause, perimenopause typically begins in the mid to late 40s and signals the phase of life when the ovaries begin to shut down and start producing fewer hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
The gradual depletion of such hormones in the body causes symptoms like mood swings, vaginal dryness, loss of muscle mass, lack of libido, insulin resistance, hot flashes, night sweats, and disturbed sleep. And many of these menopause symptoms also contribute to weight gain.
Some women experience low estrogen levels during menopause, while others suffer from elevated estrogen levels. Studies have shown that both contribute to increased fat storage in the body.
During perimenopause, metabolism slows down, the rate of fat storage increases by almost double, and it typically continues to elevate until after menopause. Fat storage during this time also typically changes from the hips and thighs to the abdomen and waist.
Loss of Muscle Mass
The loss of lean muscle mass in women typically begins during perimenopause due to a combination of aging, hormone fluctuations, and a drop in physical activity. For some women, but not all, this shift from lean muscle to fat can mean weight gain during and after menopause.
Many women become more insulin resistant as they age, meaning the body is less able to use glucose as energy, and weight loss is more difficult.
Not Enough Sleep
One of the more common symptoms of menopause is disturbed sleep, often caused by night sweats, anxiety, or depression linked to menopausal mood swings. Interestingly, a recent study concluded that disturbed sleep during menopause can also affect the way the body stores fat.
Why Disturbed Sleep Makes it Hard to Lose Weight During Menopause?
Disrupted sleep or insomnia is a common symptom of menopause and is known to affect more than 50% of women during ‘the change’. For some, disrupted sleep can mean more tossing and turning, for others it could mean waking abruptly and falling back to sleep sometime later, while other menopausal women wake in the early hours of the morning and don’t return to sleep at all.
A good night’s sleep is vital to keep the human body healthy, so it comes as no surprise that inadequate sleep during menopause affects the body in several ways, one of which is burning less fat.
For instance, in a 2021 study by the Endocrine Society, it was concluded that inadequate sleep when coupled with a decrease in estrogen, lowers the body’s ability to burn fat the following day.
Given that the female metabolism is already slowed down during perimenopause, due to a drop in estrogen and the natural aging process, the added effect on the metabolism caused by inadequate sleep is believed to not only contribute to weight gain during menopause but make it more difficult to lose weight too.
How to Improve Sleep During Perimenopause & Menopause?
Inadequate sleep during perimenopause and menopause is generally linked to mood swings caused by fluctuating hormones. Often the stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression that menopausal women feel during mood swings can affect their quality of sleep.
To improve disturbed sleep during menopause, female health experts recommend reducing feelings of stress or anxiety during the day with some regular exercise, yoga, or meditation.
Sticking to a bedtime routine also helps, like avoiding late-night eating or alcohol consumption, turning off electronic devices at least an hour before bed, and trying guided relaxation to fall asleep. Another way to improve sleep during menopause is to address the hormone changes.
Rather than risk the increased chance of cancer, blood clots, or dementia with hormone therapy (HT), we recommend trying an effective natural supplement called Chasteberry.
What is Chasteberry & How Is It Good For Menopause?
Derived from the berries of a tree native to the Mediterranean, Chasteberry has been used as a natural remedy for female health as far back as the Roman Empire. Also known as vitex-agnus-castus, Chasteberry is currently sold in supplement form to help women treat PMS and menopause.
Due to containing phytoestrogens, which are natural substances that copy the effects of estrogen in the human body, Chasteberry supplements help to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings associated with perimenopause and menopause. And our top pick is the Chasteberry Supplements from Intimate Rose with added ginger.
According to our experience of taking a daily Chasteberry supplement, subtle changes in better sleep patterns are noticed after a few weeks and substantial improvements in both mood swings and quality of sleep typically occur after three months.
Top Tips to Lose Weight During & After Menopause … And Keep it Off
The true tried and tested way of losing weight during menopause and keeping it off after menopause is to incorporate a healthy lifestyle that can help manage menopausal symptoms long-term. For example, a combination of eating well, regular exercise, daily relaxation techniques, good sleep, and a trusted supplement like Chasterrry to manage the impact of hormone fluctuations.
The Best Type of Exercise For Weight Loss During Menopause
Understandably, many women feel like slowing down as they reach menopausal age, however, regular physical activity is of the utmost importance, and short workouts are all that’s required.
In addition to staying active for optimal bone & muscle health in the later stages of life, regular exercise during menopause also improves mood swings, and quality of sleep, as well as helping to keep weight in check.
To lose weight during and after menopause and maintain a healthy muscle mass, fitness experts recommend a combination of resistance training and aerobic exercise or cardio.
Aerobic exercise, like walking, jogging, biking, or hiking every day for 15-20 mins significantly helps women to lose weight during and after menopause. Resistance training 2-3 times per week for the same amount of time can help to reduce body fat, tone muscles, and maintain bone health. And short sessions of HIT training are highly effective for losing the belly fat that can build up during menopause.
Eating Well During Menopause
Even though many women continue to try low-calorie diets to lose weight, it is merely a short-term solution at best, and can actually make losing weight more difficult during menopause.
Calorie-deficient diets during and after menopause tend to adversely impact metabolism, fat storage, and muscle mass, essentially making it harder to shift extra pounds. On top of that, low-calorie diets during menopause also contribute to the increased risk of osteoporosis.
Instead of trying a low-calorie diet to lose weight during menopause, consider eating three meals a day that are low in carbohydrates but rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. For instance, studies have revealed that low-carb Mediterranean diets can significantly help in shifting the type of abdominal weight women gain during menopause.
Vegan and vegetarian diets have also been proven helpful to lose menopausal weight and lower the intensity of additional symptoms. A 2018 survey revealed, for instance, that vegans experienced fewer hot flashes than those on a meat-based diet.
Awareness & Relaxation During Menopause
When it comes to managing weight during and after menopause, it’s also wise to consider your overall awareness & relaxation. Being aware that getting older is a part of life and accepting that change will occur can help you to stay mindful and manage the ups and downs.
During menopause, hormones can wreak havoc on women’s emotions, appetites, and cravings. But being aware that these will occur gives women an opportunity to monitor their emotional reactions, snacks, and meal portions to avoid weight gain. This is not to say that menopausal women should follow a strict diet, only that mindfulness with food can be rewarding during this phase of life.
Reducing stress with daily relaxation practices like breathwork, meditation, silent walks, or yoga also helps to reduce mood swings and improve sleep, as well as healthy eating habits.
Hormonal imbalances, mood swings, poor quality sleep, and a slower metabolism can make it more difficult to lose weight during and after menopause. However, more difficult does not mean impossible. If you want to lose weight during or after menopause, following a few simple lifestyle changes could make all the difference.
These include making healthy food choices, exercising regularly, improving sleep patterns, and managing hormone fluctuations with healthy supplements like Chasteberry rather than HT.
Everyday Health – Weight Gain Around Menopause Is Linked to Lack of Sleep - https://www.everydayhealth.com/menopause/weight-gain-around-menopause-is-linked-to-lack-of-sleep/
Endocrine Society - Effect of Experimentally Induced Sleep Fragmentation and Hypoestrogenism on Fasting Nutrient Utilization in Pre-Menopausal Women - https://www.abstractsonline.com/pp8/#!/9188/presentation/2027
Cambridge University Press – Lower resting and total energy expenditure in postmenopausal compared with premenopausal women matched for abdominal obesity - https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-nutritional-science/article/lower-resting-and-total-energy-expenditure-in-postmenopausal-compared-with-premenopausal-women-matched-for-abdominal-obesity/AE8AD0A864F72A9B5D34D482A714E6CA
The Journal of Nutrition - A Lower-Carbohydrate, Higher-Fat Diet Reduces Abdominal and Intermuscular Fat and Increases Insulin Sensitivity in Adults at Risk of Type 2 Diabetes - https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/145/1/177S/4585793
National Library of Medicine - Vegans report less bothersome vasomotor and physical menopausal symptoms than omnivores - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29704911/
Dovepress - Sixteen weeks of resistance training can decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome in healthy postmenopausal women - https://www.dovepress.com/sixteen-weeks-of-resistance-training-can-decrease-the-risk-of-metaboli-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-CIA
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition - Effect of exercise intensity on abdominal fat loss during calorie restriction in overweight and obese postmenopausal women: a randomized, controlled trial - https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/89/4/1043/4596712
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.