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Menopause and Weight Gain Explained

From perimenopause to postmenopause: what's the deal with weight gain?


Menopause weight gain is a common experience. There are four periods of hormonal changes that occur in a woman’s life, typically from the mid-40’s onward. These include pre-menopause (your menstrual years), perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause, and they can all have an effect on your body weight and fat distribution. (Yes, we all have fat — and that’s totally okay!)

A note before we dive in: At Key, we firmly believe that every woman’s body is beautiful and worthy, no matter what. If you are struggling with body image issues, please reach out and find the support you need. No one should have to navigate them alone.

That said, it can be useful to understand the changes going on in your body. We are committed to giving you the transparent and straightforward information you need. So let’s dive in!

Perimenopause and Weight Gain

Perimenopause literally means “around menopause.” This is the first stage of menopause when your menstrual years (pre-menopause years) are coming to a close. During this time, estrogen levels become erratic and progesterone levels decline.

A woman may start perimenopause anytime between her mid-30s and early 50s, but this transition typically occurs in her 40s and lasts four to 11 years. Common symptoms of perimenopause can include:

  1. Irregular periods or periods stopping (this may not apply if you’re on contraception)
  2. Hot flushes and night sweats
  3. Insomnia/disrupted sleep
  4. Brain fog
  5. Weight gain (especially around waist and abdomen)
  6. Skin and hair changes (dryness, itchiness, thinning hair)
  7. Dry eyes
  8. Tingling fingers
  9. Low mood
  10. Headaches
  11. Breast tenderness
  12. Mood swings and irritability
  13. Anxiety
  14. Loss of self-esteem
  15. Reduced libido/sex drive
  16. Vaginal dryness/discomfort during sex
  17. Frequent urinary infections
  18. Increased sugar cravings
  19. Difficulty concentrating and memory lapses
  20. Fatigue/low energy levels
  21. Palpitations
  22. Joint/muscle pain/frozen shoulder

It’s estimated that women gain about 1-2kgs during the perimenopausal transition However, some women gain more weight. This appears to be particularly true for women who are already overweight or obese.

Weight gain may also occur as part of ageing, regardless of hormone changes. It’s a time when women can gain belly fat and lose muscle mass.

Another factor leading to weight gain in perimenopause may be feeling more hungry because of hormonal changes. The low estrogen 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 estrogen levels may need more calories.

Menopause and Weight Gain

Menopause officially occurs once a woman hasn’t had a menstrual period for 12 months. The average age of menopause is 51 years. (If you’re experiencing menopause well before this, you may be in early menopause.)

Up until then, she’s considered perimenopausal.

Many women experience their worst symptoms during perimenopause, but others find that their symptoms intensify in the first year or two after menopause.

Hormonal changes and weight gain may continue to occur as women leave perimenopause and enter menopause. But other factors may also 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.

Postmenopause and Weight Gain

Postmenopause begins immediately after a woman has gone 12 months without a period. The terms menopause and postmenopause are often used interchangeably.

However, there are some hormonal and physical changes that may continue to occur after menopause.

A woman goes through hormonal changes throughout her lifetime that may produce symptoms, including changes in body weight.

How menopausal changes in hormones affect metabolism and weight

During perimenopause, progesterone levels decline slowly and steadily, while estrogen levels fluctuate greatly from day to day and even within the same day.

In the early part of perimenopause, the ovaries often produce high amounts of estrogen due to impaired signals between the ovaries, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland.

Later in perimenopause, when menstrual cycles become more irregular, the ovaries produce very little estrogen. They produce even less during menopause.

Some studies suggest that high estrogen levels may promote fat gain. This is because high estrogen levels are associated with weight gain and higher body fat during the reproductive years

From puberty until perimenopause, women tend to store fat in their hips and thighs as subcutaneous fat. Although it can be hard to lose, this type of fat doesn’t increase your risk of certain diseases.

However, during menopause, low estrogen levels promote fat storage in the belly area as visceral fat, which is linked to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.

How to prevent menopause weight gain

If you’re looking to keep trim during the menopausal years, there are some slight lifestyle modifications you can try to give your body a boost. Here are a few things you can do to prevent weight gain around menopause:

  • Reduce sugar: Cut back on added sugars to reduce the increase in belly fat
  • Add fibre: Eat a high-fibre diet
  • Exercise: Strength training helps build and maintain lean muscle, and also keeps your bones strong!
  • Rest and relax: Try to relax before bed and get enough sleep

Weight gain is common during menopause but there are steps you can take to handle it.

Vitamins & Supplements for Menopause Weight Gain

The ingredients in Key for Peri & Menopause supplements are meticulously researched and expertly formulated to help keep you healthy and give you what your body needs. Between your Essentials Blend and Remedy Blend, there are specific vitamins, minerals and herbal ingredients included to help naturally combat the hormonal imbalances and balance blood sugar levels that can contribute to unwanted weight gain, including chromium, alpha-lipoic acid, magnesium, b12 and zinc.

Ready to feel like the best version of you?

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