Menopause is an important stage in a woman’s life. It marks the time when her menstrual cycles end and puts a stop to her ability to reproduce. This is also a time when a woman can go through multiple physical, psychological and hormonal changes in the body. One common issue is the tendency of obesity or weight gain during menopause.
According to Dr Seema Sehgal, Director – Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, CK Birla Hospital (R), New Delhi, menopause typically begins for women 45 and 55 years of age. They stop menstruating due to loss of ovarian follicular function, which means the ovaries stop releasing eggs for fertilization. While there are several signs of menopause, a woman can know that natural menopause has occurred when there is no sign of menstruation even after 12 consecutive months.
Why do women gain weight during menopause?
Women may have a tendency to gain weight or experience obesity during menopause. This may be visible through increasing belly fat accumulation. But what are the reasons driving this weight gain? Dr Sehgal explains some of the basic causes.
1. Hormonal changes
Weight gain around menopause is due to the ongoing hormonal changes in the body. “As estrogen levels decline during menopause, the body redistributes fat from the hips and thighs to the abdomen. This shift in fat distribution increases the risk of developing visceral fat, which is associated with various health problems including cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” she says.
2. Loss of muscle mass
As women approach menopause, there is often a loss of muscle mass, which can result in a decrease in overall metabolic rate. This decrease in metabolic rate means that the body burns fewer calories during daily activities, making it easier to accumulate excess weight.
3. Lifestyle factors
Weight gain during menopause can also be attributed to lifestyle factors such as decreased physical activity, poor dietary choices, and elevated stress levels. During menopause, some women may feel changes in appetite, cravings and hunger cues.
How to manage weight during menopause?
Managing menopausal obesity requires a comprehensive approach that addresses both the physiological and lifestyle factors involved. Here are tips that one can follow to control weight gain during menopause, suggests Dr Sehgal.
* Exercising is the key
Women should engage in regular physical activity as it is crucial for managing weight during menopause. Aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling can help burn calories and improve overall fitness. You can also go for strength training exercises as they are important to build lean muscle mass, which helps boost metabolism. You can also do these exercises to reduce belly fat after menopause.
* Keep stress levels in check
Chronic stress can contribute to weight gain and make it more difficult to lose weight during this period. Engaging in stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or hobbies can help in relaxing your mind and promote overall well-being.
Also read: Postmenopause, here’s how to deal with your physical and emotional well-being
* Consume a diet with proper nutrients
Adopting a balanced and nutritious diet is essential for managing weight during menopause. Your complete focus should be on consuming whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limiting the intake of processed foods, sugary snacks, and beverages high in calories will work as wonders for your body. Women should always try to pay attention to portion sizes and practice mindful eating. Know more about menopause diet!
* Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
For some women, hormone replacement therapy may be recommended to alleviate menopausal symptoms and help manage weight. HRT involves the use of estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progesterone to supplement the body’s declining hormone levels. However, it is important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of HRT with a healthcare professional.
By adopting a holistic approach, women can effectively manage their weight during and after menopause, promoting overall health and well-being.