Along with hair loss, brain fog and mood swings, weight gain is one of the more unwelcome symptoms of menopause. But it's also one of the most common – with hundreds of Google searches every month – which is why we went straight to a doctor to find out the facts around menopause weight gain.
Dr Cat Hyatt, a GP based in Dorset, often answers questions from female patients in her surgery around menopause weight gain and the reasons for it.
Here, Dr Hyatt explains the biological and behavioural changes that can cause weight gain during perimenopause and menopause – and shares the medically-backed suggestions she makes to help women feel themselves again.
Why do some women put on weight during menopause?
Reasons for why women gain weight during menopause include hormonal and behavioural changes, which can occur as a result of the other symptoms of menopause.
Oestrogen is known to have an impact on both metabolism and weight, so the changing levels during perimenopause can contribute to weight gain.
This can be made worse by the brain fog, joint aches or fatigue you may experience as well which, understandably, can change your exercise or eating patterns.
What's the best way to prevent menopause weight gain?
As with many things medically, by knowing more about what your body is going through, you are able to make some positive changes which can make a real difference.
Lifestyle changes – such as exercising regularly – can have a really positive impact on both your weight and how you feel in your body. It's completely normal to feel out of sorts with yourself during menopause with so much change happening hormonally, and the raft of symptoms which can come along with this.
Finding an exercise regime which brings you joy, and gets you moving, can make a real difference to your day to day, not only for your body but your mind, too. Keeping yourself active is key during menopause, but finding something you enjoy is even better – be that cold water swimming, yoga or a dance class on Zoom! This will not only help manage your weight, but also help you feel stronger in your body. Furthermore, as women going through menopause are at increased risk of osteoporosis (again due to that dropping oestrogen) exercising regularly will help maintain your joint and bone health.
Managing stress and diet during menopause can also help manage weight changes which happen at this time. When you are stressed, your body produces an inflammatory hormone called Cortisol. You may also find the way you eat changes when you’re stressed – maybe reaching for more caffeine or sugary foods to give you a quick hit of energy.
It is important to consider how stressed you feel. Plus, what works for you to keep your stress levels down. Making this a priority can also help control weight changes which occur at this time – and keep your mind healthy at the same time, too.
If you are finding that, despite these changes, your weight is getting you down or other symptoms, such as painful joints, are stopping you doing what you want to do, I would recommend booking in for a chat with your GP.
They will always be happy to talk to you about the symptoms you are experiencing and discuss options for management – including HRT or referrals to Social Prescribers who can help support you with weight loss.
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