If you are going through menopause or perimenopause, you are might be wondering what you have to do to keep the weight off. If the changes your body is going through is not enough it seems that all you have to do is look at a cookie and you gain 5 lbs. What’s going on here?
Weight management no matter what the age is a complicated issue. It is the same during menopause, but now your body is behaving differently so it makes it especially complicated. There is likely no single reason you can’t control your weight, but the top reasons are
- changing hormones,
- lower activity levels,
- decrease in metabolic rate
- poor sleep
- food intolerances and
- lack of energy.
The most obvious change that occurs during menopause is the hormonal changes that occur. After a period of instability, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop. Aside from causing the many symptoms of menopause these hormone changes seem to be associated with weight gain, but the reasons are not totally clear. In lab rats lower estrogen contributed to lower metabolism (more on that later), less activity and more eating. Testosterone levels also drop but not quite as quickly which can explain why our waists start to expand even when we are not gaining weight.
Lower activity levels
Women have lower activity levels than men, but as we get older we are even less active. Reasons for lower activity may be less active jobs, spending less time doing family activities, low energy levels, and lack of time because of job and family commitments. Whatever the reason, the lack of activity adds up to weight gain every year.
Decrease in metabolic rate
Usually as you age your metabolic rate, the rate that you burn energy at rest, goes down. Your body don’t need as many calories as it did when you were younger. This is generally considered to be a natural effect of aging. But that is not completely true. Part of the decline in metabolic rate is caused by a decrease in activity. It is also caused by a decrease in muscle mass.
You may have done strength training when you were younger, but got out of the habit when life got busy. Now you are paying the price for not maintaining your muscles. At rest muscle burns more calories than fat. But muscle has to be used to be maintained. This becomes even more important as you age because your testosterone levels drop and this makes putting on muscle even harder.
Lack of energy
One of the symptoms of menopause is lack of energy. Your sleep patterns can be disturbed and the changes taking place in your body mean that for some women just getting out bed in the morning is challenging enough. You know we should be doing something – cleaning the house, going to the gym, or going for a walk, but you just don’t have the energy for it. Read this article for more information on how to improve energy levels.
Many women complain of poor sleep during and after menopause. Poor sleep leads to lack of energy, but it also can contribute to weight gain on its own. Watch this video to see how poor sleep contributes to weight gain.
Higher stress levels are common during menopause. Anxiety is a common symptom of menopause. High stress levels can lead to stress eating. Chronic stress also leads to chronically high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And high cortisol levels make it harder to lose fat and contributes to cravings. All this leads to weight gain.
Food intolerances become more common after menopause. The hormone changes seem to also change the way your digestive system works. This can lead to food intolerances (sensitivities and allergies in some cases). Food intolerances can zap your energy and can contribute to anxiety. They can also cause inflammation in the digestive tract. These all mean that while not a major cause of weight gain, food intolerances do contribute to weight gain for some women.
Now that you know some of the reasons why you are gaining weight, download this free guide to start losing that weight.
Statistics Canada. Table 13-10-0096-13 Physical activity, self reported, adult, by age group