How are perimenopause and weight gain connected?
Is there anything that can be done about weight gain in perimenopause?
Is it even possible to lose weight, or even to fight weight gain, during perimenopause?
Answers to these questions are important to women entering a period of hormonal and physical change that often dampens their feelings of wellbeing.
The Basics of Perimenopause and Weight Gain
Perimenopause is a phase of the overall menopausal change, specifically referring to a transitional period of uneven increases and decreases of estrogen.
It leads up to the rapid decline in estrogen that brings an end to women’s menstrual cycles and reproductive years.
The Connection Between Perimenopause and Weight Gain
Hormonal change is always complicated, and there are gaps in our knowledge about how these changes in estrogen production affect women.
However, there are some specific effects we have connected to perimenopause and weight gain.
We know that estrogen helps you control food intake, affects glucose metabolism, and decreases insulin sensitivity — all are factors affecting weight changes.
The hormonal changes in perimenopause and menopause also cause your body-weight distribution to shift.
Women begin to lose their characteristic “pear” shape as weight moves from the thighs and hips to around the abdomen, resulting in a more masculine figure.
This loss of their more youthful, feminine looks troubles many women as much as a higher number on the scale.
Perimenopause and Weight Gain — A Vicious Cycle
But, weight control is not just about the effects of decreasing estrogen levels.
As women reach their 40s and 50s, they may also develop some unhealthy daily habits that make them susceptible to weight gain, and these pressures caused by hectic daily lives can be strongest around the age when symptoms of perimenopause typically begin to occur.
Think about how the following habits might affect you:
- Sitting for hours on end at work
- Stress from career, relationships, and/or raising a family
- Eating on the go
- Excessive sugar and caffeine intake
- Poor sleeping habits
- Lack of time or energy to exercise
Under these conditions, you could easily find yourself in a cycle of physical decline — the combination of decreasing estrogen (cravings and poor insulin utilization) and living a stressful, sedentary lifestyle may lead you into unhealthy eating and a lack of rest.
5 Things to Do to Reduce Weight Gain in Perimenopause
With the hormonal changes and lifestyle obstacles working in tandem against you, consider pushing back against weight gain during perimenopause in the following ways:
1. Eat Less
During middle age, your body is slowing down rapidly. It naturally burns 200 calories less per day in your 50s than in your 40s, and another 200 less than in your 30s. Losing weight during perimenopause, or even maintaining your current weight, means you have to take in less fuel.
2. Avoid Sugary Snacks and Drinks
These items pack hundreds of calories, but they hardly fill you up at all. Without realizing it, you can quickly take in a huge percentage of the day’s calories with a few sodas and a couple of starchy or sugary snacks.
This can become a habit, and you may go on, day after day, struggling against excess calories.
Therefore, a rather simple change in daily snacking habits to something healthier can make a huge difference.
3. Avoid Alcohol
When we talk about alcohol’s effect on perimenopause and weight gain, we are less concerned about how it alters your endocrine system. Instead, we can see an alcoholic beverage as another kind of sugary drink.
It’s always good to be armed with the facts — the actual numbers allow you to see how quickly all the little “extras” add up.
4. Find Support
It’s sometimes hard to make changes in our daily routines without support from friends, family, and peers.
Consider joining an exercise class, a running/walking group, find a walking or gym partner among friends and acquaintances, or join an online community to share your successes with.
Change is always easier when you don’t have to do it alone.
5. Look Into Hormone Replacement Therapy
The most common reason that women come to our clinic is estrogen replacement therapy — they are suffering from the symptoms of menopause or perimenopause.
Many women find that estrogen replacement therapy, when combined with progesterone (and often testosterone therapy for women), can reduce or eliminate many symptoms — including easing the tendency towards weight gain.
Perimenopause and Weight Gain — Find Out More
We recommend trying out the lifestyle changes that can help you maintain your current weight, or even help with losing weight during perimenopause.
However, if you’re still experiencing problems with weight gain, we recommend reading more about ERT (estrogen replacement therapy), a treatment for hormonal imbalances we often recommend. Click the button below to find out more.
Your quality of life and perception of personal wellbeing matter to us, and that includes any struggles with perimenopause and weight gain — we’d love to help.