What do hormones have to do with weight gain during menopause?
Estrogen is the female sex hormone that causes monthly ovulation. During the time of menopause your estrogen levels drop which in turn causes cessation of ovulation. Part of this picture includes the fact that this also contributes to weight gain during a woman’s mid life.
Why does this seem to happen? Because your body is making less estrogen it is looking for other areas to get the estrogen. Your body’s fat cells can produce estrogen so it tries to convert the calories you consume to fat to produce more estrogen. The point here is that your fat cells don’t burn calories as well as your muscle cells do which can cause the unwanted weight gain.
Another hormone- Androgen sends the weight right to your middle section of your body. You may have noticed that a lot of middle aged women do seem to have an increase in this middle age widening of their bodies.
Another hormone-Testosterone (known as the male hormone) is the hormone that helps both males and females in terms of creating lean muscle mass from the calories that you consume. Since muscle cells burn more calories than your fat cells they also increase your metabolism. However, in menopause your testosterone levels drop which causes loss of muscle. This leads to lower metabolism which means that your body is going to burn calories slower.
Another hormone- Progesterone decreases during menopause which can cause some weight gain, water retention and bloating.
What this means to me is that we just have to moderate our diets, become more aware of our nutrition and exercise patterns and talk to our health experts about hormones and the question of synthetic and natural hormone replacements. This is something that each woman has to decide for herself.
However-here are a few simple tips to manage the problem of weight gain during menopause:
Learn to eat a balanced diet. Concentrate on the long run-the rest of your life to determine how you will practice healthy habits for eating. You can’t look for the quick fix diets at this point in your life because they will not be successful long term. Crash diets cause starvation which will only slow your metabolism down which can ultimately contribute to weight gain later on.
Don’t try to fit into clothes from ten years ago. Menopause is a time where you can reinvent yourself- don’t try to be who you were 10 or 15 years ago you probably don’t want to anyway!
Limit your alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and sugar intake. These can cause fluid retention and bloating.
Stay active- you may need a little more activity than you did when you were 30 to work off those extra pounds. But it can be fun and when your endorphins go up after exercise you will feel the benefit.