Weight gain

During menopause you can gain weight without noticing, even if you don't start eating more or exercising less. The cause is simple: the shifting hormonal balance during menopause..

Hormonal changes

At the start of menopause, a condition of estrogen dominance often occurs. Your body responds to this by storing fat. Afterwards, your body's estrogen production decreases significantly. You might think that this would reduce the risk of putting on weight, but because of the strong hormonal fluctuations, you often want to eat more and exercise less. In addition, your metabolic rate decreases and your body stores fat more readily.

Less muscle mass

During menopause, your muscle mass may decrease, causing your body to use less energy. Muscles burn more calories than fat, even when you sleep. So if you keep eating as you always did, then you may gain weight.

Tips for keeping your weight the same

  • Make sure you get enough sleep. Insufficient sleep is a risk factor in weight gain and obesity. Research shows that sleep plays a key role in energy metabolism. Increased food intake during times of insufficient sleep is a response to a physiological ‘need’: it provides us with the extra energy needed to sustain additional wakefulness. But because food is easily accesible, our intake surpasses what is needed. In short, we eat more than we need and put on weight.1
  • Watch what you are eating and clean up your diet to provide nutrition and energy. Cut out fatty, processed foods and unecessary sugars and saturated fats from your diet. These have a high calorific content, but little nutritional value.
  • Take your new metabolism and energy needs into account. Perhaps your body needs fewer calories now and eating smaller portions more frequently suits you better? Adjust your eating pattern accordingly.
  • Make sure you get sufficient exercise and if you can, expand the amount of exercise you do. That's good not only for maintaining your weight, but also for your energy level, your bones, muscles and joints.

References

1. Markwald R.R, Melanson E.L, et al Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1216951110

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