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Weight management during the menopause

Weight gain during menopause is a common concern for many women.

women on weighing scales
Weight gain during the menopause

Several factors contribute to this phenomenon:

  1. Hormonal Changes: During menopause, a woman's estrogen levels decrease. Estrogen plays a role in regulating body weight and fat distribution. The decline in estrogen can lead to changes in how fat is stored in the body, often resulting in an increase in abdominal fat.

  2. Metabolic Changes: Metabolism tends to slow down with age, and this can be exacerbated during menopause. A slower metabolism means that your body burns fewer calories at rest, making it easier to gain weight.

  3. Muscle Loss: As women age, they often experience muscle loss, a condition known as sarcopenia. Muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than fat tissue, so a decrease in muscle mass can further slowdown metabolism.

  4. Lifestyle Factors: Menopausal women may experience changes in their lifestyle that can contribute to weight gain. For example, they may become less active, leading to a reduction in physical activity. Stress, poor sleep, and emotional changes can also affect eating habits and lead to weight gain.

  5. Diet: Changes in eating habits and cravings are common during menopause. Some women may experience increased appetite and cravings for high-calorie, comfort foods. These dietary changes can lead to weight gain if not managed properly.

  6. Genetic and Individual Factors: Genetics play a role in determining how a woman's body responds to the hormonal changes of menopause. Some women may be more predisposed to weight gain during this time due to genetic factors.

To manage weight gain during menopause, it's important to focus on a healthy lifestyle:

  • Maintain a balanced diet: Emphasise fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit processed foods, sugary snacks, and high-calorie, low-nutrient foods.

  • Regular physical activity: Engage in regular exercise, including both cardiovascular and strength training exercises, to boost metabolism and maintain muscle mass.

  • Manage stress: Practice stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation or yoga, to help control emotional eating.

  • Get adequate sleep: Aim for a consistent and adequate amount of sleep to support overall health and weight management.

  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water, as sometimes thirst is mistaken for hunger.

Remember that every woman's experience with menopause is unique, and weight gain may not be a universal outcome. Healthy lifestyle choices can help mitigate some of the factors that contribute to weight gain during this life stage.

Does Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) help with weight management?

While HRT can be effective in managing menopausal symptoms, its impact on weight management during menopause is more intricate and not entirely understood. Here are some key considerations:

  • Research Findings Vary: Ongoing research has produced mixed results regarding the effects of HRT on weight management in menopausal women. Some studies suggest that HRT may assist in preventing or reducing weight gain during menopause, while others have not identified a significant impact on weight.

  • Individual Response: Responses to HRT can greatly vary among women. Some women may experience improvements in body composition, while others may not observe substantial changes.

  • Body Composition Influence: Certain studies have indicated that HRT may help in preserving lean muscle mass and preventing the redistribution of fat to the abdominal area, a common concern during menopause. This could potentially have a positive effect on weight management.

  • Lifestyle Factors: It's important to note that HRT is not a sole solution for weight management. Lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise, remain crucial. A healthy diet and regular physical activity continue to be integral components of weight management during menopause.

  • Timing and Duration: The timing of HRT initiation and the duration of treatment may affect its potential impact on weight. Starting HRT earlier in menopause may be more effective in mitigating weight changes.

What can I do to support weight management during the menopause?

  1. If you use HRT, including testosterone replacement, make sure it is fully optimised and treating your symptoms effectively. This will help with maintaining muscle strength, energy, sleep, motivation and may reduce weight gain.

  2. Have a blood screen to rule out other causes such as hypothyroidism or diabetes.

  3. Honestly address lifestyle issues that will support your weight management.

Menopause Consultations available at The Menopause Specialists Guildford, Haslemere, Sutton or online

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