Just when you get used to PMS, there will be another bundle of woes heaped on your head. As if battling random mood swings weren’t enough, you also need to worry about your favorite pair of skinny jeans starting to seem noticeably more snug. This happens more towards your middle years. And while we wish it was a figment of imagination, the struggle is real!
In fact, many women gain weight around the menopause transition phase of their lives (1). But what you might not understand is that perimenopause – alias of the change before the change – is when you’re in the vortex of this upheaval. It is also the time when those that wish to lose this weight may have to struggle more than usual. To say that keeping the weight off can be challenging is an understatement.
Is it that bad?
Before we delve into the effects of perimenopause on body weight, let us first identify the monster.
Perimenopause and Its Symptoms
Perimenopause, also known as menopausal transition, is the period in which your period goes for a toss! Many women have irregular menstrual cycles before menopause. This sets in usually one or two years before a woman’s last menstrual period. (2) During this time, a woman may endure some gradual changes (3).
During perimenopause, estrogen and progesterone hormones in a woman’s body start to fluctuate. Overall, these hormones are decreasing. These natural hormone fluctuations in perimenopause can usually cause different symptoms for different women. (4)
Some general symptoms include:
- Alteration in cycle length or premenstrual symptoms (3)
- Changes in period pain (3)
- Vaginal dryness (4)
- Sleep disturbance (4)
- Hot flashes and night sweats (4)
- Mood changes (4)
As if this wasn’t enough, weight gain is another horror! Weight gain during perimenopause is common in middle-aged women. While it may feel apocalyptic, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Solutions could be found if you focus on the reasons why weight gain happens and how to manage it during perimenopause.
Why do we gain weight in perimenopause?
It is believed that women can put on around 2-5 lbs during the perimenopausal transition (5). Asides from hormonal changes, you may gain weight due to the other thing rearing its head – age.
A study of Women’s Health Across the Nation concluded that women gained belly fat and lost muscle mass in perimenopause during the study (6).
In the late stages of menopause, low estrogen levels may also impair the role of leptin and neuropeptide-Y. These are the hormones that control appetite and fullness. (7, 8)
Therefore, women during their perimenopause may put on extra weight due to low estrogen levels. Some researchers even believe that the combination of low estrogen and progesterone may increase the chances of obesity. (7)
How to Manage Weight Gain During Perimenopause?
Maintaining a healthy weight, especially with respect to hormonal imbalance during perimenopause or menopause, starts with staying active and eating well. Consider the following:
- Exercise habits, including intense physical activities in menopause, are effective in reducing body weight (9, 10). A study published by “Przeglad Menopauzalny – Menopause Review” shows that following a proper diet and physical activity is the most effective method of managing weight during menopause (9). Multiple studies suggested that low-carb diets are amazing for losing weight and are also able to overcome abdominal fat (11, 12, 13).
- Getting quality sleep is also essential for supporting a healthy weight. This is because short sleep can increase levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin and reduce the levels of “fullness hormone” leptin, which may cause weight gain. (14) Unfortunately, many women in menopause have trouble sleeping due to night sweats, hot flashes, stress, and other health problems of estrogen deficiency (15, 16).
- Acupuncture is also considered helpful in case of sleep disturbances. It may reduce hot flashes and boost estrogen levels, both of which are linked to promoting better sleep. (17, 18)
Although losing weight may be a primary goal among women who reach menopause, it is important that you incorporate long-term lifestyle changes. Making healthful diet and lifestyle changes are the best way to manage weight gain. If you are experiencing weight gain in your middle age, you should talk to ypur doctor who may also diagnose hormonal imbalances. Meanwhile, you can join SuperFood WeightLoss Accelerator program to get help with your weight gain and to stay on the right track while choosing a diet and exercise plan.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements and/or product(s) described in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate or prevent any disease, illness or health condition. It is advisable to consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet or dietary supplement program.
- “ Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age spread”. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menopause-weight-gain/art-20046058
- “Menopause: Overview.” Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. 2006 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279311/
- “ 5 Diagnosis of perimenopause and menopause”. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (UK). 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK343466/
- “Perimenopause: Rocky road to menopause” Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/perimenopause-rocky-road-to-menopause
- Lovejoy, Jennifer C. “The influence of sex hormones on obesity across the female life span.” Journal of Women’s Health. 7:10 (1998): 1247-1256. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9929857
- Sowers, MaryFran, et al. “Changes in body composition in women over six years at midlife: ovarian and chronological aging.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 92:3 (2007): 895-901. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17192296
- Boonyaratanakornkit, Viroj, and Prangwan Pateetin. “The role of ovarian sex steroids in metabolic homeostasis, obesity, and postmenopausal breast cancer: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic implications.” BioMed research international. 2015 (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25866757
- Lizcano, Fernando, and Guillermo Guzmán. “Estrogen deficiency and the origin of obesity during menopause.” BioMed research international. 2014 (2014). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3964739/
- Kozakowski, Jarosław, et al. “Obesity in menopause–our negligence or an unfortunate inevitability?.” Przeglad menopauzalny= Menopause review. 16:2 (2017): 61. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5509974/
- Jull, Janet, et al. “Lifestyle interventions targeting body weight changes during the menopause transition: a systematic review.” Journal of obesity. 2014 (2014). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4058255/
- Gower, Barbara A., and Amy M. Goss. “A lower-carbohydrate, higher-fat diet reduces abdominal and intermuscular fat and increases insulin sensitivity in adults at risk of type 2 diabetes.” The Journal of nutrition. 145:1 (2014): 177S-183S. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25527677
- Goss, Amy M., et al. “Effects of a eucaloric reduced-carbohydrate diet on body composition and fat distribution in women with PCOS.” Metabolism. 63:10 (2014): 1257-1264. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25125349
- Shai, Iris, et al. “Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet.” New England Journal of Medicine. 359:3 (2008): 229-241. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0708681
- Taheri, Shahrad, et al. “Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index.” PLoS medicine. 1:3 (2004): e62. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15602591
- Kravitz, Howard M., et al. “Sleep disturbance during the menopausal transition in a multi-ethnic community sample of women.” Sleep. 31:7 (2008): 979-990. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18652093
- de Zambotti, Massimiliano, et al. “Acute stress alters autonomic modulation during sleep in women approaching menopause.” Psychoneuroendocrinology. 66 (2016): 1-10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26766119
- Chiu, Hsiao-Yean, Yu-Jung Hsieh, and Pei-Shan Tsai. “Acupuncture to reduce sleep disturbances in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Obstetrics & Gynecology. 127:3 (2016): 507-515. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26855097
- Avis, Nancy E., et al. “Acupuncture in Menopause (AIM) study: a pragmatic, randomized controlled trial.” Menopause (New York, NY). 23:6 (2016): 626. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27023860