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Why cant I lose weight during menopause?

Menopause is the time that marks the end of a women’s menstrual cycle. It is diagnosed after 12 months of having no period.


Menopause is a crucial event in a women’s life as you may have experienced as there are several different physical and psychological changes during the transition. You may have also experienced a change in body weight particularly an increase as at this time there is an alteration in fat distribution. So, for a lot of women wanting to achieve weight loss, it can seem difficult.





Some of you may be asking why can menopause cause weight gain?

Well, as menopause means the time when menstruation ends, there are many different changes happening in your body. Through the perimenopause phase (the phase that is happening just before menopause occurs) there is a continuous depletion of the follicular ovarian pool which in turn lowers the production of the hormone oestrogen and slightly increases your androgen levels[1].

In simpler terms, this means that the hormonal imbalance between oestrogen being lowered and androgen increasing alters energy homeostasis by regulating hunger and satiety signals.

Oestrogen stops the action of hunger signals which prevents an excessive consumption of calories. So, when your oestrogen levels are lowered during menopause your hunger signals are altered.


During menopause due to the fluctuation of oestrogen the ability to modulate hunger signals is reduced.

What does this mean for you?

You may experience more intense hunger signals which encourages food intake thus promoting weight gain.

As well as this, the hormone imbalance also promotes a higher accumulation of fat to be stored within the abdominal area. Lowered oestrogen levels and increased androgen levels lead to the redistribution of fat in the gluteal and the femoral regions (hips, thighs and bottom) to abdominal regions of the body.


Other psychological factors can further take an effect on this. As is suggested in recent studies menopausal women report a higher frequency of sleep disturbances and so can have a poor quality of sleep. Poor sleep quality is linked to weight gain because when you have poor sleep, the production of the hormone leptin is decreased. (Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating). It is also reported that some menopausal women can experience a negative emotional state, (depression, stress and anxiety)[2]. These emotions can be experienced due to the transition into menopause and body image issues.


Emotional eating and overeating are commonly associated with these issues as they are used to combat distress. Emotional eating and overeating can then lead to weight gain.


Another challenge to losing weight during this time can be that during this age physical activity tends to decrease, this can be due to a loss of muscle mass that occurs due to age and hormonal changes. Middle aged women may also reduce physical activity because of a decrease in muscle strength that can limit their functional ability to perform physical activity.

However, it is not all doom and gloom! There are changes you can make to help combat these challenges.


Tips for weight loss during menopause

Although you may feel not as fit as you previously have been in your 30’s there is still plenty of different choices of physical activity you can do.

  • 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise is usually the ballpark to aim for each week. This can be aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, swimming etc. 150 minutes can easily be split up into 5 x 30 minute sessions or however may suit you best.

  • Resistance training is also very efficient at retaining and building lean muscle mass. By actively moving and incorporating these workouts into your lifestyle can not only help you feel good mentally but can also help combat some of the psychological issues that I’ve mentioned (such as improving your sleep quality, body image and emotional distress).

  • Your diet should also be a factor that you can control to help overcome these challenges. Increasing the protein in your diet is key, protein helps the retention of muscle mass and helps in recovery when building and repairing your muscles. Protein is highly satiating meaning it can make you feel fuller for longer. A calorie deficit Is also a requirement when trying to lose weight. Another tip is to include foods high in fibre, especially fruit and vegetables as the antioxidants decrease oxidative stress that can affect the number of your ovarian follicles[3]. Foods rich in calcium such as milk are good for bone health.

Although it can seem like the weight is never going to come off, with little changes each day progress can happen. Commit to lifestyle changes and enjoy a healthier you!


At Nutrition and Co, we have the perfect weight management program for women who are going through menopause. LifeSculpt is one of UK's leading weight management programs focusing on nutrition as well as fitness. Head to our bespoke programs page to read more about LifeSculpt. Nutrition and Co has world leading registered dietitian's and nutritionists as well as personal trainers that put YOU FIRST.



References


[1]Mauvais-Jarvis, F., Clegg, D. J., & Hevener, A. L. (2013). The role of estrogens in control of energy balance and glucose homeostasis. Endocrine Reviews, 34(3), 309–338. https://doi.org/10.1210/er.2012-1055

[2] Prairie, B. A., Wisniewski, S. R., Luther, J., Hess, R., Thurston, R. C., Wisner, K. L., & Bromberger, J. T. (2015). Symptoms of depressed mood, disturbed sleep, and sexual problems in midlife women: cross-sectional data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. Journal of Women’s Health (2002), 24(2), 119–126. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2014.4798

[3] Wang, S., He, G., Chen, M., Zuo, T., Xu, W., & Liu, X. (2017). The role of antioxidant enzymes in the ovaries. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4371714


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