Many women experience weight gain at the time of the menopause. Hormonal changes mean you’re more likely to put weight on around your abdomen than hips but hormonal changes do not cause excessive menopausal weight gain.
As a normal part of the menopause, the ovaries significantly reduce their natural production of oestrogen. Consequently, the body needs to produce it from somewhere and it does this via the adipose cells. Therefore, the female body may need to be fatter for this to happen. “Generally, around 4-7lbs in weight gain can occur, with more in underweight women,” says Clinical nutritionist from www.natures-way.com, Suzie Sawyer. “However, very often weight gain is much more than this and is not necessary or healthy.”
Oestrogen is also produced from the adrenal glands, which control stress hormones, as well as in the liver, both of which need to be in good working order. High stress levels over a period of time can suppress cortisol production, meaning less oestrogen is produced, hence the woman can experience more weight gain.
“Ageing as well as lifestyle and genetic factors are also likely culprits,” says Sawyer. “For example, muscle mass typically diminishes with age while adipose tissue increases. Loss of muscle mass can reduce metabolic rate so it may not be not so easy to maintain the same weight with the same level of dietary intake as previously.”
Eating a balanced diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly broccoli, sprouts and carrots, is the cornerstone to maintaining healthy hormone balance. As important, is including soya, lentils, chickpeas, flaxseeds, oats and wholegrain rice which all contain phytoestrogens. These are plant-based foods which help to balance hormones and provide oestrogenic ‘activity’ where required.
One of the keys to healthy weight management through the menopause is to keep blood sugar levels balanced and not exacerbate hormonal fluctuations. It also helps to retain lean muscle mass. This means having some protein at every meal. It’s a misnomer to think that starchy carbs such as rice, pasta and bread are sufficiently satisfying. It’s protein that provides feelings of satiety. Include as much variety as possible; chicken, turkey, eggs, soya beans, lentils, tofu and oily fish, for the omega-3 fats, are all great options.