Why Menopause Causes Weight Gain

The effects of aging and menopause can include reduced skin elasticity, hot flashes, mood swings and weight gain.

There are many aspects that contribute to weight gain after menopause. Hormonal changes may play a role in addition to a decrease in a woman’s metabolic rate. However, the most striking changes may be those a woman makes herself. This is often through a slow down and decrease in physical activity levels, as well as giving in to food cravings instead of practicing restraint. All of these factors combined can lead to extra pounds that are easy to put on but hard to shed.

Hormones

Menopausal women experience hormonal changes that contribute to weight gain. For example, lowered levels of estrogen and progesterone can cause the body to store more energy as fat and retain more water. This leads to not only weight gain, but also bloating. Coupled with a lowered metabolism, hormonal fluctuations can contribute to fat deposits in your extremities, hip area and abdomen. 

Moreover, levels of male hormones, called androgens, may increase in your body at this time. The result may be more fat in the abdominal area.

Metabolism

A woman’s metabolism slows down even before she begins menopause. Starting around the age of 40, a woman’s metabolic rate declines by about five percent with each passing decade. This can be a major cause of menopause weight gain if the amount of calories consumed stays the same from the time of higher metabolism or if there is an increase in the intake of high-calorie foods. 

Lack of Activity

Many women are typically more active in their younger years and decrease their physical activity during menopause. At a time when the metabolism is slowing down and hormone changes are contributing to a bulging waistline, lack of physical activity can be a major player in gaining weight. Additionally, lack of exercise can contribute to other health problems, including diabetes and heart disease. 

Diet

A high-fat, high-calorie diet can cause weight gain no matter what your age, but menopausal women have lower metabolic rates. On average, a woman may need to subtract about 200 calories from her daily intake in order to compensate for a slower metabolism. 

Overeating and not burning off the excess calories will pack on the extra pounds. Conversely, eating too little and dramatically cutting calorie intake will sends her body into starvation mode, causing it to store even more fat because it thinks there’s not enough food for survival.  

Even a woman who normally makes an effort to eat well may take in too many calories during menopause. In response to hormonal changes, some women become depressed. In such cases, they may give in to emotional eating, which only makes weight gain matters worse.

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