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How to Lose Weight After Menopause

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 01, 2021

You may have wanted to lose weight at different stages of your life. Maintaining a healthy weight is a lifelong commitment, and it’s easy to fall off track.

When you’re younger, it’s easier to bounce back from weight gain. But after menopause, it may be more challenging. Before you tackle weight loss after menopause, it’s important to understand how your body changes during this life transition.

What Is Menopause?

During your mid to late 40s, your body begins to transition away from childbearing. Your period ends for good and you’re no longer able to get pregnant.

Many people think that menopause is the time that leads up to your last period. That early stage is actually called perimenopause, and it usually lasts around 4 years. After menopause, your body makes much less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, but during perimenopause, your hormone levels vary. As your hormone levels go up and down, you may have symptoms common to menopause, like hot flashes, trouble sleeping, and irregular periods.

Understanding Menopausal Weight Gain

When you’re young, weight gain tends to settle around your hips and thighs. As you age, your patterns of weight gain shift to your midsection. This can cause frustration as you adjust to a different body type than you had before.

Additionally, the same hormone changes that cause a shift in weight distribution also make it more difficult to lose weight. This may affect you emotionally. It also poses additional health risks.  Weight gain leaves you at a greater risk for:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure

Tips for Losing Weight After Menopause

You may think since an imbalance of hormones is the cause of your weight gain, hormone therapy can solve your problems. While hormone therapy does treat weight gain, it poses additional health risks.

Most doctors don’t recommend hormone therapy unless you have other health problems. Instead, you should try to address your menopausal weight gain with diet and exercise.

Make a sustainable plan. Weight loss is a long-term goal and should be treated that way. In order to maintain weight loss, you need to make lifestyle changes that support your health. Don’t think about “going on a diet.” Instead, rethink your relationship with food. Make healthy eating a priority.

Keep it simple. Diet plans and exercise regimens often have hefty price tags and flashy promises. Weight loss fads may give you short-term results, but will they last? Don’t overcomplicate weight loss. It’s about eating less and moving more. Be serious about sticking to a healthy diet and watching how much you eat. It’s OK to splurge once in a while on treats, but every day can’t be a cheat day.

Count on cardio. Burning more calories than you take in is what causes weight loss. You should get at least 30 minutes of activity, 5 days per week. Remember that small changes can make a big difference. Park in the back of the parking lot when you go shopping. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Remember strength training. Muscle burns more calories than fat. Men are naturally more muscular -- that’s one reason that men tend to lose weight more easily than women. By incorporating strength exercises, you can raise your chances of controlling your weight long-term.

Get plenty of sleep. Menopause often causes poor sleep quality, which can worsen weight gain. Not getting enough sleep puts additional stress on your body. Tips for improving sleep include:

  • Don’t use electronic devices starting an hour before bedtime
  • Make a schedule – wake up and go to sleep around the same time each day
  • Create a restful environment free from distractions
  • Talk to a doctor or sleep specialist if you’re still having problems sleeping

Consider your medications. Read about possible side effects of any medication you’re taking. Weight gain may be a side effect. If you suspect that one of your medications is causing weight gain, talk to your doctor. They may be able to give you an alternative or find another solution.

Adjust your expectations. No matter how hard you work, your results may not be what they were twenty years ago. Some body changes are inevitable after menopause. Appreciate your body for all it has done and focus on how you feel, not how you look in the mirror.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: “Menopause Weight Gain: Is It Inevitable?”

Harvard Medical School: “Winning the weight battle after menopause.”

Women’s Health: “Menopause basics.”

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