The Menopause Weight Loss Journey: Tips & Tricks for Success
Menopause is a normal transition when the potential for reproduction ends and female sex hormones decrease. Any time your hormone levels change, it can cause effects throughout your body. Some of these effects, like a decrease in insulin sensitivity, when coupled with inactivity and changes in sleep patterns, can cause weight gain. Menopause weight loss is a commonly discussed topic. It takes understanding the underlying physiology of menopause and how it impacts the quality of life.
Menopause is defined as not having a period for at least twelve consecutive months. You may suspect you are in perimenopause long before your periods actually stop. Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 40 and 58, but it can come sooner or even a bit later.1
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The Hormone-Metabolism Connection
The hormonal fluctuations and metabolic shifts during menopause can make losing weight more challenging.
Estrogen and progesterone levels drop after menopause. A drop in estrogen levels is associated with an increase in total body fat, especially belly fat, and a decrease in lean body mass. Belly fat is one of the more dangerous places to carry excess fat. Other studies have found that an increase in estrogen can also increase body weight due to mild thyroid hormone suppression.2,3
Researchers have also found that many women report decreased physical activity after menopause. This is a terrible combination—a decrease in muscle mass and physical activity. When you lose muscle mass, your metabolism slows. This means you need fewer calories to sustain your bodily functions.4,5
Age-Related Factors and Menopause Weight Loss
Weight gain during menopause is not solely attributed to hormonal changes. The natural aging process also contributes to weight gain. As we age, our muscle mass tends to decrease while body fat increases. This age-related decline in muscle tone and overall metabolism can make it more challenging to lose weight and maintain a healthy body composition.
Adults 60 and older have a 0.7% year-over-year reduction in caloric expenditure. This adds up over time and contributes to weight gain.6 Between ages 40 and 59, about 65% of American women meet the criteria for obesity, a serious chronic disease.4 In another study, pre- and postmenopausal women gained an average of 5–6 pounds through menopause. About 20% of women gained ten pounds or more.7
In addition to hormonal and age-related factors, lifestyle habits also play a significant role in menopause-related weight gain. A sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary choices, and a lack of exercise can contribute to excess weight gain during this phase. It’s essential to adopt healthy lifestyle habits to support weight loss and overall well-being.
Even if you have maintained a stable weight through the menopause transition, it is also important to maintain a stable body composition. In many women, fat mass increases and muscle mass decreases, but total body weight stays the same.
Strategies to Help with Menopause Weight Loss
Ready to make changes that could lead to a healthier and longer lifespan?
1. Embrace a Healthy and Balanced Diet
To achieve weight loss during menopause, it’s crucial to focus on a healthy and balanced diet. Incorporate nutrient-dense foods into your meals, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods, sugary snacks, and high-calorie beverages. Following a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins has been shown to improve heart health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and facilitate weight loss.
A Mediterranean-style diet emphasizes plant-based foods, healthy fats like olive oil, moderate portions of dairy products, and limited red meat consumption. It is associated with various health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, weight management, and reduced inflammation.8
Ensure you incorporate protein into your diet. Protein is satiating, and it is essential to rebuild muscle mass. A high-protein diet can help stabilize your blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, which can help control hunger.
Incorporate these protein-dense foods into your diet:
- Lean cuts of pork and beef
- Poultry without skin
- Fatty fish
- Shrimp, scallops, and crab
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Low-fat milk
- Beans, chickpeas, and lentils
- Nuts and seeds
If you cannot get enough protein in your diet, consult with a dietician. They can help you develop a reduced-calorie meal plan that works with your schedule and is high in protein.
2. Practice Portion Control and Eat Mindfully
Even when you consume nutritious foods, portion control is essential for weight loss. Pay attention to your serving sizes and be mindful of your calorie intake. Use measuring cups or a food scale to accurately portion your meals. By practicing portion control, you can enjoy a wide variety of foods while still maintaining the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss.
While you are measuring and weighing your foods, consider tracking macronutrients as well. Online macro calculators can help you determine how many grams of protein, carbs, fat, sugar, saturated fat, and calories you should consume each day to meet your weight maintenance or weight-loss goals. You may be surprised to see that the calories listed by serving size on food labels are not as accurate as you may like. There are a multitude of social media groups that count macros and can give advice.
Slow down while eating, savor each bite, and listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Researchers have found that dietary choices are most influential when you are trying to lose weight. Exercise can supplement weight-loss efforts and improve body composition, but it can’t make up for a poor diet.9
3. Engage in Regular Physical Activity and Prioritize Strength Training
Regular exercise is crucial for menopause weight loss. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with two or more days of strength training exercises. Aerobic exercises, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling, help burn calories and improve cardiovascular health.
Strength training exercises, like weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, help build lean muscle mass, boost metabolism, and enhance overall body composition.10,11 If you only have a brief time for exercise each day, prioritize strength-building exercises. Consider working with a personal trainer or joining a strength training class to ensure proper form and maximize the benefits of your workouts.
4. Get Quality Sleep
Getting enough high-quality sleep is essential for good health at any age, especially after menopause. Poor sleep quality can disrupt hormone regulation, increase appetite, and lead to weight gain.12
Hot flashes, night sweats, frequent trips to the bathroom, and insomnia can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night by practicing good sleep hygiene. Create a relaxing bedtime routine, ensure a comfortable sleep environment, and limit exposure to electronic devices before bed.
5. Manage Stress Levels
Stress can contribute to weight gain and hinder weight-loss efforts. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as by practicing mindfulness, engaging in relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation, or pursuing hobbies and activities that bring you joy. Prioritizing self-care and stress management can contribute to overall well-being and support weight-loss goals.
6. Stay Hydrated
Drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day is essential for overall health and weight management. Water helps to flush out toxins, promotes proper digestion, and can help prevent overeating by increasing feelings of fullness. Make it a habit to carry a reusable water bottle with you. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. Thirst is a late sign of dehydration. Drink water throughout the day.
7. Seek Professional Guidance for Menopause Weight Loss
If you have tried various strategies and are still struggling to lose weight, it may be beneficial to seek guidance from a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian. They can provide personalized advice, help identify any underlying medical conditions that may be hindering weight loss, and create a tailored plan to support your specific needs and goals.
Postmenopausal women under the age of 60 may want to discuss hormone therapy with their doctor. Hormone therapy has risks and benefits, and these risks and benefits vary depending on your personal and family history. Ask your doctor to go through these risks and benefits so you can make an informed decision.
8. Surround Yourself with Support
Menopause weight loss journeys can often feel overwhelming, especially during menopause. Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and family, or even join online communities or support groups. Having a support system can provide encouragement, accountability, and helpful tips to stay motivated and committed to your weight loss goals.
9. Celebrate Non-Scale Victories
Remember that menopause weight loss is not the only measure of success. Celebrate non-scale victories, such as increased energy, improved fitness levels, better sleep, and positive changes in body composition. Embrace the process and focus on overall health and well-being rather than solely on the number on the scale.
Invigor Medical offers several prescription options to support your menopause weight-loss efforts. Take the weight loss quiz to see which product would work best for you.
- North American Menopause Society. Menopause Practice: A clinician’s guide. North American Menopause Society.; 2010.
- Grantham, J.P., Henneberg, M., 2014. The Estrogen Hypothesis of Obesity. PLOS ONE 9, e99776.. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0099776
- Lizcano, F., Guzmán, G., 2014. Estrogen Deficiency and the Origin of Obesity during Menopause. BioMed Research International 2014, 1–11.. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/757461
- Leeners B, Geary N, Tobler PN, Asarian L. Ovarian hormones and obesity. Human reproduction update. 2017/05// 2017;23(3):300-321. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmw045
- Kapoor E, Collazo-Clavell ML, Faubion SS. Weight Gain in Women at Midlife: A Concise Review of the Pathophysiology and Strategies for Management. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2017;92(10):1552-1558. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2017.08.004
- Pontzer H, Yamada Y, Sagayama H, et al. IAEA DLW Database Consortium. Daily energy expenditure through the human life course. Science. 2021 Aug 13;373(6556):808-812. doi: 10.1126/science.abe5017. PMID: 34385400; PMCID: PMC8370708.
- Wing RR, Matthews KA, Kuller LH, Meilahn EN, Plantinga PL. Weight gain at the time of menopause. Arch Intern Med. 1991 Jan;151(1):97-102. PMID: 1985614.
- Lombardo M, Perrone MA, Guseva E, Aulisa G, Padua E, Bellia C, Della-Morte D, Iellamo F, Caprio M, Bellia A. Losing Weight after Menopause with Minimal Aerobic Training and Mediterranean Diet. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 17;12(8):2471. doi: 10.3390/nu12082471. PMID: 32824413; PMCID: PMC7468767.
- Cheng, Chao-Chun MS; Hsu, Ching-Yun MD, PhD; Liu, Jen-Fang MD, PhD. Effects of dietary and exercise intervention on weight loss and body composition in obese postmenopausal women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Menopause 25(7):p 772-782, July 2018. | DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001085
- Conceição MS, Bonganha V, Vechin FC, Berton RP, Lixandrão ME, Nogueira FRD, de Souza GV, Chacon-Mikahil MPT, Libardi CA. Sixteen weeks of resistance training can decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome in healthy postmenopausal women. Clin Interv Aging. 2013;8:1221-1228 https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S44245
- Thiebaud RS, Loenneke JP, Fahs CA, Rossow LM, Kim D, Abe T, Anderson MA, Young KC, Bemben DA, Bemben MG. The effects of elastic band resistance training combined with blood flow restriction on strength, total bone-free lean body mass and muscle thickness in postmenopausal women. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2013 Sep;33(5):344-52. doi: 10.1111/cpf.12033. Epub 2013 Apr 3. PMID: 23701116.
- Sarah M. Ghose , Dana Riedy & Natalie D. Dautovich (2023) Interrupted lullabies: the association between menopausal symptoms and sleep variability in peri- and postmenopausal women, Women & Health, 63:2, 115-124, DOI: 10.1080/03630242.2022.2161695