Can we blame menopause for midlife weight gain?

Can we blame menopause or is it simply a consequence of getting older?

The truth about midlife weight gain

For many women, the menopause years are often met with physical, emotional and mental changes. And often, just as you are navigating the tricky symptoms of hot flushes, night sweats or increased anxiety levels, you are greeted by another unwelcome visitor – weight gain.

We know that weight is a complex area of health, influenced by many factors. Diet and physical activity can play their part, but when it comes to midlife weight gain, there are some other pieces of the puzzle that need to be taken into account.

Here, we'll explain what's really going on in midlife weight gain, when and why you need to pay attention to it and what you can do to minimise or manage it.


What's really behind midlife weight gain?
Researchers have debated the causes of midlife weight gain for decades. At a time when there are so many things changing in a woman's life, it's hard to pinpoint the exact reason.

Is it all down to menopause and changing hormones? Or is it simply a matter of getting older? The International Menopause Society looked to the research to answer this age-old question. Here's what it found.

Midlife weight gain of about 0.5 kilograms per year is due to age rather than menopause or changing hormones. In other words, whether a woman in midlife is going through menopause or not, a half kilo gain per year is simply a consequence of getting older.

But, there's more …

The research also found that the hormonal changes of menopause often affect where this extra fat is stored. The studies show that the reduction of the hormone oestrogen that occurs in menopause favours fat storage in the abdominal region – that is, the waist, rather than the thighs and hips.

Many women notice an increase in waist size or a change in body shape in their midlife years, from more 'pear-shaped' to more 'apple-shaped'. But what is really important here is that too much weight around your abdomen can have serious follow-on effects to your overall health.


Why you need to be aware
The fat stored in the abdominal region is also known as 'visceral fat'. Compared to the other type of fat (subcutaneous fat), you cannot pinch visceral fat with your fingers or grab it with your hand. Visceral fat lies out of reach, deeper in your body, wrapping around vital organs such as your liver, gut and pancreas.

Visceral fat is favoured in midlife weight gain and, unfortunately, it's a key player in a variety of health issues. An excess of visceral fat is linked to an increased risk of heart disease (the number one killer of women in Australia), type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and dementia.


What you can do about it
Get active, stay active. The more you move, the more you can lower your overall weight and waist circumference (the measurement around your waist).

Even though physical activity may not entirely prevent weight gain with age, it can protect against the development of obesity and abdominal obesity. What's more, physical activity supports healthy bones, another key health issue for women in midlife.

Studies show that 60 minutes a day of moderate intensity activity are key to maintaining a healthy weight. If this sounds like too much for you, start small and work your way up. The important thing is to start.

What you eat matters. Diet is always a key part of being healthy, but in midlife it can be especially important in keeping the extra belly weight at bay. Choose a healthy way of eating that works for you and your lifestyle, and make sure it's one you can stick to.

Have you had weight issues in your 50s and 60s? Do you believe menopause was a contributing factor?

Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women's Health.


Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    8th May 2018
    Ladies it's cream cakes and booze which is causing the increase in the size of your backside.
    8th May 2018
    Hey Tib, you cant tell the truth about a woman's backside without suffering the consequences. Once, when asked by my better half 'does my bum look big in this' I foolishly replied 'no not big, effing enormous'......took me a week to recover.
    8th May 2018
    Maybe so Tib, but then generalities (such as yours) often attract a comparitive retort like - shit smokes and booze limit the thinking process.
    8th May 2018
    MD really do they I never knew that. Do they increase your weight as well? What do the cream cakes do to you? No wonder you ladies put on weight.
    8th May 2018
    Ozirules you could of said no your bum looks effing enormous no matter what you wear. But never say it if they can reach you. Women are so violent. Ha ha
    8th May 2018
    Tib, there may in fact be a lot you "never knew" and in all likelihood may never know. Really.
    8th May 2018
    MD you're right I know nothing about " shit smokes and booze limit the thinking process". I bow to you're superior knowledge.
    8th May 2018
    MD it's ok I'm only having fun, no insult intended.
    8th May 2018
    All good Tib, seriously I do enjoy your wicked sense of humour, it brings some degree of refreshing joie de vivre to some of the dreary topics. No insult taken.
    8th May 2018
    Oh and btw, you've handled it like an alpha male, well done.
    8th May 2018
    MD thank you , I am an Alpha male. And proud of it :)
    9th May 2018
    No one gets cancer of the toosh, Tib. How's your tum?
    9th May 2018
    Tib I think you miss understand the definition of an Alpha male.
    Alpha males don't denigrate females.
    An Alpha male is the leader of the pack. They nurture and protect their tribe.
    8th May 2018
    Exercise will do nothing unless you decrease your calorie intake, eat more low calorie foods like plants.

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