Some changes are inevitable with menopause (‘bye, Aunt Flo!)—and there are some you can manage. Your body weight is one of them. Start with this: As your body changes, there are enduring things about your physiology that you can use to your advantage. Even if you’re not yet in perimenopause, healthy lifestyle habits and supportive care can help set yourself up to prevent weight gain as you age. Here’s what to know.
A lot of us start to lose muscle mass after age 30, and even our organs don’t replace cells as we age. In our 30s, our bone density starts to decline, and with less physical activity, our body fat can increase. For women (based on biological sex at birth), perimenopause—the phase where periods start to become irregular before menopause—can mean the start of gaining more fat around the midsection and less around the hips. Even though these changes are natural, you can slow them down.
What you can do now:
Stay active. Or start. (Try these ideas to ease into a routine.) Experts—and the science backs them up—agree that becoming less active as we age contributes to the weight gain we associate with menopause.
Start strength training, whether you’re 30 or 60. Don’t let the persistent myth that you’ll develop muscles like The Rock keep you from lifting weights. In a year-long study published by the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, postmenopausal women who spent a year lifting weights three times a week lost more fat and built more muscle than women who didn’t pump iron.
In the US, the average age for menopause is 51, with most women reaching it between 40 and 58. And many of us still assume menopause also means a metabolism slow-down, but science says that’s just not the case. In fact, your metabolism actually stays consistent from your 20s until around age 60, according to a report published in the journal Science in 2021 that included over 6,400 participants in 29 countries. So what leads to midlife weight gain? A number of things, including lifestyle or hormonal changes—and not just the drop in estrogen that comes with menopause. Many women experience trouble sleeping, depression, and stress—all of which can impact hormones that control your appetite, satiety (feeling satisfied after you eat), and how your body handles blood sugar. The good news is that lifestyle habits can go a long way toward managing these factors—and help is available.
What you can do now:
Move. It’s worth re-emphasizing the value of regular physical activity because it does your body so much good. When it comes to maintaining a healthy metabolism, movement is key. Aim for 150 to 300 minutes of activity a week doing something you love.
Nourish your gut bacteria. Those little organisms help support a healthy metabolism and body weight. Before you try probiotics (which can do more harm than good), add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes. These slow carbs (AKA complex carbs) are prebiotics—in other words, they feed your gut bacteria.
Maintain a healthy weight. If you have a BMI of 27 or higher or have trouble losing weight despite practicing healthy habits, consider getting help. There may be biological factors influencing your weight. An obesity medicine specialist—like the care providers at Found—can help you identify what’s going on and offer a treatment plan.
As many as 40 percent of women in their late 40s and early 50s have trouble getting a good night’s rest, and sleep has a surprising impact on maintaining a healthy weight. Poor sleep can change how your body releases the appetite and satiety hormones, ghrelin and leptin, prompting you to eat more. It also increases cortisol, a stress hormone that can prompt you to reach for less healthy foods. Missed sleep can decrease your body’s insulin sensitivity—which can lead to weight gain. Bottom line, protecting your Zzzs can pay off with a better body weight.
What you can do now:
If you have trouble getting your winks, try strategies to improve your sleep hygiene to get a solid seven to nine hours of restful slumber every night.
Answer this quick wellness quiz: Do you snore and wake up feeling like you didn’t get enough rest? Or does your partner notice you stop breathing at night? If so, talk to your care provider about a sleep apnea test. Sleep apnea is a serious condition where you stop breathing multiple times per hour, so your body doesn’t get enough oxygen. This kind of stress triggers hormonal changes that may make it difficult to lose weight and even make you put on pounds.
Build a care plan for menopause. Because so many women experience disrupted sleep during menopause, educating yourself and working with a coach—such as Elektra Health’s menopause guides—can help you create a plan to manage wellness as your body changes.
Losing weight after menopause has been shown to prevent or manage metabolic syndrome—a cluster of conditions that can lead to serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and a higher risk of developing blood clots. It’s diagnosed when someone has three or more of these health indicators:
higher waist circumference (35 inches or greater for women)
high blood pressure
high blood sugar
Low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol
Doing what you can to avoid—or resolve—metabolic syndrome is a good move for your long-term health. One note: Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are more likely to have metabolic syndrome, so it’s important to work with a healthcare professional.
What you can do now:
Track your health numbers. The digits on the scale don’t tell the whole story. Know your blood pressure, waist circumference, cholesterol levels, and blood glucose. If you’re insulin resistant or pre-diabetic, work with your care provider to track your A1C.
Here’s a three-peat: Stay active. Regular movement—aerobic activity, strength training, and even gentle exercise like yoga or tai chi—can help manage the factors that make up metabolic syndrome. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150-250 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity to maintain a healthy weight, but there’s evidence that just 3,000 steps a day above your regular activity can have a positive impact on your health. And you don’t have to do it all at once.
Here’s a pleasant surprise: Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you won’t be able to lose weight. In a twelve-month study of women with excess weight and obesity on a weight management program published in Nutrition Journal, age had no effect on their ability to lose weight. Participants were able to improve their blood glucose and cholesterol, and the women were also able to improve their body mass index (BMI) and lipids regardless of their menopause status. And get this: the type of weight loss was different, too. Among premenopausal women, 21 percent of weight loss was due to loss of lean body mass (muscle and other lean tissue). But among postmenopausal women, weight loss was due exclusively to fat loss.
The takeaway? No matter your age or menopause status, the habits you stick with can have a positive impact on your health long-term.
What you can do now:
Cultivate a positive outlook. Practices like mindfulness, positive self-talk, and visualization can keep you moving forward in your health journey.
Pick up some good lifestyle habits or build on those you already practice. Choose things that are appropriate for where you are now, including activities and nutritious foods you enjoy eating.
Elektra Health and Found can help. Elektra offers personal, one-on-one digital access to a menopause guide—an expert in the field—who can help you tackle your top symptoms, along with an evidence-based menopause educational program. Members also have access to a supportive community of others who want to take control of their well-being. Found also offers personalized care and education—we’re the largest medically-supported weight loss clinic in the country. The latest science about excess weight and obesity shows these conditions deserve medical care (it’s not just about willpower). After you take Found’s quiz, if you’re eligible for medication, you’re matched with a care provider who can personalize your treatment plan. You’re also matched with a health coach for one-on-one weight care support, plus you get access to Found’s behavior change program and an in-app community of others on a weight care journey. Together, care from both Elektra Health and Found make sense—which is why we’ve partnered to offer a special discount package. Found members get a 50 percent discount on a one-year guide-focused level membership to Elektra.
Weight loss during menopause is possible with healthy lifestyle habits, a supportive community, and medical guidance. And if you’re not at this life stage yet, you can set yourself up for a better transition. You are in the driver’s seat of your health journey. ***
Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving more than 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.