Menopause isn’t one of those subjects that are talked about a lot. (Sidebar: Can we change that?) What is often mentioned in the whole menopause conversation is age-related weight gain. If you find this all too true, know you’re not alone. And before you blame your metabolism for not having your back anymore (hint: your metabolism doesn’t slow during menopause), hang out for a bit and hear us out. We’ve got four ways you can still reach your weight goals during menopause.
Here’s the thing: The transition before menopause, called perimenopause, is where most of the hormonal changes go down that can cause symptoms like excess pounds. Your hormones begin to fluctuate anytime from your mid-thirties to your mid-forties. For some, that can mean night sweats, irritability, hot flashes, headaches, and joint pain—the typical menopause symptoms. Once your hormones flatline, you officially enter menopause. The medical definition is when you’ve gone 12 months without a period.
After menopause, your ovaries hardly produce any estrogen; without regular ovulation, progesterone takes a dive. And a drop in estrogen levels, along with higher amounts of androgens like testosterone, can lead to a redistribution of weight around your midsection. On top of that, you may feel hungrier during this time because one of estrogen’s many roles is to help curb appetite.
Right about now, you may have a palm to your face thinking, “oh jeez.” But this isn’t to say there’s nothing you can do about it—the hormonal changes might make you more likely to gain weight, yes, but there’s actually more to it than declining hormones. Age, genetics, and lifestyle factors all impact menopausal weight gain and maintenance. And contrary to popular belief, your metabolism does not slow during menopause; instead, it remains quite stable until your 60s. Hey, that’s some good news.
OK, so we know hormones obv play a role in menopause-related weight. But let’s talk about other factors like genetics and lifestyle. We know that weight is largely driven by our unique biology—as in, there are specific genes that can fuel the development of obesity. This doesn’t mean you’re *doomed* but rather, your environment can influence those genes. Or, in other words, your lifestyle.
Let’s start with diet. Over time, consuming a standard American diet—full of fast carbs, added sugars, and energy-dense foods—can lead to extra calories stored as fat. And during this stage of life, you may be more strapped for time. We get it! Convenience foods (whether DoorDash or drive-through or a quick grab at the supermarket) can be a possibly less healthy choice, but it’s an easier one.
Getting regular exercise during menopause may also be more difficult due to work, hectic family schedules, or fear of injury. The result is that lean muscle mass tends to decrease while fat mass increases. And that can drag down your metabolism—since muscle burns more fat all day, every day, compared to fat. And since weight is so much more than eat less, move more—adequate rest is essential.
On top of all this, you may be pegged with sleep disturbances and mood changes that are s-t-r-e-s-s-f-u-l, to say the least. And it’s not uncommon to cope with stress through food. The good news is that you have more control over your environment than you may think.
Get regular movement
When exercise is paired with a healthy diet, it’s most effective. In fact, greater weight and fat loss have been achieved in postmenopausal women who use nutrition and movement to their advantage compared to those who simply rely on diet alone.
Be sure to do both heart-pumping cardio and strength training to increase muscle mass. Low on time? Then get ready—tip coming at you: Try high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It’s all about doing short bursts of challenging exercise that alternate with less strenuous bouts of movement. Postmenopausal women with obesity who did HIIT lost twice as much weight over 16 weeks than those who relied on endurance exercise, according to a small study published in Menopause, the Journal of The North American Menopause Society.The researchers say that HIIT enabled participants to see better results in less time and stick to their exercise schedules.
"While the benefits of HIIT are promising, keep those sessions to 20 minutes or less if you’re just starting out,” says Jackie Giannelli, FNP-BC, Founding Nurse Practitioner at Elektra Health. “You’ll reap the cardiovascular benefits without spiking cortisol levels. This is important since too much cortisol can wreak havoc on insulin levels over time and be counterproductive to weight loss—something that’s especially true for perimenopausal women with fluctuating hormones." Need some specific workout suggestions? Try these.
Aim to eat well
Eating a healthy diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats (ahem, Found Plate Guide), can help slow down age-related body changes, according to the National Institutes of Health. And there’s evidence that noshing on foods rich in phytoestrogens, such as edamame and flax seeds, may help with hot flashes tied to menopause.
Plus, there’s good evidence that the more mindful you are about your food choices—and the more you eat at home—the healthier your diet is likely to be. When more than 123 postmenopausal women followed a 12-month dietary weight loss program, researchers noticed a higher percentage of weight loss when participants prepped more meals at home—and completed food journals—versus eating out, and published these findings in the Journal of theAcademy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Stress is sometimes just inevitable, but chronic stress, meaning tension that sticks around for the long term, can also be a culprit behind excess pounds. It affects your appetite, metabolism, and even your sleep. So, as much as possible, practice stress management techniques. Some examples include journaling, yoga, meditation, walking outside in nature, and deep breathing practices—which are shown to reduce cortisol levels and stress in general.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is essential for weight care. And as we mentioned before, it may be more difficult during this life stage. Reducing stress can help you get those much-deserved ZZZs. And you can try out some tips to help you sleep better here. For adults between 18 and 60, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting at least seven hours of sleep a night.
Elektra Health and Found can help.
Elektra Health offers holistic, integrative, and evidence-based menopause care built for the 21st-century woman. Join Elektra today to receive personalized support and telemedicine care from nurses & MDs trained in menopause medicine -- as well as MD-approved education and access to a moderated, private community. Elektra is trusted by leading healthcare organizations, including Mass General Brigham Health Plan, EmblemHealth, and more. Found also offers personalized care and education—we’re the country’s largest medically-supported weight loss clinic. The latest science about excess weight and obesity shows that these conditions deserve medical care (it’s not just about a lack of willpower). After you take Found’s quiz, if you’re eligible for medication, you’re matched with a care provider who specializes in obesity medicine and can personalize a treatment plan for you. 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’re thrilled to offer Found members a 50 percent discount on a yearly Elektra membership.
Weight loss during menopause is possible with healthy lifestyle habits. You are in the driver’s seat of your health journey, so enjoy this phase of your life.
About Elektra Health
Elektra Health is built around one simple mission: smashing the menopause taboo. We’re creating a movement to reimagine menopause as the beginning of a new chapter, one that is powerful & transformative.
We provide deep expertise & science-backed solutions alongside community support & guidance to give you agency over your hormonal health. Our approach is holistic and integrative, and it starts with education from trusted experts.
We believe women deserve better. Join our movement to ensure every woman lives a bold, fearless & thriving menopause and beyond.
Found is the largest medically-supported weight care clinic in the country, serving nearly 190,000 members to-date. Members receiving medication plus behavior change support at Found have lost at least 13% more weight, and in some cases up to 229% more weight, compared to people receiving the same medication in clinical studies. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.