Weight Gain and Menopause


Dear Crabby,

My menopause symptoms have been moderate and I feel lucky to have escaped hot flashes. But I am getting fatter by the second. I am 5 foot 3 inches tall, 46 years old and have weighed 130 pounds most of my life. Within one year I have gained a whopping 15 pounds. I am having problems with high blood pressure and I look and feel terrible. I would rather have hot flashes than turn into the Pillsbury Dough Girl. Help!

The Pillsbury Dough Girl from Minnesota

Dear Pillsbury Dough Girl:

Weight gain may be the most difficult change that occurs during menopause. We live in a society that celebrates young, skinny women. When we start to gain weight, whether it’s from childbirth, bad eating habits, lack of exercise, aging or menopause it is emotionally depressing. Your weight history seems stable and healthy, no doubt you have good eating and exercising habits. As your hormones fluctuate during menopause you start shifting fat to your mid-section because your progesterone and estrogen levels decrease. Progesterone increases your metabolism. As it decreases during menopause, so does your metabolism.

Women gain an average of one pound per year starting in their late thirties due to a loss of muscle mass and slowing metabolism. This can add weight as well. You are 46 years old, and if you started gaining that one pound per year starting at 38, that equals eight pounds. Over half the additional weight you are now noticing during menopause.

Fluctuating hormones during menopause can cause an increase in weight and natural aging. Poor food choices and lack of exercise are unforgiving at this time in your life. If you already have a good exercise program, you may need to increase the time and intensity of your routine. If you eat well, cutting portions may yield results.

Start keeping a food and exercise diary. Record your menopause symptoms. According to the BMI (Body Mass Index) charts you are not obese, but considered slightly overweight for your height. This is the perfect time to make food and exercise adjustments. As you have experienced, being overweight raises your risk of many diseases such as high blood pressure. Doing 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week may help maintain your current weight. Exercising one hour a day is optimum. Studies have shown that people who briskly walk 30 minutes daily lost up to 30 pounds over time and lowered their blood pressure.

Try incorporating a 30-minute power walk most days of the week, cutting your eating portions and discuss hormone therapy with your doctor. For faster results, exercise 60 minutes a day.

A Zipped Up Dear Crabby

Write to Dear Crabby and get advice about your menopausal symptoms.
If you have:
• Hot flashes
• Itchy skin
• Breast tenderness
• Mood swings
• Memory lapses
• Fuzzy thinking
• Night sweats
• Sleep problems
• Loss of libido
• Dry vagina
• Irregular periods
• Headaches

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