Menopause can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, and intimate issues. Another thing that some women have to deal with after “the change” starts is menopausal weight gain. While you might not get back to the size you were in your 20s and 30s, there are steps you can take to combat menopausal weight gain.

Choose the Right Diet

By “diet” we really mean a lifestyle change for lasting changes instead of a temporary diet. Making good food choices will benefit your nutrition and help you manage your weight. Eat mindfully by paying attention to portions, not eating while doing other things, not skipping meals, and eating slowly to savor small bites. Limit processed foods and sugars. Get plenty of protein from lean meats, dairy, or plant sources. Some diets that can be effective for weight loss include:

  • A low carb diet
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Vegetarian diet

Build Muscle and Burn Fat During Workouts

Some women of menopausal age tend to be less active than they once were. But they need to start moving more for total health. To combat menopausal weight gain, you need to choose the right kinds of exercises during workouts. 

Mix aerobic/cardio exercises with strength training in or to burn fat and build muscle. Resistance training with multiple reps of the same movement is beneficial. Find exercises that target your core to reduce that extra weight around your middle. If you have joint issues, try low impact aerobic exercises like swimming, water aerobics, or cycling.

Get Enough Sleep

Poor sleep quality becomes more common during menopause, and this can compound problems with weight gain. A lack of sleep affects your weight in much the same way as hormonal shifts, making you want to eat more and causing your body to collect fat around your middle. 

If you are experiencing disturbed sleep, practice good sleep habits: remove all electronic screens from the bedroom for at least an hour before bedtime, go to bed and get up on the same schedule each day, and ensure a restful sleep environment. If sleep quality doesn’t improve, seek help from your doctor or a sleep specialist.

Check Your Medications

Sometimes medications can cause you to gain weight or prevent weight loss. Some medications that are used to treat other menopausal symptoms can have this side effect. If you are taking a new medication and have noticed weight gain, it may be worth a conversation with your doctor. Your doctor may recommend discontinuing the drug or trying an alternative that doesn’t have the same side effect.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you are struggling with menopausal weight gain, you might want to consult your doctor. They may be able to help with recommendations on diet and exercise. If you’re having a really difficult time, you can talk to a weight loss doctor about a medical weight loss plan. An obesity medicine specialist will typically be an option if your body mass index (BMI) is 27 or higher and you have a weight-related health condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Women with a BMI over 30 will typically be candidates for intervention even if they don’t have a weight-related health condition

Your doctor may also be able to give you information on what you can reasonably expect. You might have to adjust to a “new normal” when it comes to your weight during and after menopause. Menopause is a transition just like puberty. So your body will change, and unfortunately, it can’t always be completely changed back to your pre-menopausal norm.

Dr. Karen Clark of Chapel Hill Gynecology is well-versed in helping women manage the symptoms of menopause. She is an expert in hormone replacement therapy and other treatments to help women get through the transition as comfortably as possible. Call (919) 960-2720 to schedule an appointment.