When it comes to weight gain and metabolism, women in menopause have a lot of questions.
“Why am I suddenly gaining weight? Is it because of my hormones? And why, oh why, is that stomach fat so damn hard to get rid of?”
Studies show that women between the ages of 42 and 52 gain an average of 4.6 pounds during menopause. But fluctuations in metabolic health don’t only affect how we look: it can also impact our overall health and wellbeing.
Last week, Dr. Elizabeth Poynor, Elektra Health gynecologic oncologist and pelvic surgeon, spoke with Dr. Baier, obesity and family medicine specialist at Calibrate to answer all your burning questions about metabolic health & menopause.
1. Why does weight gain occur during perimenopause?
Like all things related to hormonal health, there isn’t just one culprit. Menopausal weight gain can be caused by sleep disruptions, elevated cortisol from life stressors, and metabolic changes due to fluctuating hormones.
2. Why is my weight gain mostly in my abdomen?
Estrogen helps our cells maintain our levels of insulin, an anabolic hormone that promotes fat storage with an affinity for visceral fat cells (the fat around our midsection). When estrogen levels decline during menopause, our insulin levels trend upwards, sending our bodies a message to store fat in these tissues.
3. Is visceral fat dangerous to our metabolic health?
Higher levels of visceral fat are associated with a higher risk of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
4. How does sleep impact weight gain during this time?
Deep, restorative sleep allows our hormones to reset. Unfortunately, as we know all too well, sleep issues can be a major issue for women in menopause. A lack of sleep leads to an increase in ghrelin, the hunger hormone, causing a craving for sugar and sweets.
5. How come the things I’ve done to lose weight in the past are no longer working?
Given the shift in menopausal metabolism and insulin resistance, the carbohydrates and sugar you’ve been eating for many years begin to metabolize very differently in your body. Also, the 3-10% loss of muscle mass per decade that occurs after the age of 30 contributes to the differences in the way your body responds to workouts or diets.
WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING
Style icon and our forever imaginary best friend Tracee Ellis Ross on living life through trial and error and accepting the “glorious invitation” that is perimenopause.
A recent study in mice finds that levels of estrogen may affect how physically active we are.
“Sorrow in the face of aging would be a poor response to such good fortune.” A 60-year-old reflects on luck and grace in this touching NY Times piece.
A comprehensive podcast from The Journal of the American Medical Association on care and treatment after surgical menopause.
Women owned? Check. Age representation in ads? Check. We’re eyeing this Swedish underwear company creating lingerie that prioritizes comfort.
This body lotion containing melatonin and magnesium may be the boost you need to get ultimate Zzzs. Bonus points: Venus Williams is their Chief Brand Officer.