You’d think that it’s almost inevitable. That is, gaining weight – especially around the midline – once menopause hits. After all, it doesn’t take more than a quick look around you to confirm this. You find middle-aged women everywhere carrying a little (or a lot of) extra fat.
And while the hormonal changes that occur during this period of a woman’s life are often blamed, new research reveals that this isn’t exactly the case. In fact, according to a recent study presented at the International Menopause Society, the weight gain is due to lifestyle factors – not changes in hormones.
Specifically, being less active and losing muscle mass over time decreases metabolism. Combine that with a less than favorable diet, and on average, this leads to about a pound of weight gain every year. Of course, after a while these add up. And again, this phenomenon is irrespective of menopause.
With that said, while the low levels of estrogen don’t increase fat storage they do change its distribution. What once would have settled on the hips now shifts to the belly. And that’s a very dangerous transition as it can lead to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and other diseases of aging.
Here’s what the lead researcher, Professor Susan Davis of Monash University in Melbourne had to say about this:
“It is a myth that the menopause causes a woman to gain weight. It’s really just a consequence of environmental factors and aging which cause that. But there is no doubt that the new spare tire many women complain of after menopause is real, and not a consequence of any changes they have made. Rather this is the body’s response to the fall in estrogen at menopause: a shift of fat storage from the hips to the waist.”
She went on to advise:
“What this translates to in real terms is that women going through the menopause should begin to try to control their weight before it becomes a problem, so if you have not been looking after yourself before the menopause, you should certainly start to do so when it arrives.”
In short, if you haven’t hit menopause yet, start forming good habits now. Get your diet in check, keep moving, and stay healthy. Because as hard as it is to get in shape now… it’s only going to get worse (not exactly a comforting thought, but it’s a fact of life).
With that said, if you’ve hit menopause and beyond and find yourself carrying unwanted weight, there’s never a better time than today to do something about it. Your chances of developing all of the aforementioned diseases steadily decrease as your body fat drops. Therefore, do everything in your power to ensure you enjoy your golden years. And again, you can start by getting (and staying) in the healthiest state possible.