Why Is It Hard to Lose Weight During Menopause?

Do you know why it's hard to lose weight during menopause? We'll analyze all the reasons according to the experts.
Why Is It Hard to Lose Weight During Menopause?
Diego Pereira

Reviewed and approved by el médico Diego Pereira.

Last update: 05 February, 2023

Menopause is associated with a series of physical and psychological changes that are the subject of concern for both women and doctors. One of the most characteristic is the increase in body weight and the alteration in the distribution of adipose tissue. To help you understand all the aspects of the matter, today we want to analyze why it’s difficult to lose weight during menopause and what you can do about it.

Excess weight and obesity during menopause

As the experts remind us, obesity is more common in men than in women before the age of 45; however, the trend reverses after exceeding this age range.

On average, it’s estimated that visceral fat increases by 44% and gynecoid fat by 32% during the process. Therefore, and according to evidence, both obesity and metabolic syndrome are 3.3 times higher among postmenopausal women than among premenopausal women.

All of the above helps us to affirm that, indeed, concerns about excess weight and obesity during menopause aren’t unfounded. This is a real problem, one that also has multiple implications for physical and emotional health. Heart problems, diabetes, hypertension, depression, and cancer are some of the associated complications.

Therefore, many women implement a regular exercise routine and make changes to their diet in the hope of counteracting weight gain. Despite this, and no matter how disciplined they are, a good many of them fail to achieve the objectives set from the beginning.

What’s the reason behind this? As is natural, the process is very complex and multifactorial; but in the following paragraphs, we’ll explain it to you in simple terms.

Why is it difficult to lose weight during menopause?

When people think about how hard it can be to lose weight during menopause, they usually refer to the rapid drop in estrogen levels. Certainly, this seems to be the most obvious explanation; but the truth is that the process is more complex than is believed. Although not all the variables are known, experts point out some of them.

Physiological factors

To lose weight during menopause, you have to understand the causes of weight gain
All the changes of menopause are due to physiological alterations that can impact metabolism.

Genetic predisposition, ethnicity, natural aging, and epigenetic changes come into play when manifesting obstacles to losing weight during menopause.

These are considered non-modifiable factors, and an example of this is found in the slower basal metabolic rate (BMR). It naturally decreases with age, reducing your ability to burn calories effectively.

In addition to this, the presence of underlying conditions before the appearance of the first symptoms of menopause is considered a risk factor. For example, polycystic ovary syndrome, hypothyroidism, and musculoskeletal disorders. Even in the absence of menopause, these naturally tend to hinder the process of losing weight.

Hormonal factors

The menopausal period is associated with several hormonal changes. There’s a significant decrease in estradiol (E2), estrone (E1), and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG); while increasing the production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and maintaining androgen levels.

All this translates into changes in body composition characterized by the accumulation of adipose tissue mainly in the abdominal area.

Experts warn that estrogens in women are responsible for the accumulation of fat in the subcutaneous tissue on the buttocks and legs. On the other hand, androgens are responsible for the accumulation of subcutaneous fat in the abdominal region.

As the production of the former is reduced and the latter is maintained, fat is diverted from the hips, buttocks, and legs to the abdominal area.

Lifestyle factors

These factors include excessive caloric intake, low physical activity, sedentary behavior, and irregular sleep patterns. Many of these variables are mediated by hormonal changes, as these mediate sleep, hunger, appetite, and energy or fatigue. Despite this, they’re also naturally encouraged by aging.

It’s pertinent to take into account the changes in eating patterns in recent decades. For example, the ease with which ultra-processed foods have managed to acquire a leading role in our diets.

This is one of the reasons why, apart from hormonal changes, the prevalence of obesity in menopause and the difficulty in losing weight have increased.

Psychological factors

To lose weight during menopause, you have to understand how the body works.
Many emotional problems abound during menopause, something that can influence weight gain.

Disorders such as depression, anxiety, stress, and others can stimulate endogenous mechanisms that lead to excess weight and obesity.

Furthermore, these can be triggered as a consequence of hormonal alteration; but they can also appear detached from it. Psychological anguish due to the process, the alteration of a woman’s sex life, body image, and old age can also be behind it.

Along with all these variables, it’s important to consider that many women before, during, or after menopause start drug treatment to address various health problems. A side effect of some of these is increased body weight.

All this makes it difficult to lose weight during menopause, a very complex and intricate process, as you’ve seen. The causes are multifactorial and not all the responsibility can be derived from the hormonal imbalance.

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