Menopause and Weight Gain - is it protective against osteoporosis?

menopause and weight gain

Are you finding that menopause and weight gain seem to belong in the same sentence? If you're going through menopause, have you been noticing a few extra pounds sneaking their way and hugging mainly around your belly?  Have you ever wondered why?

Does this menopause and weight gain story sound like yours? "After I turned 47 I was started to gain weight. My Doctor said it was because I was going into menopause and that because my body was changing there was really nothing I could do. I was dejected and pretty much just gave up trying. Now my self-esteem has plummeted and I'm disgusted with myself. I spend about two hours a day at the Y doing cardio and the machines. My biggest fear is that if I don't see a difference at my next weigh in I won't know how to cope and will quit." 

This may be a small solace, but you're definitely not alone. 

As I write this I'm 46, and I definitely have noticed that I seem to have MAS (Middle age spread which, I might add, is also middle-body spread..all around my middle).

And psssst... don't tell anyone but weight gain at menopause isn't the only thing I have going on. One of these days I'm going to have to start a chin hair acceptance society too!

Weight Gain at Menopause isn't your fault

But here's the thing: weight gain at menopause, as well as a change in your body shape (more towards being apple-shaped) is a symptom that's happening not only to me, but apparently to about 90% of menopausal women. Here's the only thing I know for sure - Mother Nature usually knows best what my body and my biology need, because with all the conflicting advice we get about fat being bad we only know what our culture feeds us. But there are so many weight loss advice myths out there that often what we need more than anything is a diet of self love. A diet of self love literally changes your body's chemistry and how it functions. 

But here's the good (or bad--depending on how you look at things) news: Menopause and weight gain are not your fault and newer research is finding it might even be protective of your health!  Yes- you read that correctly.  It seems we need a higher percentage of body fat at menopause to be protective against osteoporosis.  *Dieting any time is bad for you, but in pre-menopausal women, in particular it leads to a loss of bone mass.

For example--here's what I can tell you with absolutely certainty:  I AM NOT EATING ANY MORE CALORIES OR EXERCISING ANY LESS! My body suddenly seems to have developed a mind all of it's own, it's getting larger.

Of course, that doesn't stop people (usually those who haven't been through menopause) telling me: "Of course you must be eating more or exercising less." I usually don't even bother to argue. 

Weight gain during menopause is one of those times when people love to point an accusatory finger at you (and you do that to yourself as well) menopause and weight gain have to do with hormonal changes and not gluttony or being more lazy.  It's a time though when our cultural ideals and our biology clash because they want different things.


Bacon L, Stern JS, Keim NL, Van Loan MD: Low bone mass in premenopausal chronic dieting obese women. Eur J Clin Nutr 2004, 58:966-971.

Van Loan MD, Keim NL: Influence of cognitive eating restraint on total- body measurements of bone mineral density and bone mineral content in premenopausal women 18-45 y: a cross-sectional study. Am J Clin Nutr 2000, 72:837-843. 

Why does menopause and weight gain happen to so many?

Women around the world, regardless of ethnicity or levels of thinness/fatness have a steady upwards curve in weight from about age 45 until about the age of 55-60 before it starts tapering off again.

Now here's the question I find myself asking:  If menopause and weight gain happen across cultures and everywhere this not what nature intended? This is a time to remember that you can be healthy at every size. 

(And yes I know I might well be shot down in flames for daring to ask something that seems to go so against everyone handing out tips for weight loss during menopause). 

If weight gain at menopuase for most women is around the waist - is that not where it is meant to accumulate at this time in a woman's life cycle? I mean, we don't question where weight accumulates during pregnancy which is also a time of hormonal fluctuation. Is there perhaps not some protective function about belly fat at this time of life that we haven't considered because all we ever read is that all fat around the middle is bad! bad! bad!

Most women with weight gain during menopause will gain about 10 to 15 pounds. Most of this weight sneaks up gradually - maybe even as little as a pound a year starting at peri-menopause (the earliest stages of menopause proper). 

If you're one of those women who have experienced early menopause or surgical menopause (eg. a hysterectomy) you may experience more rapid and extreme weight gain. Middle-aged spread can be tough or us to live with.

You may feel frustrated and even fearful when you start to experience that extra padding that accompanies weight gain during menopause. But ten chances to one, it's your body's hormones that affect not only your appetite, but also your metabolism and fat storage. It certainly isn't a time you want to be messing with dieting which changes you body composition and turns your body into a better fat storage container.

No matter what you do, fluctuating levels of sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and androgen levels will fight you all the way when it comes to weight gain and menopause. 

Do you want to make peace with your body, stop dieting and fall in like with yourself? 

Have your menopausal weight gain rant here....

Here's the perfect place to rant about your changing body... Or just tell your story, or share your self-acceptance tips, or tell us what you think about this post....

Have your menopausal body rant here

Here's the perfect place to rant about your changing body... Or just tell your story or share your self-acceptance tips....

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