min read
February 23, 2023

Menopause Weight Gain: Causes and Solutions

Discover the causes of menopause weight gain and effective solutions to stay healthy. Learn our weight management tips and diet recommendations.

Lanby Team
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The menopausal transition affects each woman uniquely and in various ways. The body begins to use energy differently, fat cells change, and women may gain weight more easily. You may experience changes in your bone or heart health, your body shape and composition, or your physical function. 

While this causes discomfort and frustration for many women, there are healthy diet and lifestyle changes that can help make symptoms less severe. We’re here to give you the information you need to figure out what could work best for you. Let’s get started:

What Is Menopause?

Most women reach menopause, a natural decline of reproductive hormones, between the ages of 45 to 55 years old. Menopause is typically diagnosed 12 months after a woman’s last period, and is caused by the loss of ovarian follicular function and a decrease in circulating blood estrogen levels. The transition into menopause can be gradual, usually beginning with changes in the menstrual cycle. 

In the years leading up to that point, women may experience irregular periods, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, weight gain, and other dreaded symptoms. This phase is referred to as menopausal transition or perimenopause (meaning "around menopause") and refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.

Menopause Symptoms and Signals

Change in Your Period: 

This is usually the first thing to raise alarm bells. Whether irregularity for you involves longer or shorter cycles or more or less bleeding, these changes are to be expected. If you notice any of the symptoms below, we recommend setting up an appointment with your gynecologist or primary care physician, to ensure there is nothing more serious:

  • Your periods happen very close together.
  • You have heavy bleeding.
  • You have spotting.
  • Your periods last more than a week.
  • Your periods resume after no bleeding for more than a year.


Hot Flashes: 

Many women experience hot flashes before, during and after menopause. Why this occurs is not perfectly clear, but we do know that hormonal fluctuations are to blame. Most research suggests that decreased estrogen levels sensitize your body's thermostat (hypothalamus) to slight changes in body temperature. When the hypothalamus fears your body is too warm, it prompts a series of events to cool you down, one of which is a quick release of heat. 

You may also experience redness on your chest, neck, or face, and feel sweat or cold shivers after the hot flash subsides. 

Hot flashes differ from woman to woman; they can be mild or strong enough to wake you in your sleep. Most hot flashes last from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, and can happen from multiple times an hour to once a week. A few at-home remedies may help minimize these triggers: namely, avoiding spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol. It’s also recommended to use lightweight, removable layers to help you react quickly when that heat strikes. 


Some women may start having trouble getting a good night’s sleep. This can mean trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or waking up too early, potentially due to night sweats. To ensure you are getting enough sleep, work with your physician or wellness advisor to understand your unique sleep cycle and identify solutions to unlocking better sleep.

Vaginal health and sexuality: 

Due to the loss of estrogen in the body after menopause, the vagina may shrink or become drier, which can lead to discomfort during sexual intercourse. You may also notice a shift in libido where you feel less interested in sex. 

Mood changes: 

Because of this shift in hormones, you may also experience mood swings, headaches, or heart palpitations that cause feelings of anxiety. You may become more irritable due to hormone changes, disruptive sleep, or general discomfort. If you start to experience more intense feelings of anxiety or depression, speak with your doctor. 

Your body looks and feels different: 

Many women go through body changes during menopause. For each woman this looks different. You might notice more belly fat in the waist, you could lose muscle and gain body fat, and your skin could become thinner. You may also experience stiffness or achyness in your joints and muscles. 

Causes of Weight Gain During Menopause

Menopause can be a challenging time for many women, but understanding the causes of menopause weight gain can help you take steps to manage it.

Let’s explore the most common causes of weight gain during menopause:

  1. Hormonal changes are the primary cause of menopause weight gain. As your body produces less estrogen, your metabolism slows down, making it more difficult to burn calories.
  2. Age-related muscle loss can also contribute to weight gain during menopause. As you lose muscle mass, your body's ability to burn calories decreases, making it easier to put on weight.
  3. Genetics and lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise habits, can also play a role in menopause weight gain. Eating a diet high in processed foods and sugar, or not getting enough physical activity, can contribute to weight gain during menopause.
  4. Stress and lack of sleep can also lead to menopause weight gain. Chronic stress can cause the body to release the hormone cortisol, which can lead to increased fat storage. And not getting enough sleep can disrupt your metabolism and hormone levels, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight.
  5. Finally, menopause medications can also cause weight gain. Some medications used to treat menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, can cause weight gain as a side effect. If you are taking medication and experiencing weight gain, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.

Risks of Weight Gain During Menopause

Know that weight gain during menopause is completely normal—it’s not just you. While weight gain is normal, excess weight around your midsection can increase your risk of:

  • Breathing problems: You may start to experience symptoms of not being able to get enough air, chest tightness, or working harder to breathe, also known as “air hunger”. Shortness of breath can be a symptom of heart and lung problems, so be sure to check in with your physician to rule out anything more serious. 
  • Heart and blood vessel disease: A good amount of research has shown a connection between menopause and cardiovascular disease, including risk factors such as rising LDL (bad cholesterol) or decreasing HDL (good cholesterol). 
  • Type 2 diabetes: After menopause, changes in hormone levels can trigger changes in blood sugar levels, which can cause weight gain. The added weight around your midsection can lead to higher blood pressure, which can then lead to type 2 diabetes. Be sure to monitor your blood pressure and blood sugar levels and work with your physician to ensure optimal health. 

How to Lose Weight During Menopause: Tips and Recommendations

While it can be upsetting or uncomfortable to see your body change, there are healthy ways in which you can address these changes. There is evidence that certain foods may help relieve some symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, poor sleep and low bone density. 


The CDC recommends that older adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, in addition to at least two days of strength training. However, to effectively address menopausal weight gain, a combination of both moderate and vigorous exercises is recommended.

Aerobic exercises can include walking, swimming, cycling, and running, while strength training typically involves lifting weights or using resistance bands. It's important to note that what constitutes moderate or vigorous exercise can vary from person to person, so it's essential to listen to your body and choose activities that feel challenging but still manageable for you.

Carbohydrate Intake

If you are looking for ways to get rid of excess belly fat, then decreasing carbs, especially heavily processed or refined carbs like pasta and bread, might be your answer. If you are perimenopausal, take a look at how much sugar you are eating. Carbs turn into sugars in our bodies, and while some foods turn faster than others, it is something to be aware of. Research has found that a reduced-carbohydrate diet may decrease the risk of postmenopausal weight gain.

Healthy Sleep

As stated above, menopause can affect your sleep patterns. Insomnia is an extremely common symptom in perimenopausal women. Trouble falling asleep, awakening throughout the night, and being unable to sleep in the morning all leads to feeling tired and unrefreshed throughout the day. Poor quality sleep also impacts our hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. This leads to the inability to complete day-to-day tasks, eating poorly, and exercising less. High-quality sleep helps to decrease some of the menopausal symptoms.

While the recommended duration of sleep differs from person to person, seven hours is the minimum recommended with eight being the ideal. To ensure good quality sleep, keep your bedroom at a cold enough temperature, limit screen time, and don’t eat right before bed. 

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)  

If your decrease in estrogen is contributing to menopausal symptoms, such as severe hot flashes and night sweats, but the symptoms (despite trying alternative approaches) are severe enough to impact your quality of life, ask your doctor about hormone replacement therapy or other medications. 

Like any meditation, HRT has both risks and benefits. Whether the risks outweigh the benefits, though, is something each woman should discuss with her healthcare provider, especially as new, bioidentical formulations have become available.

Weight Management Diet Tips during Menopause

Diet will depend on each patient of course, and their food choices or preferences. It is important to consult with specialists and trusted nutritionists to ensure you are getting the nutrients that you need. Join The Lanby to learn how our Wellness Advisor, a registered dietitian, can create tailored nutrition plans for you. 

Foods to Eat More of

Fruits and Vegetables 

Packed with vitamins and minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. In a study of over 17,000 menopausal women, those eating more vegetables, fruit, fiber, and soy experienced a 19% reduction in hot flashes compared to the control group. The reduction was attributed to the healthier diet and weight loss.

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale or radishes, may be especially helpful for postmenopausal women. In one study, eating broccoli decreased levels of a type of estrogen linked to breast cancer, while increasing levels of an estrogen type that protects against breast cancer. Dark berries like blackberries or blueberries may also benefit women going through menopause. 

Whole Grains 

Whole grains can be an excellent dietary solution for managing menopause weight gain. These nutrient-rich foods are high in fiber and B vitamins, including thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid, which can help support a healthy metabolism and prevent overeating.

In fact, a study of over 11,000 postmenopausal women found that those who consumed 4.7 grams of whole-grain fiber per day (based on a 2,000 calorie diet) had a 17% lower risk of early death compared to those who consumed only 1.3 grams of whole-grain fiber.

So, adding more whole grains to your diet can not only help you feel fuller for longer, but it may also help reduce your risk of health issues while taking care of your body weight.


As discussed previously, foods that are high in protein are very important for postmenopausal women. Seafood such as salmon is not only high in protein, but is high in selenium, an important nutrient that is involved in DNA synthesis, thyroid hormone metabolism, and reproductive health. It is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat that can decrease inflammation and support brain health.


Incorporating foods rich in phytoestrogens, such as soybeans, chickpeas, flax seeds, and whole grains like barley, can be a great dietary solution for managing menopause weight gain. Phytoestrogens act as weak estrogens in the body and have been shown to help reduce hot flashes and increase estrogen levels in women experiencing menopause. Additionally, other phytoestrogen-rich foods like peanuts, grapes, berries, and green and black tea have also been shown to offer health benefits for women going through this life stage.

So, if you're looking for ways to manage menopause symptoms and maintain a healthy weight, consider adding more phytoestrogen-rich foods to your diet.

Foods to Avoid

Sugars and processed carbs

High blood sugar, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome all have been linked to higher frequency of hot flashes. Processed foods and added sugars are known to raise blood sugar at a quicker pace. The more processed foods are, the more intense the effect on blood sugar may be. 

Alcohol and caffeine

Alcohol and caffeine are two foods that women going through menopause should be mindful of if they want to maintain a healthy weight. Firstly, alcohol is high in calories and can contribute to weight gain if consumed regularly. Additionally, alcohol can disrupt the metabolism and digestion process, leading to an accumulation of belly fat.

Similarly, caffeine is another food that can interfere with weight management during menopause. Caffeine is a stimulant that can raise cortisol levels in the body, leading to increased stress and inflammation, which in turn can affect weight gain. Furthermore, caffeine can also interfere with sleep, which can negatively impact weight loss efforts.

High-salt foods

Eating foods high in sodium has been linked to lower bone density in postmenopausal women. As discussed previously, after menopause, the decrease in estrogen increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. Reducing your sodium consumption may help to lower this risk.

Power up on Protein 

The decrease in estrogen during menopause is linked to a decrease in muscle mass and bone strength. Because of this, menopausal women must increase their lean protein intake. It is recommended that women over 50 eat 20–25 grams of high quality protein per meal. To give you an idea of what that looks like:

  • 6oz of salmon has: 34 grams of protein
  • 1 egg: 6 grams of protein
  • ¼ cup of Almonds: 7 grams of protein
  • 1 cup of lentils: 18 grams of protein
  • 1 cup of chickpeas: 39 grams of protein.

Talk with Your Doctor 

Whether you are preparing for menopause, just entering menopause, or are postmenopausal, we recommend checking in with a trusted physician to set up a game plan for your health symptoms. At The Lanby, our Lead Physician and Wellness Advisor can help you combine both functional and integrative medicine approaches to come up with the best care plan for you and your specific needs. 

Menopause, while widely known, is not widely talked about. We hope to change that by providing you with the tools to better understand your own body and also make decisions that will benefit your health and decrease the undesirable symptoms of menopause. 

While online research is recommended, we also suggest working with a trusted physician on your personalized needs. Every individual has unique experiences specific to themselves and for that reason, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution every time. The Lanby offers a revolutionary approach to primary care, including clinical, dietary, and wellness components. Book a free consultation to learn more.

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