Menopause Weight Loss

Tips to Help With Menopause Weight Loss

Dr. Jolene BrightenPublished: Last Reviewed: Perimenopause/ Menopause, Weight Loss Leave a Comment

Are you struggling to lose weight or prevent unwanted pounds during menopause? You're not alone. During the menopause transition, up to 70% of women experience weight gain. On average, women gain about four to five pounds (or about 2 kilograms) during menopause, often with some of the weight accumulating in their belly area. Menopause weight loss requires a different approach due to shifting metabolic and ovarian hormones.

Hormonal shifts, particularly declining estrogen levels, can impact how the body stores fat during this phase of life. Metabolic changes and fluctuating moods can also influence energy levels and dietary choices, potentially contributing to weight gain, among other menopause symptoms.

If you're looking for how to lose weight in menopause, consider incorporating these strategies discussed in this article:

  • Eat 100+ grams of protein per day.
  • Consume 25+ grams of fiber.
  • Limit added sugar to no more than 25 grams.
  • Eat a Mediterranean-style diet.
  • Use an infrared sauna regularly.
  • Consider menopausal supplements such as creatine, myo-inositol, vitamin D, omega-3s, and adaptogenic herbs.
  • Strength train 3-5 days per week.
  • Aim to walk 7,000 or more steps per day.
  • Get quality sleep.

While shedding excess weight may be more challenging during this stage of life than in earlier years, it's not impossible. With the right approach, many women can effectively manage their weight and even enhance their overall well-being during menopause. The key lies in a combination of specific nutrition interventions, regular physical activity, and targeted supplementation.

Why Is Menopause Weight Loss So Difficult?

Losing weight in menopause can be particularly challenging for women, even those who didn't struggle to maintain a healthy body composition when they were younger. This is due to a combination of hormonal changes, metabolic shifts, age-related factors, and psychological issues that many menopausal women face. 

  • Changing Hormone Levels: Both higher and lower levels of estrogen can lead to fat accumulation. In addition, lower estrogen levels are associated with lower dopamine and serotonin, which can affect motivation and workout satisfaction.
  • Changing Metabolic Hormones: Insulin resistance is common as women age, with menopause being a time of increased risk.
  • Loss of Muscle Mass: As we age, our muscle mass declines if we are not diligent about eating adequate protein and strength training.
  • Sleep Disturbance: Trouble sleeping is common among menopausal women, which can lead to weight gain during menopause.
  • Psychological Factors: During the menopause transition (perimenopause), women are at a higher risk of anxiety and depression. This risk can continue into menopause leading to behavior that can influence body weight.

Let's look more closely at each of these factors:

Hormonal Changes That Can Make It Difficult to Lose Weight in Menopause

Estrogen is a hormone that helps to regulate a woman's metabolism and fat distribution in the body. It also impacts the way the body uses insulin, which can result in increased fat storage. 

During menopause, estrogen levels decline significantly, leading to changes in body composition and metabolism. There's also often an imbalance in the ratio of androgen to estrogen, which can contribute to weight gain by promoting the accumulation of abdominal fat and altering the distribution of body fat towards a more masculine pattern.

As estrogen levels decrease,  women can experience a redistribution of fat, often with increased visceral fat accumulation around the abdomen. Visceral fat, considered a “dangerous fat,” refers to the fat stored within the abdominal cavity, surrounding vital organs such as the liver, pancreas, and intestines.

Menopausal women gaining weight in their abdominal area is such a common phenomenon that it even has a nickname: “menopause belly fat” or “menopause tummy.” Declining estrogen is one factor that contributes to menopause belly.

The real problem is that menopause belly fat is more than just a concern for a woman's appearance—it's also associated with an increased risk of metabolic conditions, such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

A contributing factor to menopausal weight gain is the decline in insulin sensitivity, which is tied to lower estrogen levels. Estrogen helps regulate insulin sensitivity, and as estrogen levels become lower, women can become more resistant to the effects of insulin. This can lead to higher blood sugar levels, increased fat storage, and difficulty losing weight, especially around the belly.

Metabolic Shifts That Occur During Menopause

As women age, they naturally experience a decline in muscle mass and metabolic rate, making it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight.

Menopause is accompanied by a higher risk for sarcopenic obesity, a condition characterized by the loss of muscle mass combined with an increase in body fat. This is a serious disease state with numerous health risks including, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, dementia, and other chronic health conditions.

Muscle tissue is metabolically active and plays a key role in calorie expenditure, so when a woman has less lean muscle mass on her body frame, she burns fewer calories every day, which can set the stage for further weight gain.

Aside from loss of muscle mass, menopause has been shown to mess with gut health in a way that studies suggest is associated with increased body fat, decreased metabolic rate, and insulin resistance due to changes in how estrogen is metabolized.

As mentioned above, as people age, they're more prone to developing a slower metabolism and experiencing more insulin resistance. Another factor that can lead to weight gain among menopausal or postmenopausal women is the tendency to become less physically active.

Many women experience a decline in energy levels and motivation, leading to lower levels of exercise as they age. If a woman starts living more of a sedentary lifestyle, she has a high chance of experiencing muscle loss and fat gain, especially if she doesn't make healthy diet choices.

Being sedentary can also exacerbate insulin resistance, which is linked to greater weight gain and a higher risk of obesity. 

Psychological Issues During Menopause

Yet another obstacle that some menopausal women face that stands in the way of them losing weight is psychological and emotional challenges that impact their eating habits and food choices. 

Stress, anxiety, fatigue, and mood fluctuations are common symptoms of menopause, all of which can lead to emotional eating, cravings for high-calorie foods, and difficulty adhering to a healthy diet and exercise plan.

When hormones change in the menopause transition, the risk for depression and anxiety increases. While exercise is an effective way of managing mental health conditions, it can be difficult to begin or maintain a routine. Working with a mental health provider can be beneficial in overcoming this aspect of menopausal health.

Tips to Help With Weight Loss During Menopause

So, how do you lose weight during menopause? To counteract the changes that take place in a woman's body during menopause, it's essential to eat a healthy diet that contains enough protein, exercise consistently, and to meet the needs for various nutrients that support both physical and mental health.

Menopause Diet to Promote Weight Loss

One key factor in combating sarcopenic obesity, which menopausal women are at greater risk of experiencing, is an adequate intake of protein. Ideally, high protein intake should be combined with strength training to preserve muscle mass.

A relatively high-protein diet helps maintain lean muscle, which supports a healthy metabolism. It also provides other benefits, such as support for bone density, mobility, and protection against falls.

I have a free recipe guide and meal plan to support optimal hormone health that you can download here.

If you're a woman in menopause, here are tips to ensure you're meeting your protein needs: 

  • Aim for 60 to 100+ grams of protein per day: This amount can support muscle maintenance and promote fat loss, in addition to controlling your appetite and reducing cravings.
  • Eat 30 grams of protein with breakfast: Starting the day with a protein-rich breakfast containing at least 30 grams of protein can kickstart your metabolism and help manage weight during menopause.
  • Incorporate protein sources into every meal: Protein is found in eggs, Greek yogurt, meat, poultry, fish, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and protein shakes (such as those made with collagen or whey protein powder).

Additionally, other strategies can help reduce hunger and cravings, making it easier to stick to a calorie intake that matches your needs:

  • Consume at least 25 grams of fiber daily: Fiber is another valuable tool for menopausal weight loss. High-fiber foods help regulate blood sugar levels, promote satiety, and support digestive health. Including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the diet can increase fiber intake and contribute to weight loss goals. You can learn more about fiber and the best prebiotic foods here.
  • Eat probiotic foods regularly: Probiotics, known for their beneficial effects on gut health, can also play a role in weight management during menopause. These live microorganisms promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which can influence metabolism, energy expenditure, nutrient absorption, inflammation, and hormone production. Add probiotic-rich foods to your meals on a regular basis, such as yogurt, kefir, or fermented vegetables, and/or consider taking a probiotic supplement.
  • Aim for a Mediterranean-type diet: Incorporating a variety of unprocessed foods, especially plant foods, into your diet can help you lose weight more easily. Include foods rich in calcium and iron, such as yogurt, beans, leafy greens, fish, nuts, and seeds, for extra bone and energy support. Reduce your intake of red meat, sugar, and refined grains, which can contribute to a higher calorie intake.
  • Limit added sugars to no more than 25 grams daily: Added sugar can contribute to insulin resistance and visceral adiposity. Added sugars can hide in seemingly healthy options, like yogurt. Read labels and be wise to the amount of sugar you’re consuming.

Supplements That Can Support Menopause Weight Loss

In addition to the diet interventions above, certain supplements and lifestyle modifications can support weight loss during menopause. It is important to understand that supplements are meant to support your efforts in eating nutrient dense foods and exercise. There is no one supplement that can promise weight loss. 

Inositol

Inositol, specifically myo-inositol, is a vitamin-like substance present in many foods. It may aid in menopause weight loss by regulating insulin sensitivity, improving mood, and reducing food cravings (such as for carbs and sugar) associated with hormonal changes during this transitional phase. Inositol may also support fat metabolism

Inositol is found naturally in cantaloupes, grapefruit, organ meats, and brown rice.

Myoinositol Plus formula, which combines inositol with D-chiro-inositol, offers a convenient way to aid in metabolic efforts and support insulin sensitivity and hormone production. A typical dosage of Myoinositol starts at around 2,000 milligrams per day.

Creatine 

Creatine, a compound involved in energy production, has been studied for its potential to improve muscle strength and promote fat loss

Supplementing with creatine, especially in combination with resistance training, is useful for maintaining lean muscle mass and potentially supporting weight loss during menopause. A typical dosage of creatine monohydrate is around 3 to 5 grams per day.

Probiotics 

Probiotics may help with menopause weight loss by improving gut health and metabolism, reducing inflammation, and modulating hormones that influence appetite and body composition during this life stage. For example, the gut microbiome is tied to the estrobolome, which helps to metabolize estrogen in the body.

Look for probiotic supplements containing a variety of strains, with dosages ranging from 5 to 15 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) per day.

My Women's Probiotic formula is a powerful blend of probiotics, prebiotics, and antioxidants designed to specifically support healthy hormones and healthy gut function. Each serving provides 14 billion CFUs to assist in a microbiome and estrobolome function.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, offer numerous health benefits for postmenopausal women, including support for blood lipids involved in cardiovascular health and inflammation reduction, which can potentially enhance fat metabolism. 

In one study involving postmenopausal women with metabolic syndrome, dietary intervention plus omega-3 supplements led to a decrease in triglycerides and blood pressure and improvement in insulin resistance and inflammatory markers.

Aim for a daily intake of at least 1,000 milligrams of EPA and DHA combined from fish oil supplements. Consider my Omega Plus formula, which provides the ideal amount of omega-3s in a highly bioavailable and absorbable form that can support mental well-being, heart health, and more. 

Vitamin D 

Low vitamin D levels—in part caused by lack of sun exposure, which naturally produces vitamin D—have been associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome and obesity, including in menopausal women. 

Ensuring an adequate intake of vitamin D through sunlight exposure, fortified foods, or supplements may support weight loss efforts during menopause. Aim for a minimum daily intake of 800 to 1,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D for optimal health. 

A convenient way to increase your vitamin D intake is with the help of my Vitamin D3/K2 droppers, which feature a bioavailable, liquid form of vitamin D3 to assist in bone and heart health, hormone balance, and more.

Adrenal Support Formula 

Managing stress levels through relaxation techniques, mindfulness practices, adequate sleep, and the use of adaptogen herbs can help to support normal cortisol levels and potentially weight loss goals. 

Incorporating my Adrenal Support formula can help optimize adrenal function, reduce stress, and assist in sleep, energy, and focus—which may help with weight loss during menopause. 

Adrenal Support is made with adaptogenic herbs great for menopause, such as rhodiola, ashwagandha, and holy basil. It also contains nutrients like vitamin C, B vitamins, and magnesium to help support healthy cortisol levels, hypothalamic and pituitary function (HPTA axis), and hormone balance.

Benefits of Sauna Use During Menopause

Finally, I recommend trying sauna sessions for their stress-busting effects, ability to reduce inflammation and pain, and support for a healthy metabolism, exercise recovery, and performance.

Sweating in an infrared sauna has been shown to have some of the same benefits of exercise, such as increasing breathing rate, boosting the elimination of toxins and metabolic waste products, and promoting relaxation and stress reduction

This, in turn, can contribute to less aches and pains, more energy and motivation for exercise, and improved sleep and moods, all of which create a more favorable environment for weight loss. 

How Can Ozempic Affect Menopause Weight Loss?

Ozempic (or semaglutide) has been quickly gaining popularity for weight loss, including among women dealing with hormonal issues and those who feel like they've tried everything to lose weight without success. So, is Ozempic the answer to fat loss after menopause?

Based on recent research, Ozempic does seem promising for helping menopausal women to lose weight—but the catch is, so does hormone replacement therapy or menopause hormone therapy (MHT).

In one study, researchers compared weight loss responses and changes in cardiometabolic risk markers in overweight postmenopausal women using semaglutide with and without menopause hormone therapy (HT) use. 

They found that HT use was associated with an improved weight loss response (about 30% more weight lost) when using Ozempic. After 12 months of using the drug, a greater percentage of women on HT lost between 5% and 10%+ of their total body weight, and women in both groups experienced an improvement in cardiometabolic risk markers.

What does this tell us? Hormones can greatly impact weight gain or loss during menopause. According to the study's researchers, HT can help mitigate weight gain during menopause and has been shown to attenuate the increase in total and visceral abdominal adiposity by around 60% and to decrease waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) by 0.8%. 

Hormone replacement therapy involves the administration of estradiol with progesterone to counteract estrogen deficiency during menopause. HT can help support insulin sensitivity and decrease vasomotor symptoms, such as hot flashes, during the menopause transition, which can lead to improved sleep, increased activity, and overall increased quality of life.

I’ve written more extensively about Ozempic here if you’d like to learn more.

Based on these findings, consider first addressing hormonal imbalances to help you maintain a healthy weight during and after menopause. And if you do decide to try Ozempic, consider also taking HT or using other natural methods to maintain hormonal balance as much as possible. I encourage you to talk to your provider about menopause hormone therapy.

Key Takeaways on Menopause Weight Loss

  • Due to hormonal changes and metabolic shifts, weight loss during or after menopause can be challenging for many women. 
  • Menopause is often accompanied by sarcopenic obesity, a condition characterized by the loss of muscle mass coupled with an increase in body fat. This can further contribute to weight gain and metabolic disturbances.
  • However, with a comprehensive approach that includes dietary modifications, targeted supplementation, lifestyle changes, and supportive therapies like sauna use, women can successfully manage their weight and optimize their health during this transformative phase of life.

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is a women’s hormone expert and prominent leader in women’s medicine. As a licensed naturopathic physician who is board certified in naturopathic endocrinology, she takes an integrative approach in her clinical practice. A fierce patient advocate and completely dedicated to uncovering the root cause of hormonal imbalances, Dr. Brighten empowers women worldwide to take control of their health and their hormones. She is the best selling author of Beyond the Pill and Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth. Dr. Brighten is an international speaker, clinical educator, medical advisor within the tech community, and considered a leading authority on women’s health. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and a faculty member for the American Academy of Anti Aging Medicine. Her work has been featured in the New York Post, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Bustle, The Guardian, Sports Illustrated, Elle, and ABC News. Read more about me here.