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The Struggle is Real - Why it's so hard to lose weight during menopause and what you can do about it

Weight gain (primarily belly fat) is a common issue for most women during menopause. Hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause can affect metabolism and cause added weight gain. Fact is that as we age we lose muscle mass and this causes our fat mass to steadily increase. At the end of the day, women going through menopause should have their numbers checked. Someone who has a "healthy" BMI might have high cholesterol, where another woman who is considered obese could have normal markers for blood sugar, cholesterol, resting heart rate. You get the picture. While excess fat can be a warning sign and contribute to developing diseases including heart disease, cancer, type-2 diabetes, stroke, joint problems, and hypertension - these are diseases that are commonly associated with menopause. The focus for women should not just be about weight loss, but living a long, healthy life.


Metabolism is the process of turning fuel into energy. On a scientific level, metabolism refers to the whole sum of reactions that occur throughout the body within each cell and that provide the body with energy. Food and drink is the fuel we use to keep our body going including our brains, lungs, heart, GI tract. A woman's energy requirements to keep her body healthy and systems running, comes down to the amount of calories and macronutrients - protein, fats, carbohydrates - that she needs. Her body will expend a lot of energy carrying out normal bodily functions, like keeping her heart beating and her brain thinking.

Metabolism takes a hit during menopause. One of the reasons is there is a sharp decline in muscle mass because of the loss of sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone. As we age, the body no longer uses macronutrients as efficiently as it did during premenopausal years. Translation - with the loss of sex hormones, the way our bodies process sugar (carbohydrates), changes. Which ultimately leads to greater fat storage in the abdomen.

Greater fat storage in the abdomen is direct consequence of lower estrogen levels. With these changes women not only see in an increase in the accumulation of fat but there is also a noticable change on where the fat is distributed. When women are in childbearing years and have a sufficient amount of estrogen, they tend to store fat in the hips, buttocks, and thighs. When estrogen declines, there is a shift of distribution of fat to the abdominal area. Abdominal fat is directly linked to an increased link for diabetes and heart disease.

Gone are the days of calorie counting, calories in and calories out, and low fat diets. It's normal for our bodies to change as we age. While there is no magic bullet for weight loss, listed below are many factors why you may be packing on the pounds and some simple strategies to lose the unwanted weight. The reality is you cannot do the same things you did prior to menopause and expect the same outcomes.


When we enter into perimenopause and menopause many women complain of an increase in belly weight. Despite the fact that nothing else changed in her life - she continues to eat and exercise the same amount - the belly starts to get bigger. There are many factors that influence weight gain. Let's take a look:

  • Eating excessive amounts of simple carbohydrates ( processed food, breads, pastries, cake, soda)

  • Your body's ability to breakdown carbohydrates efficiently diminishes and thus you have glucose and insulin resistance which leads to weight gain in your middle.

  • A decline in hormones - estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, and possibly thyroid can lead to weight gain.

  • A decrease in metabolic rate (directly related to a decrease in muscle mass), or the calories you burn at rest, caused by a number of reasons, including a decrease in hormones, caloric restriction, sedentary lifestyle, and a decrease in muscle mass.

  • Insufficient physical activity (this is a big one).

  • Stress! Excessive stress triggers your stress hormones, elevating blood glucose and insulin resistance.

  • Eating food that is not nutrient dense (especially processed food that has very low amounts of vitamins and minerals) causes additional hunger, thus eating more food and calories.

  • Emotional eating

  • Poor digestion and absorption of food.

  • Poor gut health.


While it's very common for women to want to lose the menopausal belly, the most important factor is to feel good and live a long and healthy life. Striving for perfection is not the answer and losing weight and keeping it off (not yo-yo-ing) is key to a healthy lifestyle. Here are some healthy habits and weight loss strategies.

  • EXERCISE - This is one of the most important things you can do. Menopause is a common time for women to experience a loss of bone density and osteoporosis. Strength training is crucial for bone health, balance, posture, boosts confidence and helps to rev the metabolism.

  • LOWER INFLAMMATION - Inflammation is our bodies natural response to injury or illness. When our body has chronic inflammation, even if we are eating and exercising, we will have little progress losing weight. Reducing inflammation is integral for weight loss. Anti-inflammatory foods help balance hormones, lessen menopause symptoms, and increase fat loss. What to do? Eat whole foods and reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates you are eating (sweets, bread, pasta). Chew your food and eat slowly. Take digestive enzymes to assist in digestion. Fill your plate with excellent sources of protein, vegetables, fruit and healthy fats. Go easy on foods that promote inflammation like dairy, gluten, refined sugar, and processed foods.

  • PRIORITIZE SLEEP. Sleep is directly related to your hormones, weight and body composition. The quality of your sleep matters. Broken sleep does a number on your waist line and can be a challenge due to night sweats, insomnia, and frequent bathroom visits during the night. Tips for better sleep - turn the thermostat down, turn screens off an hour before bedtime, and journal to help you wind down. Keep stress in check. Consider taking an adaptogenic herbs to help manage stress and promote sleep. There are many supplements and hormonal balancing options that can help with restorative sleep.

  • INCREASE YOUR PROTEIN. Eating enough protein is essential for losing weight, keeping it off, and to feel healthy in menopause. As we age, our body processes protein less efficiently. We need protein to help maintain muscle mass, bone health, and strength. How much protein should you eat? The amount of protein needs is based on your lean body mass.

  • BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR. Sugar or glucose is the fuel that we run on. During perimenopause and menopause our hormones fluctuate (a lot) and our blood sugar levels go out of whack. During menopause the weight gain in the belly is visceral fat which is directly associated with insulin resistance. This can lead to type-2 diabetes. Make the effort to minimize the release of excessive insulin by moving your body before you eat. After a meal, go for a 15 minute walk. This will lower your blood sugar levels dramatically. Increase your fiber intake by eating a side salad with lunch or dinner. Add more greens. Reduce simple carbs. Eat before you get hungry so your blood sugar doesn't fall too low.

  • LIMIT ALCOHOL. Alcohol causes weight gain in menopause. It also triggers hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and interferes with estrogen metabolism. Alcohol stops your body from burning fat, it's high in calories, it makes you feel hungry, and leads to cravings for salty and greasy food. Keep your drinks to a minimum and save your cheer for the weekend or special occasion. Swap out alcohol for water, sparking water, kombucha (great for the gut), or herbal tea.

  • DETOX YOUR BODY. Detoxing helps eliminate toxins out of the body and supports great GI health. Environmental toxins, chemical toxins, hormone disruptors, and other toxins that are not good for our body need to be eliminated. Our bodies natural detox system to eliminate waster is our liver. Doing a detox and cleaning out the toxins will not only make you feel better but it will help you shed unwanted pounds. We recommend doing a detox at least two times a year.

  • See professional assistance in evaluating, replenishing, and balancing the hormones that need it. Want to learn more? Book a free 15 minute call with us at Follaine Health.



Follaine Health (Gaelic for Wellness) was born out of a desire to help real women with real health issues. 


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