Navigating menopause and perimenopause doesn’t have to mean accepting unwanted weight gain, such as the dreaded menopause belly fat. On average a woman will gain 10 pounds or more during the menopause transition, which is even more frustrating when the methods of weight loss that we used to use do not work anymore! Our article cuts through the rubbish and offers a no-nonsense approach with six practical tips for managing weight during these stages. Learn directly from our founder, Louise, as she shares insights on effectively preventing weight gain throughout perimenopause and menopause, empowering you with strategies that truly make a difference.

Skip straight to our six tips

As we enter the transitional phase of the menopause and progress into menopause, many of us find ourselves with an unexpected, and frankly, unwelcomed challenge: managing our weight. Menopause weight gain, often beginning in the perimenopause hits us in the face like stepping off the plane from Barbados back in England. Cold, unappreciated and frustrated.

This period of hormone shifts, estrogen levels in particular, can lead us to feeling all of the above and more. The usual weight loss methods that worked in our 20’s and 30’s are no longer effective, leaving us feeling at an absolute loss. 

In this article, we shed light on this misunderstood phase of our lives as women, and give you six tips for controlling your weight throughout perimenopause and menopause… FOR GOOD. Though it may not feel like it right now, it is possible to maintain a healthy weight and physique during and after perimenopause and menopause.

No bullshit. No fad-diets or quick fixes.

Just six tips from our founder, Louise, who has coached hundreds of women through all of the life stages and led them to achieving a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

Make these tips your own. Adjust and use them to align with your lifestyle, and start losing that perimenopause weight or menopause belly.

Wondering why menopause weight gain seems to go straight to your belly? Due to the hormonal changes during menopause, our bodies switch to storing fat around the belly area (known as menopause belly) and around our vital organs.

Why perimenopause and menopause make losing weight so hard

Lets address that elephant with the bright pink tutu in the corner of the room. 

It IS harder to lose weight during perimenopause and menopause. 

The reason for weight gain during perimenopause and menopause is a rather complicated. It isn’t as simple as the personal trainer in your gym or even some doctors may explain to you; it isn’t just a matter of energy we put into our bodies (food and liquids) versus energy out (exercise and general movement). There is a quite a bit more to it.

There are many causes of weight gain during these life stages, all of which are, sadly, working against you.

Below we explain they key causes, but this list isn’t exhaustive. The causes will also be specific to you also.

Causes of weight gain during perimenopause and menopause

Your metabolism slows down

The decrease in estrogen and progesterone that we experience during menopause triggers a change to our metabolism…and not a good one. Our metabolisms slow down, which means we burn fewer calories naturally. If our metabolisms slow down and be are burning less calories, we will notice extra pounds on the scale.

Hormonal changes

Throughout both stages, estrogen levels can unpredictably rise and fall, having a knock on affect on other hormones too, like your insulin. This rollercoaster of fluctuations of our insulin leads to energy crashes, which force you to reach for things that give you a quick hit of energy (caffeine and sugar, typically). As a result of this those quick and high energy hits add up, weight gain occurs and so can insulin resistance. Not ideal for weight loss.

Erratic eating, skipping breakfast and snacking between meals can lead to insulin resistance and an increased risk of obesity

We move less

This isn’t the case for everyone, but you may fall into this category. This is a part of aging as well as the perimenopause and menopause. Fatigue, juggling the many balls of your life’s responsibilities constantly, and sometimes the symptoms of these two life stages can get in the way of exercising, or even daily tasks which contribute to your energy expenditure. With less movement, that all-important energy balance is impacted.

Stress and sleep

Speaking of juggling those balls, throw in your symptoms, and day-to-day life…this adds up to a lot of stress. Cortisol is the ‘stress hormone’ and an increase, or continuous crazy fluctuations, of this can impact your weight and where you store fat. Throw in disrupted or bad-quality sleep, whether that be due to your symptoms, kids or stress, this does no good for your body when it comes to losing or maintaining weight. 

Hunger

There is yet another hormone affected by perimenopause and menopause, called ghrelin. This hormone is responsible for your hunger. During the perimenopause in particular, ghrelin is impacted, your cravings can be more noticeable and your hunger levels change. When it comes to losing weight, ghrelin can sometimes be working against us! These hormonal obstacles definitely do not help when we’re trying to lose weight.

We won’t beat around the bush, it is even more of a struggle to lose weight when we’re going through perimenopause and menopause! 

Toss out the thought that all you need to do is eat less (restrict your calories) and move more (do lots of cardio). 

Thankfully, there is something you can do about managing weight gain during perimenopause and menopause.

Scroll down to see our simple but effective tips for losing weight during the menopause.

Six tips to help you lose weight during menopause

Tip 1 – Eat more protein

Protein is known as the building blocks for our bodies. Everything that we build and repair in our bodies is powered by protein.

But not only this! Protein helps you to feel fuller for longer. Which is especially important for women to have first thing in the morning.

Having a diet that is high in protein will help you to feel fuller for longer, help you maintain your muscle mass which will keep your metabolism functioning more efficiently, balance your hormones and improve your menopause symptoms. 

Our tip: Have a food that is high in protein with every meal.

Worried about your skin, fine lines and wrinkles? High protein sources often contain collagen, which is also a type of protein. High protein sources often contain collagen, which is a type of protein. Meaning that a high-protein diet can also work wonders for your skin!

Tip 2 – Eat three meals a day no matter what!

We cannot stress this enough. You need to be eating at least three meals a day, every single day. 

Your diet plays a key role during perimenopause and menopause.

Your female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) are very sensitive to your insulin levels; meaning the food we eat and also the timings of when you eat them. 

Eating three meals a day at regular intervals, is one of the best ways to help your hormones find their rhythm and be more steady.

Let’s hear from Louise:

“Many of the women I have coached to achieve their fitness, lifestyle and well-being goals were going through perimenopause or menopause. A common theme that I noticed between most of these women were irregular eating habits. I have found that when trying to address weight gain during menopause, women tend to restrict in some way or another, which always has negative impact on health status and has the opposite effect of what they are striving for. When they changed their approach and began eating three healthy meals every single day, their lives changed. They either lost weight or their weight was much more manageable, and their menopause experience improved”

Tip 3 – Fill up your plate with vegetables

We know the age old saying ‘meat and two veg’ but this is a little under par for women going through the menopause and wanting to lose weight. 

Our tip: Fill half of your plate with veggies

It is a no brainer, vegetables give you a bang for our buck! Not only are they packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre that optimise our health, but they are sources of carbohydrates that give you energy as well as being very reasonable in terms of calories per serving.

We aren’t telling you to cut your carbohydrates…oh hell no!

We’re telling you to serve these up first, and then put the rest of your food on the plate. Have a look at this dinner:

Notice how about half of the plate is vegetables, and the rest is chicken and rice.

By filling half of your plate with vegetables, you are ensuring that you are nourishing your body with nutrients as well as phytoestrogens which naturally mimic estrogen and potentially help improve your estrogen balance and reduce your menopause symptoms. 

This leads us on nicely to our next tip, which is to eat voluminous foods.

Tip #4 – Eat voluminous foods

As we mentioned in the previous point, vegetables pack a punch with their nutritional content but are lower in calories. This makes them what we like to call voluminous food. 

Voluminous foods make you feel full! Which is what we want to aim for.

Let’s put this into some context.

Here is 150 calories of long stem broccoli, versus 150 calories of plain rice

Notice how much bigger the serving of broccoli is in comparison to the rice?

We love rice, don’t get us wrong! But the 150 calories of broccoli will fill your stomach up faster and more so, than 150 calories of rice. 

Voluminous foods will literally fill up your stomachs and make you feel full. It is that full feeling, that leaves youfeeling satisfied. 

The best way to ensure that satisfied feeling, whilst giving your body an injection of goodness that it will thank you for, and not over-doing it on the calories, is by eating voluminous foods. 

Filling your plate half full with voluminous veggies at every meal (including weekends!), and doing this continuously, will pay dividends in the long run.

No need for any kind of crazy weight loss diet for the purpose of weight loss during and menopause.

 

Tip 5 – Move more

Disclaimer! Before we even get into it. 

We’re not telling you to exercise like a duracell bunny from now on. Nor should you be exercising every day. That is unsustainable for most. 

An important factor to maintaining weight during menopause is movement. By movement in this instance, we’re talking about general movement. Not going to the gym or a running club…not deliberate exercise. We’re referencing the unconscious day-to-day movement that you do. 

 

Day-to-day movement is walking around the house, fidgeting, walking to the shops and back, and doing gardening etc. Think of it as your unconscious movement.

Here’s where things get a little more science based.

There are four key factors that affect how much energy you burn day to day (your Total Daily Energy Expenditure):

  • Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT)
  • TEF (Thermic Effect of Food)
  • NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)
  • BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)

It is the NEAT of part of your total daily energy expenditure that we are targeting with moving more during menopause. NEAT is daily movement, not purposeful exercise. 

So by increasing your daily movement (your NEAT), you will be burning more energy (calories) and keeping your metabolism running more efficiently. 

Which is ideal for during the menopause, because your metabolism is starting to slow down year by year. Plus, you burn more calories when focusing on your NEAT, than actual exercise.

Our tip: Set yourself a goal of moving a little more each day 

 

Tip 6 – Try resistance training

Resistance training is exercise that involves pushing or pulling against some sort of resistance (or weight). This type of exercise involves dumbbells, barbells and weighted objects that challenge you.

Resistance training is the unsung hero of menopause, that many women miss the trick of. If you aren’t already doing any resistance training, you need to be. It is a game-changer. 

If you suspect you’re perimenopausal, or perhaps have already got a diagnosis of menopause, then it has already begun. You’re losing muscle mass due to menopause and aging.

Scientific research continues to tell us during the menopause life stages there is an increase in fat mass and a decrease in muscle mass, and resistance training is the best tool to combat that.

Less muscle mass = a slower metabolism

Not only this, you will burn calories for longer when you mix resistance training with cardio style exercises, then just cardio alone. So by adding some resistance training into your routine, you’ll find better balance with controlling your weight and also future-proofing your health long-term.

Before you go

Before you go, we want to take this opportunity to remind you that losing weight during menopause isn’t about shedding the pounds as fast as possible. The key to losing weight during this time, and any time is making changes to your lifestyle and every day routine. 

As you grow into the perimenopause and menopause life stages, you need to evolve with your body. Weight loss is harder and takes longer during this time, but that doesn’t mean you cannot achieve it. 

Try these six tips, ideally one at a time, and stick with it. You absolutely can achieve your goal and lose weight during menopause.

Frequently Asked Questions

What diet is best for weight loss during menopause?
There is no diet that is best for losing weight during menopause. Losing weight during this time can be very complicated and the traditional methods that we use for weight loss can sometimes cause more damage than good.

The best way to lose weight during menopause is to focus on your habits.

Habits such as eating three meals a day, every single day. Filling half of your plate with vegetables, and ensuring that you are consuming a sufficient amount of protein with every meal.
Can menopause cause weight gain?
Menopause can cause weight gain, and does for many women! Some women are lucky and find this not to be a side effect or symptom of menopause, but more often than not, weight gain will occur.
Is menopause belly real?
Yes. The vast change in hormone levels and hormone balance, paired with aging, forces your body to store fat around your midsection. This is often called ‘menopause belly’ (we hate that name!)

Many women are concerned about the weight gain around their stomach area that they can see, but they are missing one very important issue with the weight gain in this area.

Visceral fat. This is the fat that is on the inside of our bodies, surrounding our organs, that we can’t see.

If you are noticing weight gain around your tummy, the likelihood is your visceral fat is increasing too.
How long does menopause weight gain last?
The answer to this will vary for each person. Typically, weight gain should slow down by the time you are postmenopausal and eventually stop. This is referencing only your hormone fluctuations and menopause however; you must also consider your lifestyle and habits. This is why we like to look at this on a case-by-case basis.
How to tackle menopause weight gain fast?
To address menopause weight gain fast, you need to address your diet and the amount of exercise or movement you do – but to look at it from the perspective of doing what will help keep your hormones controlled and somewhat balanced.

You can read more about this under our ‘Menopause’ life stage section.

References

Click to see our references

References
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Ding, E. L., Song, Y., Manson, J. E., Hunter, D. J., Lee, C. C., Rifai, N., … & Liu, S. (2009). Sex hormone–binding globulin and risk of type 2 diabetes in women and men. New England Journal of Medicine, 361(12), 1152-1163.

Gould, L. M., Gordon, A. N., Cabre, H. E., Hoyle, A. T., Ryan, E. D., Hackney, A. C., & Smith-Ryan, A. E. (2022). Metabolic effects of menopause: a cross-sectional characterization of body composition and exercise metabolism. Menopause, 29(4), 377-389.

Greendale, G. A., Sternfeld, B., Huang, M., Han, W., Karvonen-Gutierrez, C., Ruppert, K., … & Karlamangla, A. S. (2019). Changes in body composition and weight during the menopause transition. JCI insight, 4(5).

Imayama, I., Alfano, C. M., Kong, A., Foster-Schubert, K. E., Bain, C. E., Xiao, L. & McTiernan, A. (2011). Dietary weight loss and exercise interventions effects on quality of life in overweight/obese postmenopausal women: A randomized controlled trial. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 8, 118.

Isenmann, E., Kaluza, D., Havers, T., Elbeshausen, A., Geisler, S., Hofmann, K., … & Gavanda, S. (2023). Resistance training alters body composition in middle-aged women depending on menopause-A 20-week control trial. BMC Women’s Health, 23(1), 526.

James A. Levine, Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (Neat), Nutrition Reviews, Volume 62, Issue suppl_2, July 2004, Pages S82–S97, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2004.tb00094.x

Knight MG, Anekwe C, Washington K, Akam EY, Wang E, Stanford FC. Weight regulation in menopause. Menopause. 2021 May 24;28(8):960-965. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001792. PMID: 34033603; PMCID: PMC8373626.

Leite, R. D., Prestes, J., Pereira, G. B., Shiguemoto, G. E., & Perez, S. E. A. (2010). Menopause: highlighting the effects of resistance training. International journal of sports medicine, 31(11), 761-767.

Shigeta, H., Shigeta, M., Nakazawa, A., Nakamura, N., & Yoshikawa, T. (2001). Lifestyle, obesity, and insulin resistance. Diabetes care, 24(3), 608.

Wing, R. R., Matthews, K. A., Kuller, L. H., Meilahn, E. N., & Plantinga, P. L. (1991). Weight gain at the time of menopause. Archives of internal medicine, 151(1), 97-102

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