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Does Menopause Make You Fat?

Does Menopause Make You Fat?

Menopause brings about many changes, but gaining weight doesn't have to be one of them. Here's why.

Everyone dreads the midlife spread, but is it inevitable—and is it due to menopause?

"There's no strong data to show that weight gain is related to menopause," says Margery Gass, MD, executive director of the North American Menopause Society. "There are age-related weight changes that affect everyone, men and women." For example, a slowing metabolism makes it harder to lose weight, and women need to eat less and exercise more just to maintain their weight. Hormonal changes can make it difficult to stick to a healthy weight, but they don't cause weight gain, Gass says.

Once you hit perimenopause, the good, lean muscle mass with the faster metabolic rate is depleted, says Christiane Northrup, ob-gyn and author of The Wisdom of Menopause. "Everything changes. That's why you could be the same weight as in high school, but the fat replaces the muscle and takes up more room and weighs less."

The maxim "use it or lose it" is especially applicable when it comes to muscle tone. "Get your diet in order and start to move more and it will put you in good shape—literally and figuratively—to ward off excessive weight gain when you reach menopause," Northrup says.

One strategy is to incorporate exercise and activity into your lifestyle by doing simple things such as taking the stairs more often and walking more. "A strict regimen isn't necessary," Gass says.

Medically reviewed in November 2018.

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