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Rapid Weight Gain in Midlife: Why Is It Much More Than Hormones

Guest article by 19 days ago

Midlife marks several life transitions and health changes, including weight gain.

If you notice a few extra pounds, know there may be several reasons behind it - with hormonal changes at the top. Just as your body changes once you hit your teenage years, a new set of transformations is bound to happen in your 40s and 50s as you enter the menopausal period.

Learn more about weight gain in midlife, its causes and how to adapt to the biological shifts effectively.

Hormonal Weight Gain Triggers

You can bracket the causes of weight gain in midlife into two groups - hormonal and non-hormonal. The irregularities in hormones and weight gain after 40 happen to women partly due to an uncontrollable biological process. Lifestyle has a hand in some of the factors, so weight concerns are manageable with specific strategies.

According to an expert, most women gain 5%-8% of their baseline body weight in the first two years following their last period. Doing the math, if you weigh 150 pounds, you could gain at least 7.5 pounds. The rise and fall of hormone levels in the body prompts the following changes.

1. Estrogen

Estrogen is a sex hormone necessary for the reproductive system's health, but it also protects the bones and supports the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Its level drops during perimenopause and menopause, affecting other hormones - like insulin - and, on a larger scale, the metabolism process.

Hormones use signals as messages to regulate the metabolic process and fat distribution in the body. When this communication is disrupted due to the fluctuating estrogen levels, the result is metabolic diseases.

2. Cortisol

Menopause causes stressful symptoms that lead to a surge of cortisol or stress hormones. Stress is linked with an increase in appetite and weight gain - thus the term "stress eating." Since hormones rev up body processes as a single unit, the drop in estrogen is bound to affect cortisol.

3. Menopausal Symptoms

Exercise is one of the most effective methods to moderate weight. But the troubling symptoms such as hot flashes, depression and sleeping troubles can all make it challenging to engage in any physical activity, resulting in a rapid weight gain in midlife.

Signs of Hormonal Weight Gain

Weight gain caused by hormonal imbalances shares symptoms with menopause. Therefore, it's easy to spot whether the extra pounds you've put on are due to hormonal concerns. You may experience:

How Long Does Menopause Weight Gain Last?

Weight changes can last for a few years, depending on varying factors. But it will reach a point where you stop packing on weight and your body form stabilizes. The most significant shift in size is seen within two years after your period ends. You can minimize adding more inches to your waistline during this transition by adhering to a positive lifestyle.

Causes Beyond the Hormones

Causes of rapid weight gain in midlife aren't limited to hormonal imbalances. Here are other equally significant factors to look at.

1. Aging

Aging has a multidimensional influence on your weight. As you're nearing retirement age, the body loses muscle mass while the fat increases. Muscles are body parts that burn calories. According to a sports expert, even if two people have the same weight, the person with bigger muscles will burn more calories. That said, your muscles will slow down in using calories as fuel if they become thinner due to aging.

2. Genetics

If gaining weight is common among many family members, it might also occur to you. Genetics help dictate your body size, shape and features, so it may also play a part in cases of rapid weight gain in midlife.

3. Inactive Lifestyle

Newer aches and pains are fundamental reasons for exercise to move to the back burner. During menopause, the lack of sleep caused by hot flashes and sweats, stress and bed problems can hinder you from putting on your gym outfits and running on a treadmill.

It's a breeze surviving a day of sleep deprivation when you're younger - but it's a different story when you hit midlife. Fatigue piles up quickly and body pains are prevalent.

4. Unhealthy Diet

Food is a central part of a healthy weight. If you indulge in processed foods, sugary beverages and fatty meal choices - adding the slowed metabolism - you'll likely pile on the pounds. The nearer you are to 60, the more conscious you should be of what you put in your body.

5. Life Pressures

The sudden increase in responsibilities - like taking care of a senior parent - can lead to stress and a rise in cortisol levels that restrains metabolism.

Weight Gain Health Risks

Unstable hormones and weight gain after 40 is common, so its health impact is often underestimated. But in some cases, belly fat can be dangerous as it can elevate your risk for the following conditions.

Mitigating these risks is crucial to stay healthy and get through menopause. Thankfully, you can flip your lifestyle and proactively manage your health during a challenging stage.

Tips To Beat Weight Challenges

Remember, each woman has a unique experience with menopause. These tips are general recommendations to moderate the consequences of disrupted hormones and weight gain after 40. Talk to your doctor to get personal advice tailored to your health circumstances.

1. Adopt a Healthy Diet Pattern

The Mediterranean diet fits the bill of a balanced eating style ideal for people in midlife wanting to manage their weight for the long term. It highlights lots of vegetables, fruits, fish and seafood, which isn't restrictive. You can also eat dairy products moderately. Some featured greens like broccoli, kale and cabbage are all foods that replenish estrogen in the body.

As it has seafood and fish options, which are abundant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, it reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and helps the heart maintain a tip-top shape. The plant-based selections regulate sugar levels and support brain functions.

2. Exercise Daily

Specific fitness routines can help stabilize hormones naturally and counter the muscle loss associated with aging. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity training every week or 30 minutes daily.

3. Manage Menopause Symptoms

Hormone therapy can help relieve the symptoms of menopause that affect your sleep and quality of life. One study found that getting enough sleep during menopause can help reduce the possibility of weight gain, subsequently mitigating the risks of diabetes and associated conditions.

While hormone replacement therapy can undeniably deal with bothersome symptoms, it also has side effects. So please do your own research, get feedback from those who've experienced it and ask your doctor about potential complications.

4. Prioritize Sleep

Sleep deprivation has a multitude of health implications. Plus, they can worsen menopausal symptoms. Figure out the factors affecting your quality of sleep and change them. If you use screens before bedtime, set a no-screen time. If you take longer naps in the afternoon, do your best to avoid them. Change your sleep habits and hygiene to support a better sleep environment.

5. Check Your Medications

Some medications have weight-promoting side effects, so even if they solve a particular health problem, they also create weight-related concerns. Check with your doctor if any maintenance meds you're taking have such a consequence. If it does, inquire about weight-neutral alternatives.

6. Try Weight Loss Drugs or Supplements

Consult your doctor before taking any medications for weight loss to ensure it's safe and don't interact with your other pills. While it's better to shed the excess belly fat through lifestyle changes, these drugs may be a good choice for some women with high BMI or who are considered obese. You need a prescription for this, so visit your doctor to see if you meet the requirements.

Hormones and Lifestyle Affect Rapid Weight Gain in Midlife

Three significant factors determine rapid weight gain in midlife - hormonal fluctuations, aging and lifestyle. Here are some of the highlights to take away from this article:

Your body transforms several times throughout your lifetime, but midlife brings a particular challenge that requires you to reclaim control of your health. Take charge to avoid packing on extra weight and compromise your health.

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