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Demystifying perimenopausal weight gain

By Dr. Mary James, ND

Perimenopausal weight gain feels different for many reasons. The excess pounds seem to go on more easily and are much, much harder to lose — no matter how often you diet or exercise.

Middle aged woman concerned about gaining weight in perimenopause

Gaining weight in perimenopause is also extremely common — nearly 80% of the women who took our Menopause & Perimenopause Quiz last year reported moderate to severe weight gain as a symptom.

Excess weight in perimenopause appears without explanation and quickly becomes another obstacle that prevents you from feeling and looking the way you want to at this sensitive time in your life. Perimenopause is the time in life when everything feels like it’s changing beyond your control. When you add in the frustration of gaining weight that you just can’t seem to lose, it’s very discouraging.

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The truth is — perimenopausal weight gain is different. That’s why losing that weight will require something different too. The first step is to understand what’s really causing you to gain weight right now. The reasons are probably not what you’d expect:

What’s causing your unexplained weight gain in perimenopause

1. Your body values fat… and wants to keep it. Nearly every woman suffers from some kind of perimenopausal weight gain — and the number one cause is changing estrogen levels. In perimenopause, your estrogen levels fluctuate and fall compared to other hormones.

When these changes to estrogen begin to happen, your body will struggle to produce more of it to keep all your hormones balanced at previously “normal” levels. But because your ovaries are naturally producing less estrogen, your body searches for other sources. Since body fat can actually produce estrogen, your system will start to rely on it to produce the estrogen you need, as a way to make up for what can no longer be produced by your ovaries. This makes your fat valuable — and your body will do anything to keep it.

2. Gains in belly fat lead to more belly fat. While abdominal weight gained during perimenopause feels anything but active, the truth is it is working — to produce even more belly fat.

This vicious cycle is fueled by stress, high cortisol levels and blood sugar imbalances, which are all common at this time of life. These changes create an even greater imbalance between the sex hormones (especially estrogen and testosterone) and lead to more fat deposition.

3. Previous food choices influence weight gain now. Even if you’re trying to eat “better” foods for menopause now or detoxing to lose weight in menopause, the years of feasting on too much pasta, bread, wine and sugar can have a major impact on your current weight issues. The number of fat cells you have is connected to your blood sugar levels and your insulin levels. Over time, a diet filled with processed foods and refined sugars can cause “insulin resistance.” And when you are insulin resistant, your body will convert every last calorie into fat if it can — even if you’re dieting.

4. Favorite weight loss strategies can do more harm than good. Because of the role that hormonal imbalance plays in perimenopausal weight gain, simply watching what you eat and exercising more is not going to be effective — even if it worked for you in the past. Take artificial sweeteners for example. Maybe you’ve used them before to eliminate calories, but some of these actually mimic sugar so well that your body produces insulin to metabolize them. That just feeds the insulin resistance that causes perimenopausal weight gain.

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Many women also try to deal with extra pounds by going to extremes with dieting or exercise. While this is never a good idea long-term, it can be especially problematic when it comes to perimenopause or menopause weight. Your sex hormones and stress hormones are already struggling to stay in balance. Adding physical stress from over-dieting or over-exercising will release more of the stress hormone, cortisol, which blocks weight loss.

Act now to reduce perimenopausal weight gain

It’s so important for women in perimenopause to understand that it’s next to impossible to lose weight until you restore hormonal balance and health. And restoring hormonal health isn’t accomplished by cutting out carbs or adding a bit more exercise to your routine. Focusing on increasing levels of only one or two sex hormones, as conventional practitioners may often do, will not work either.

Our Menopause Weight Loss Combo is structured so that you can overcome your own physiological barrier to weight loss in perimenopause. You start with targeted phytotherapeutic herbs to help your body regain its natural balance between estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and stress hormones. This allows your body to let go of the unwanted extra pounds.

Don’t wait for your weight gain to get worse — and it will if you don’t do something. Start losing that extra weight now by balancing your hormones so you can move forward in your life feeling and looking your best ever. We’re here to help!

Last Updated: February 23, 2024
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