Why Am I Losing Weight During Menopause?

Menopause is a tricky transitional phase in a woman’s life. It marks the end of her reproductive stage. Besides, this normal phenomenon occurs in all females of varying ages between 40 to 50 years. 

During menopause, the hormone levels fluctuate to bring about so many mental and bodily changes. 

The majority of women gain unwanted weight during menopause and desire to lose weight. Conversely, some women experience unexplained weight loss during menopause. 

Is it normal to lose weight during menopause? What causes weight loss during menopause? Why am I losing weight during menopause while many don’t? Should I be concerned? 

These are the common doubts of a woman losing weight during menopause. 

Well, if you too have one of these, don’t fret! In many cases, it is a normal physiological process of the body.

Unfortunately, sometimes it can hint at something serious. Let’s dive right into more details about losing weight during menopause.

Effects of menopause on weight

The primary sex hormone in females is estrogen. The functions of estrogen include:

  • Development of sexual organs 
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Sexual function
  • Bone development
  • Fat metabolism
  • Pregnancy 
why am i losing weight during menopause

During menopause and perimenopause – the period leading up to menopause – estrogen levels decline substantially. 

Low estrogen is linked to an overall increase in body fat deposition and eventually results in weight gain. 

So, the majority of women gain weight during menopause.

Can you lose weight during menopause?

Yes, you can lose weight during perimenopause and menopause. There can be many reasons for this.

While aging, a person’s muscle mass decreases, and you tend to lose weight initially during menopause. Sometimes, it can be due to an underlying health issue.

Why am I losing weight during menopause?

Normal causes 

  • Loss of muscle mass due to age-related changes in metabolism
  • Optimal physical activity to overcome previously gained weight

Abnormal causes 

  • Stress-induced under-eating
  • Over-exercising and stressful physical activity
  • Over-dosage of menopausal weight loss pills
  • Vitamin deficiency

Unexplained weight loss during the perimenopause period can indicate an underlying disease process such as osteoporosis or malignancy. 

What should I do to stop unintentional weight loss?

Try to analyze what could be the root cause of your weight loss and avoid it.

If you know you are eating less than usual, gradually increase your calorie intake. Manage your stress and only indulge in the optimal level of physical activity.

If you don’t seem to find any reasons, the best choice is to visit your gynecologist as soon as possible to evaluate your condition. It could turn out something serious if neglected. 

Most effective ways to lose weight during menopause

Consistency is the key to achieving weight goals. Moreover, lifestyle and diet modification is the cornerstone of weight management during menopause. 

Although some menopausal women undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to lose weight, it is essential to know that it is an add-on advantage but not the primary indication.

Keep in mind that in the long run, losing weight is not the end goal. Being able to maintain it in a healthy range is a success.  Focussing on these can yield desirable long-term results.

Healthy diet

It would help if you controlled calorie intake based on the level of physical activity involved and the person’s body mass index (BMI).

Stay away from crash diets and impossible-to-reach food goals. Most of those who try them end up gaining more weight than when they started initially. This is due to the reduced level of leptin, a hormone that causes satiety, and the increased level of ghrelin, the hunger-causing hormone.

According to various studies, including the following food into your diet has proven benefits:

  • Fruits and vegetables – reduce the chances of osteoporosis
  • Milk, poultry, fish, and eggs – good sources of proteins to compensate for the loss in muscle mass during menopause
  • Black tea
  • Soybeans and Tofu
why am i losing weight during menopause

Avoid the following food during menopause:

  • Processed and Canned foods
  • Spicy food
  • High carbohydrate-containing sugary foods
  • High salt foods

Various diet regimes are available, like the 5-day, 7-day, and the most popular Mediterranean diet for menopause.

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is considered to be one of the healthiest and most effective diets for weight loss. It consists of a high quantity of fresh fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. 

It recommends fat intake via sources like fish, olive oil, and avocados. It is low in saturated fat and includes heart-protective foods with high fiber content. The Omega-3 found in fish is helpful for brain health.

Try the Mediterranean diet, avoid refined carbohydrates, fried foods, and red meat.

Some typical beginner meals of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Basil lemon and bean toast
  • Mediterranean oats
  • Roasted pumpkin and lentil soup
  • Grilled lean chicken breast

Stay hydrated

Drink lots of water. Drinking eight glasses of water daily is a minimum. There is nothing more essential than water that can suppress your appetite and boost your metabolism.

Lifestyle modification

Physical activity

Avoid a sedentary lifestyle to increase the utility of calories and decrease the risk of obesity. Keep yourself busy with activities rather than worrying about why am I losing weight during menopause.

Engage in moderate physical activity for 30 minutes daily, five days a week. Ensure to involve core body exercises and strength resistance training or some classic yoga to burn unwanted calories.

Reduce stress

The stress hormone cortisol is associated with increased weight gain, diabetes, and various heart conditions. Cortisol levels rise with stressful situations.

Healthy sleep cycle

The levels of various hormones change during sleep. A good night’s sleep means a good balance in hormones and easier weight management. So, have a quality 8-hour sleep daily to put your sugar cravings at bay.

Cut down on vices

Smoking and drinking alcohol have their share in poor weight management during menopause. 

Aside from the risk of lung cancer, smoking also increases abdominal and visceral fat. These fats are the main culprit in many cardiovascular problems.

Alcohol gives you a surplus of calories by promoting appetite that causes weight gain.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

HRT includes oral, transdermal, intramuscular, and other modes of estrogen administration in menopausal women to replenish the declining levels in the body. 

These are most commonly available in estrogen pills, patches, gels, sprays, creams, etc.

It is proven that HRT prevents weight gain and favors weight loss. HRT is only indicated by a physician based on assessment. It is not to be used without consulting a physician.

Other symptoms associated with Menopause

Although many women tend to focus mainly on the weight aspect of menopause, there is a range of symptoms that can make it even harder.

Here are some common signs and symptoms of menopause:

  • Irregular menstrual periods to the cessation of periods
  • Hot flushes – episodes of sudden heat in the face and chest making the skin reddish and sweaty
  • Reduced sexual function or libido
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Joint and bone ache
  • Easy fatigue
  • Weight gain/loss

FAQ

How long does menopause weight gain last?

It is not practically possible to estimate the exact duration of weight gain in menopause. Studies show that the transition to menopause can last anywhere from two to eight years. The average period of perimenopause is four years. 

Is weight loss during menopause possible?

Of course! Since the effects of aging are usually masked by menopause, it is rarely noticed that one loses weight. The lean muscle mass lost during menopause can cause weight loss.

Excessive physical activity causing calorie deficit can lead to loss of weight during menopause.

Stress-induced under-eating can also cause weight loss. But don’t stress yourself out by asking why am I losing weight during menopause. It’s pretty common.

Some underlying health issues such as osteoporosis and cancer can also lead to weight loss.

What tests are done for unexplained weight loss?

Unexplained weight loss is defined as the unintentional loss of at least five percent of body weight over six to twelve months.

The first best step is to seek medical advice. Your doctor will take a proper medical history and perform a physical examination. 

If needed, you will be asked to get the following diagnostic tests done:

Laboratory tests

  • Complete blood count (CBC) – to evaluate for anemia and infections 
  • Liver function test (LFT) – to assess the status
  • Kidney function test – includes serum creatinine and urea nitrogen to assess for kidney disease
  • Thyroid panel – to assess for hypothyroidism and hypothyroidism
  • C-reactive protein (CRP) – to check for inflammatory processes
  • Serum electrolytes – to evaluate the levels of sodium, potassium, and calcium
  • Random blood glucose – to assess for hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia

Imaging 

Usually, these are done if there is a suspicion of any cancer and metastases.

  • Chest and abdominal X-ray
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computerized tomography (CT)
  • Positron Emission tomography (PET) scan

Can I lose weight after menopause?

Yes, you can lose weight after menopause with the proper personalized diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Most of the women are concerned about why am I losing weight during menopause. But let me assure you that significant weight loss takes place while you are in the middle of the process.

How do you get rid of menopause belly fat?

Unlike losing weight during regular days, getting rid of that stubborn belly fat at menopause is hard. The harsh truth is that it is going to need a lot of effort and dedication. But isn’t it all worth it? 

Here are some tips to put that belly fat at bay:

  • Plan and make achievable weight goals.
  • Follow a healthy diet by including vegetables, fruits, fish, and lean meat in your meals, and avoiding processed, sugary and fried foods.
  • Lead an active life by engaging in regular moderate physical activity targeting your core or give high-intensity interval training a shot.
  • Quit smoking and alcohol to reduce your risk of central obesity and heart problems.
  • Avoid stressful events in life and sleep for at least 7-8 quality hours daily to allow your body to replenish the substances required to burn that belly fat down.
  • Monitor your progress from time to time. Won’t that ‘loss of a few pounds a week’ boost your motivation to levels unmatched?
  • Do not overdo anything.

How can I maintain my weight during menopause?

Maintaining weight during menopause is not as easy as said. It differs from person to person. It involves a process of taking baseline weight and BMI measurements and serial monitoring.

  • Firstly, calculate your total daily expenditure using a maintenance calculator to assess if you need to lose, gain or maintain your weight.
  • Plan and make weight goals.
  • Weigh-in frequently.
  • Monitor how your clothes fit you.
  • Reward yourself as part of your healthy diet to celebrate small achievements.
  • Adjust your diet and physical activity based on assessment.
  • Seek advice from a nutritionist or physician whenever required.

Conclusion

During menopause, you can either gain or lose weight depending on your diet and lifestyle, including eating habits, sleeping patterns, physical activity, and vices. 

You can permanently lose menopausal weight gain by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle.

If you are still losing weight for unexplained reasons, regardless of menopause, consult a doctor to assess your health and check for any underlying illness instead of querying why am I losing weight during menopause.

Dr. Swathi Kilari

Hello there! This is Dr. Swathi Kilari here, a writer in progress. I am a graduate of Cebu Doctors' University from the Philippines and am currently registered to practice in India. I write now and then to share my knowledge and experience about healthcare. I am happy to help you make wise choices to lead a healthy life. Healthcare and teaching are two of my passions. I am a food enthusiast, home baker, and cook. If I am not doing any of these, I am probably sleeping.

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