The truth about menopause and weight gain

by Mary C. Weaver, CSCS on February 26, 2013

menopause and weight gain

Would you believe me if I said menopause is not responsible for weight gain? If you’re skeptical, keep reading . . . because it’s true.

(And if you want some scientific validation for my claim, check out this link.)

Yes, I know that somewhere around age 45 to 50, most women notice that they’re gaining fat around the middle.

It’s not your imagination.

Hormonal changes do influence where the fat goes when it’s deposited, and there’s a shift from gaining fat below the waist to putting it on around the midsection.

But something else significant is taking place as we get older . . . something that began decades before.

The cost of sedentary living

I’m talking about the metabolic slowdown that occurs as a result of losing lean mass, aka muscle.

The average person reaches her peak muscle mass at about age 30. And if she doesn’t engage in regular exercise to preserve or build muscle, she loses lean mass steadily from that point forward, at a rate of about 1 percent per year.

Doesn’t sound like much, but you can see how it adds up over time.

At about age 50, a much more steep decline begins. And at about that age, menopause is kicking in for most women.

As they start putting on fat, it’s natural to blame their hormones. But the real cause is a metabolism that’s been gradually slowing down for 20 years as a consequence of sedentary living and muscle loss.

If we have also crash-dieted, the damage will be significantly worse. As I’ve written before and as I teach in all my programs, diets that are too low in calories (e.g., hCG, anything that involves fasting, anything that cuts calories below your resting metabolic rate) cause loss of muscle and thus a slower metabolic rate.

But I don’t want to leave you feeling hopeless. One of my favorite sayings is “the body responds.” And that means as soon as you change the equation—the way you eat, the way you exercise—your body cannot help but change in response.

There really is a fountain of youth . . .

Once you start working out in a way that encourages muscle growth, you will gradually begin to regain the lean tissue you’ve lost. That also means you can reverse metabolic slowdown.

The process isn’t quick, but the benefits are incredible.

And no, you’re not too old—no matter what your age. Scads of studies on frail elderly people in nursing homes show that they too can add muscle mass through appropriate exercise.

Of course, I’m talking about strength training: the best antidote for a slow metabolism . . . not to mention a fabulous way to increase bone density, fight metabolic syndrome, feel more energetic, and yes, look better naked.

There absolutely is a fountain of youth, and it consists of moving heavy objects around.

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