Perimenopause is often described as menopausal transition. It's a phase in life when the body starts to shift from fertility to infertility. Many people confuse perimenopause with menopause, which is technically the day you haven't had your period for 12 consecutive months, explains the National Women's Health Information Center. When a woman says she's going through menopause, she's actually experiencing perimenopause, and this change brings a number of undesirable symptoms, one of which is weight gain.
A combination of factors contributes to the weight gain often associated with menopausal transition. One of the more obvious is hormones. According to Medline Plus, declines in estrogen and progesterone likely play a role in where weight is distributed in the body. As opposed to gaining weight along the hips and thighs, as you did when you were younger, most women experiencing perimenopause notice an increase in abdominal fat.
But hormones are only partly to blame for perimenopausal weight gain. It's also probable that muscle loss is compounding the problem. As women age, it isn't uncommon to start losing muscle mass. And since muscle burns more calories than fat, this muscle loss can slow your metabolism, making your previous methods of weight management ineffective and thereby causing weight gain.
Though this factor isn't exclusive to women, another likely component to weight gain is physical activity. Managing your weight has always involved finding a balance between diet and physical activity. When you get older, you become less physically active, which has a direct impact on the number of calories your body burns each day. You may still be eating the same amount of calories as before, but the drop in physical activity creates an imbalance and leads to weight gain.
To combat perimenopausal weight gain, diet is one of your best options. Eating more fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains not only provides the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients important to your health, but they also naturally lower your caloric intake, which can promote weight loss. To keep weight gain at bay, you may need to reduce your caloric intake as much as 200 to 400 calories a day.
Another important facet to perimenopausal weight loss is exercise. Increasing your level of physical activity can help make up the additional 200 to 400 calories you need to expend each day to lose the weight. Exercising at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week is frequently of benefit.
- National Women's Health Information Center: Perimenopause
- Medline Plus: Menopause
- Harvard Health Publications: Perimenopause: Rocky Road to Menopause
- Climacteric; Understanding Weight Gain at Menopause; Davis SR, Castelo-Branco C, Chedraui P, Lumsden MA, Nappi RE, Shah D, Villaseca P; Writing Group of the International Menopause Society for World Menopause Day 2012
- National Institutes of Health: Menopause