I learnt an actual fact about weight gain during the menopausal years of (approx) late 40s to mid 50s recently. It comes from a very good book by Debra Waterhouse called Menopause Without Weight Gain, and the fact is as follows….
During the menopause, women’s fat cells are PRE PROGRAMMED to swell by up to 20%. There’s nothing you can do about it, just as fat cells increase in size and quantity around the bust and hips during puberty and around the thighs and bottom for pregnancy, so they are designed to increase in size and in numbers during the menopause. The reason for this increase is that they are able to produce oestrogen, I know, who knew they did that?
Debra states in the book “As soon as your fat cells detect a slightly reduced oestrogen level [during the menopause], they come to your aid to produce oestrogen for you. Interestingly enough, the fat cells in your waist grow the largest because they are better equipped to produce oestrogen than the fat cells in your buttocks, hips or thighs.” Hence the immovable ring of fat that arrives at your waist around your late 40s.
Debra continues “Ironically, the very weight gain we abhor is actually beneficial for us. While we are waging war against our fat cells, they are looking out for our menopausal well-being. The harder you try to lose weight by dieting, the more powerful your menopausal fat cells will become and the more weight you will gain” as the fat cells are trying their hardest to keep you nicely plumped up with oestrogen-producing fat cells (can we call it oestro-fat?) to keep you healthy.
So there we go. It’s pre destined. It’s a bugger isn’t it?
The book describes in detail how the fat cells behave during menopause, but basically it’s all about holding onto those fat levels until the menopause has finished, roughly when we’re 55, when they go back to behaving normally and fat loss becomes easier. During the menopause we need (on average) about 300 FEWER calories a day to maintain our weight. Healthy eating, LOTS of brisk, varied exercise and common sense should see us through.
I found it surprisingly relieving to know about this. I hate this extra fat layer that’s arrived around my waist, but knowing that it’s doing me good makes it easier to tolerate. By our age we all know diets don’t really work anyway and although this book doesn’t raise the green flag on second helpings of tiramisu every time we are offered it, it does make you focus on the idea of moving around a bit more and eating a bit less and more healthily.
I picked up the book in my local charity shop for £1.00 and it was money well spent. I notice Debra wrote it in 1999 but it is still very relevant. Amazon are selling it for as little as a penny.