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Menopause & Perimenopause – Do Hormones Cause Weight Gain?

They don’t call it middle age for nothing. Right around our 40s and 50s, something starts to happen to our middles. The blazer you’ve had for a decade may get a little tighter across the bust. It may become harder to button your jeans. And you may notice your waist is less defined than it used to be. It’s normal for our bodies to start to change shape as we reach perimenopause. The question is, how much of a role do hormonal changes and menopause play in weight gain, and are there things we can do to help prevent menopause weight gain?

Do hormones cause weight gain?

According to the North American Menopause Society, most middle-aged women are overweight. We tend to blame our hormones for the weight gain, but they may only be partly to blame. Although there’s some evidence that the lower levels of estrogen around menopause may lead to extra pounds, several factors contribute to perimenopause weight gain, including the following: 1

Change in body shape. The jury may not be out on whether menopause causes weight gain, but research shows it does change body composition and shape. Apart from age, perimenopause is linked to a woman’s shift from more of a pear-shaped body, with weight around the hips, to an apple-shaped body, with more weight above the waist and on the belly. So, although we may not weigh more when we get on the scale, we notice more fat around our middles. 2

Aging. We lose muscle mass and gain fat as we age. Since muscle is more metabolically active than fat, this loss of muscle slows your metabolism. A slower metabolism means you will burn fewer calories than you did a few decades before.

Lifestyle changes. We tend to be less active as we get older. And some women have trouble sleeping as they reach middle age; lack of sleep can cause you to snack more and make poor choices about what you eat. These lifestyle factors coupled with the change in resting metabolism cause us to gain weight.

Genetic factors. If your mother or sister experienced menopause weight gain, you are more likely to gain weight in middle age, too. 3

What to do about perimenopause weight gain

Hearing about these causes of perimenopause weight gain can make you feel helpless, but rest assured there are things you can do to fight back.

Despite the buzz about foods that balance hormones in females, the weight loss advice is the same in perimenopause and post-menopause as it is at other times in a woman’s life. To lose weight and keep it off, engage in a full body workout like the Curves circuit and follow a healthy eating plan, like the Curves Nutrition & Weight Management Program. Here are some specific tips for women struggling with changes in hormones and weight loss:

Work out. Find an exercise routine that combines strength training and cardio, like the Curves Circuit. It’s important to choose a full-body workout that you will stick to. Because it’s only 30 minutes, the Curves Circuit is easy to fit into your day. Plus, you’ll exercise next to like-minded women at Curves ladies gym, which is more important than ever around perimenopause. If you can more easily fit an at-home workout into your day, you can go for MyCurves on Demand. 4

Cut calories. Because of the slower metabolism that comes with middle age, you may need to eat less to maintain a healthy weight. If you are trying to lose weight, you may have to eat less still. The best way to reduce calorie intake is to eat foods that fill you up but are less calorie-dense. These foods include vegetables, fruits, and high-fiber whole grains. Other good choices include beans, nuts, soy, fish, and low-fat dairy. Avoid red meat, butter, processed foods, and foods high in sugar and refined carbs. Also, limit your intake of alcohol and sweetened beverages, which add lots of calories without filling you up. 5

If you are struggling with weight gain relating to menopause or perimenopause, start by talking with a trusted medical professional. Then fight back by engaging in a short workout you can complete comfortably and safely in your home, at your own pace. The 30-minute at-home workouts you can access with a MyCurves On Demand subscription are full-body, quick, convenient, and effective.


  1. Weight Management Module for Perimenopausal Women: A Practical Guide for Gynecologists – PMC (nih.gov)
  2. Changes in Weight and Fat Distribution, Sexual Side Effects of Menopause | The North American Menopause Society, NAMS
  3. Changes in Weight and Fat Distribution, Sexual Side Effects of Menopause | The North American Menopause Society, NAMS
  4. Menopause & Exercise, Menopause Management Tips | The North American Menopause Society, NAMS
  5. Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age spread – Mayo Clinic
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