Journal / Weight Gain

Why Am I Gaining Weight in My Belly?

Medically reviewed by Nancy L. Belcher Ph.D, MPA

Written by Winona Editorial Team

Last updated October 14, 2021

As we age, we can find ourselves chronically trying to keep weight off, or maybe we are fighting even harder to take the weight off. Gaining weight in your belly bit-by-bit, day-by-day is demoralizing. Even worse, as we age the weight isn’t getting added to our bodies in the ways it used to. We start to see a fat belly rather than our sexy curves. Menopause and a fat belly tend to go together. 

Women’s curves are good! Women’s curves are great! But remember when we used to deposit weight in our breasts, hips, and thighs? Now, as we age, we start depositing weight in our tummies, sort of like a “dad bod.”  That’s typically not what women want to see in the mirror. Winona would like to help you to get your beautiful curves back naturally, and safely with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT).

Understanding the link between menopause and weight gain can be elusive, but we are here to provide you with some of the answers.  Most women in peri- and menopause are struggling with their weight on some level. The diets and exercises that once worked so well, or the new ones that claim to be the answer, are often harsh and can escalate hormonal imbalances.1-4 

While some healthcare professionals may try to scold you for eating too much, we know better. Sure, overeating can be a part of it, but the drop in hormones at peri- and menopause plays the most important role in a woman’s menopausal weight gain. Not only is weight gain natural as we age, but if you’d like, it can be prevented and reversed.  

Rest assured, there is a lot we can do to curb weight gain. The worst thing that we can do is worry about weight gain. As we worry we actually increase the levels of stress hormones (cortisol) which can cause us to gain weight. Sounds crazy, but it is true.

What are Hormones and Why Do They Impact My Weight?

Hormones control metabolism, where fat is deposited, overall appetite, and weight balance. The most effective way to get hormones back on track, stop the scale creep, and return to a healthy weight is to correct hormonal imbalances with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT). BHRT is made from yams and is identical to the hormones our body naturally makes. Once hormones are back in balance, weight loss can begin.  

Hormone regulation is complicated because the body’s hormones are all interconnected. The body’s hormone systems must all work in harmony and continually rebalance in response to physical and emotional events in your life. Peri- and menopause are the phases where women will experience huge drops in hormone levels. Those drops are normal, but the symptoms of low hormones can be debilitating and lead to lifelong medical complications.

Menopause weight gain, or also called hormonal weight gain, is a struggle that very few talks about. At the age of 40, most women don’t want to think about menopause but meanwhile, the hormones that regulate weight are spiraling down. Ignoring what is happening is not a method to prevent weight gain. Weight loss after 40 is possible. By understanding the true source of weight gain, women can shed excess weight and prevent further weight gain; ultimately helping women to feel happier and healthier.

People often assume that menopausal weight gain is ‘natural,’ and in some ways, it is. But “natural” does not necessarily mean healthy or desirable.  Many women gain weight during menopause, especially around their abdomens. It’s not healthy, and it does NOT have to be inevitable. For long-term health, it is important to keep the body, and waistline, trim. 

BHRT can help do just that. Hormones work together to decrease appetite and fat storage. If the hormone system doesn’t work properly, women can struggle with weight issues on an ongoing basis. Fortunately, taking BHRT can powerfully help with weight loss.

Why Am I Getting a Dad Bod?

Simply put, most women are overweight at midlife because their hormones are out of whack, and the weight gain around their middle section is dangerous. The health implications of weight gain at menopause cannot be overstated. The excess weight that is most concerning is a weight around the midsection and is called ‘visceral fat. It’s the fat that is deep in your body and surrounds your organs.

In our 20s and 30s, we may gain weight in our breasts and around our hips and thighs. At menopause, we tend to gain weight around our abdomen and upper back. This shift in where fat is deposited is due to the hormonal changes of menopause. While the genetic factors related to weight and fat distribution can’t be changed, women can control menopausal weight gain by increasing the levels of hormones that are dropping by taking natural (yam-based) bioidentical hormones.1-10

Menopausal women taking HRT tend to have less body fat, especially abdominal fat.3

Visceral fat cells (around your organs) are what can make our shape change to a “dad bod.” Adding this type of fat (adipose tissue) to our waistlines can set off inflammation and increase insulin resistance. Visceral fat gets worse with depression, stress, poor sleep, smoking, and drinking fructose-sweetened beverages. If that’s not enough, menopausal weight gain around your tummy can increase the risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Cancers – colon, breast, uterine, esophageal, kidney, and pancreatic

  • Stroke

  • Arthritis

  • Breathing problems

  • Type 2 diabetes

Beyond these effects, decreased hormones and excess weight tend to lead to:

  • lowered libido through vaginal changes, 

  • reduced energy, reduced mobility, 

  • poor self-image, 

  • and so much more.

Prescription menopause relief. Delivered.

Explore Treatments

6 Ways to Prevent & Reverse “Dad Bod” or Menopausal Weight Gain 

  1. Try Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT)
    Menopausal weight gain and the inability to lose weight are based on a litany of factors, but low levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone during menopause are the primary factors. Yes, calories matter. But during menopause, hormones matter more. Taking BHRT can powerfully prevent weight gain. 

  2. Reduce Stress
    Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone.”  When the mind perceives stress, cortisol is released into the bloodstream. If too much cortisol is released, it can lead to overeating and weight gain, especially in the midsection.6 Cortisol has a direct interplay with other hormones related to weight, sleep, and mood. While some of the weight gains might be due to ‘stress eating,’ cortisol will cause weight gain if it spikes too high. High cortisol is also linked to depression, food addiction, and sugar cravings.14 Normalizing estrogen and testosterone levels can stabilize cortisol levels.

  3. Stop the Fatigue Due to Night Sweats
    Night sweats associated with peri- and menopause can create an endless cycle of fatigue. People eat more when they are tired.3 When they are sleep deprived, the levels of appetite hormones increase (ghrelin and cortisol), and they tend to snack and consume more calories.7

    If sleep is regularly disrupted, the stress hormone cortisol increases, and weight gain ensues. BHRT has been shown to reduce night sweats more effectively than any other treatment, allowing for restful sleep, decreased anxiety, and weight loss.3

  4. Regain Lean Muscle Mass
    As people age, their muscle mass typically decreases, while fat levels increase.2 When muscle mass decreases, so does the metabolism. When metabolism drops, so does the number of calories needed per day. If a woman continues to eat as she always has, and doesn’t increase physical activity, weight gain is inevitable.

    When muscle mass decreases, a woman can burn 500 fewer calories per day. At that rate, she would gain 1 lb per week or 52 pounds in just one year! Starting at age 30, women will naturally lose about 1/2 pound of muscle mass per year. By 50 years of age, that can total 10 lbs of lost muscle, and likely fat has replaced the muscle. That new fat often gets stored in the belly and upper back.

    We know that muscle burns about 3x more calories than fat. So, if the amount of muscle you have is increased (or returned to pre-menopausal levels), losing weight can be much more realistic. Working out to gain muscle can help decrease the severity of weight gain, and can assist with weight loss. Try strength training exercises and getting your heart rate up at least three times a week is important.17

  5. Switch the Workouts
    Unfortunately, the body doesn’t burn as many calories walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes at age 55 as it did at 35. The same work no longer gives the same benefit. It may be time to change it up. Try new classes and challenges – they may help overcome a workout lull.

  6. Accept Help for Mood & Anxiety Changes
    Women in menopause have an increased rate of anxiety and depression. Societal norms impact the willingness of women to seek treatment for mood and anxiety changes. Suicide rates are at their highest for women in their menopause years.

    Research shows that those who suffer from depression and anxiety are more likely to gain weight and become obese. At appropriate levels, progesterone can act as a natural antidepressant and enhance mood, and relieve anxiety. It stimulates the ‘feel-good’ center of the brain. If progesterone levels drop, it is easy to understand why anxiety and depression can follow.17 Supplementing progesterone by taking BHRT can improve anxiety, irritability, and nervous tension.17,18,19 

WHY TAKE BIOIDENTICAL HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY? 

If peri- and menopausal women don’t address the hormonal root causes of weight gain and weight loss resistance, their weight goals will not be achieved. At perimenopause, women will experience a cascade of hormone imbalances. When one goes up, another one goes down.

What was once a symphony of hormones playing a pretty good tune suddenly becomes a screeching cacophony that can crescendo into a world of problems, including weight gain. By starting HRT, a woman can begin the process of repairing the imbalances of the hormones and can once again play in harmony.

Prescription menopause relief. Delivered.

Explore Treatments

SUMMARY

When hormones are in balance, neither too high nor too low, women look and feel their best. But when hormones are imbalanced, a range of symptoms can include fatigue, sugar cravings, weight loss resistance, bloating, belly fat, trouble sleeping, anxiety and so much more. 

The most effective way to get hormones back on track, halt the ever-present scale creep, return to a healthy weight and get our gorgeous curves back is to correct hormonal imbalances with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Once hormones are back in balance, weight loss can begin.  

While some may claim that it is vain to worry about weight gain, we know that excess weight raises the risk of cardiovascular disease (particularly fat in the abdomen), type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and some cancers (including breast and colon). Fat on the belly or menopause fat belly can make all of these concerns.

Menopausal weight gain can be prevented and reversed. It takes a proactive approach that deals with the natural decreases in the hormones estrogen,  progesterone, and testosterone. Check out Winona today to get started. 

“This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.”

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3791351/

  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menopause-weight-gain/art-20046058

  3. https://www.medpagetoday.com/obgyn/hrt/72014

  4. https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/how-does-obesity-cause-cancer.h27Z1591413.html#:~:text=BY%20Danielle%20Underferth-,The%20link%20between%20obesity%20and%20cancer%20risk%20is%20clear.,being%20obese%20increases%20that%20risk

  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21984197/#:~:text=Insulin%20resistance%20and%20the%20compensatory,both%20in%20men%20and%20women

  6. https://obgynal.com/hormones-and-weight-gain/

  7. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/90/5/2954/2836983

  8. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/your-hunger-hormones#1

  9. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321837

  10. https://www.saragottfriedmd.com/why-cant-i-lose-weight-and-keep-it-off-hint-its-not-your-fault/

  11. https://odomhealthandwellness.com/10-reasons-you-cant-lose-weight-in-middle-age/

  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9565832/

  13. http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/changes-at-midlife/changes-in-weight-and-fat-distribution

  14. https://goop.com/wellness/health/why-youre-not-losing-weight/

  15. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jtr/2011/875125/

  16. https://bioadaptivemedicine.com/new-blog/estrogen-progesterone-thryoid-hormones

  17. https://www.hotzehwc.com/2018/04/anxiety-relief-with-bioidentical-progesterone/

  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6684167/

  19. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7663969/

  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1688192/

  21.  Glaser, Rebecca and Dimitrakakis, Constantine, “Testosterone Therapy in Women: Myths and Misconceptions.” Maturitas, Vol 74, issue 3, 2013, 230-234