How To Lose Weight During Menopause: 10 Weight Loss Methods

Lose weight during menopause by reducing your calories, exercising more, getting enough sleep, and syncing up with your circadian rhythm.
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
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woman flexing biceps, using exercise alongside getting enough sleep to lose weight during menopause

Menopause comes with many unwanted symptoms — think sleep problems, hot flashes, and mood swings. Another common complaint from this time of life is weight gain. 

Not only can menopause cause weight gain, it also makes it harder to lose any existing excess weight. And weight tends to pile on around your belly, one of the more dangerous places to carry excess fat — not to mention the place most of us would rather not have it. 

To make matters worse, menopause symptoms are more severe in women who are obese. But the good news is, losing weight during menopause is not only possible, it can improve everything from your hot flashes to your mood and your sleep. 

Below, we’ll dive into why exactly menopause causes weight gain and how you can lose weight while going through it. Plus, we’ll share how the RISE app can help make it possible. 

Disclaimer: The scientific literature uses gendered language when talking about menopause. We have used the term “women” in this article, but this advice is for anyone who wants to lose weight during menopause. 

Why Does Menopause Cause Weight Gain?

Weight gain during menopause is common. It’s estimated women put on about 2 to 5 pounds during the perimenopausal transition, but 20% of women gain 10 pounds or more. 

Weight gain increases your risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, several cancers, and death. In the short term, it can also be a source of stress and sleep loss — which, ironically, can both cause more weight gain.

To make matters worse, women tend to gain belly fat in particular during menopause, and a higher waist circumference is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular and metabolic disease. 

Here’s what causes this menopause weight gain. 

Fluctuating Hormone Levels 

During menopause, your ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone and your periods stop. But this change doesn’t just happen suddenly. You’ll start getting menopause symptoms — including weight gain — during perimenopause, the transition period before menopause. 

Perimenopause can begin four to six years before your periods fully end. During this time, your levels of estrogen and progesterone fluctuate and begin to fall and declining estrogen and progesterone have both been linked to weight gain. Testosterone levels also decrease as you age, and low testosterone can also lead to weight gain. 

Research shows, however, that menopause may not directly cause weight gain, but it can change your body composition. So, these hormone imbalances change your body fat distribution and your body becomes more likely to store fat around your belly.

Estrogen also stops hunger signals. When estrogen levels fall, you may experience more intense hunger signals and be more likely to overeat. 

You Burn Fewer Calories  

One study looked at middle-aged women over a period of four years. The results showed they gained subcutaneous body fat with age. This is the type of fat that sits just below the skin that we can see easily. 

But women who went through menopause during this time also had an increase in total body fat and visceral body fat. Visceral body fat is the kind of fat that sits deep within the belly, around your organs. It’s been linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. 

What was the reason for this belly fat gain? The study found physical activity decreased significantly two years before menopause and remained low. But the fat gain isn’t just down to women doing less exercise. 

Energy expenditure across a 24-hour period and during sleep decreased with age, but the decrease in energy expenditure during sleep was 1.5-fold greater in the women who went through menopause.  

Fat oxidation also decreased by 32% in the women who went through menopause, but didn’t change in those who remained premenopausal throughout the study. This may predispose the menopausal women to gaining more body fat.

The study found visceral fat gain increased significantly about three to four years before the onset of menopause — the same time estrogen levels fall. And changes in energy expenditure could be down to the fact that postmenopausal women no longer have the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle, which burns about 100 calories a day. 

That may not sound like much, but the study stated that if perimenopausal and postmenopausal women don’t cut their calorie intake, the decline in energy expenditure with menopause “is enough to result in significant weight gain over time.”

Burning fewer calories may be one of the main culprits behind menopause weight gain. Other research states perimenopausal women lose lean body mass and more than double their fat mass. This continues to happen until two years after menopause, and this is influenced more by reduced energy expenditure than by increased energy intake. 

You Eat More and Eat Unhealthier  

Eating more calories may not be the main reason women gain weight during menopause, but it may still be to blame. 

We already mentioned how declining estrogen can lead to higher levels of hunger. The study above also found what women were eating changed, too. The menopausal women ate less protein and fiber, which could impact how full they felt and lead to overeating.

Mood changes, stress, anxiety, and depression are common during menopause and these feelings can also lead to overeating or eating unhealthy comfort foods. 

Plus, sleep problems are common during menopause, and when you’re sleep deprived, your hunger hormones are disrupted, which can lead to more hunger and overeating. You also have less self-control, so tend to reach for processed junk foods. More on that next.

Sleep Loss Causes Weight Gain 

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app works out how much sleep debt you have.

Not getting enough sleep causes you to gain weight and, unfortunately, getting a good night’s rest can be hard to do during menopause. You may experience hot flashes and night sweats, sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea, and trouble falling and staying asleep. You can learn more about menopause sleep problems here.

All this means it’s easy to build up sleep debt. Sleep debt is the measure of how much sleep you owe your body compared to your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need.

When your sleep debt is high, you tend to: 

  • Eat more calories 
  • Eat more unhealthy foods 
  • Burn fewer calories — your energy expenditure is lower after a night of short sleep 
  • Store more body fat, especially belly fat 
  • Have less energy, so you may exercise less 

A small study presented at the 2021 Endocrine Society’s annual meeting looked at premenopausal women. They got two nights of uninterrupted sleep and then three nights of interrupted sleep when an alarm went off for two minutes every 15 minutes. 

Some of the participants then went through this sleep disruption again while taking a drug that suppresses estrogen to similar levels menopausal women would have. 

Compared to normal sleep, interrupted sleep caused a significant reduction in the rate of fat utilization. And this drop in how the women’s bodies used fat was also seen when they had lower estrogen levels, but got normal sleep. 

“Our findings suggest that not only estrogen withdrawal but also sleep disturbances during menopause may contribute to changes in a woman’s body that could predispose midlife women to weight gain,” said lead researcher Leilah Grant. “Helping women sleep better during menopause may therefore reduce the chances a woman will gain weight, which in turn will lower her risk of diabetes and other related diseases.”

Sleep apnea is also common around this time of life; 47% to 67% of postmenopausal women suffer from the sleep disorder, and it’s easy to gain weight from it due to the sleep loss and hormone changes that come with the sleep disorder. 

You can learn more about sleep and weight loss here and sleep apnea and weight gain here. 

RISE can work out your individual sleep need and how much sleep debt you have. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.

You’re Living Out of Sync with Your Circadian Rhythm 

Beyond sleep loss, you may also be experiencing circadian misalignment during menopause. This is when you’re not living in sync with your circadian rhythm, your body’s roughly 24-hour internal clock. You might be out of sync if you sleep or eat at odd or irregular times — perhaps due to not having the routine of work and family life anymore, or simply getting into bad habits.

You can also be out of sync with your circadian rhythm if you’re living at odds with your chronotype — your natural tendency to go to sleep and wake up earlier to later. But your chronotype can shift as you age. Women are usually more morning people than men before 40, but this switches later in life. Your chronotype can also shift earlier as you age. So, you may be sticking to your same old sleep schedule, when your body is naturally wanting to sleep at a different time. 

However, circadian misalignment can also lead to weight gain. One study looked at participants who were about 12 hours out of sync — this might be you if you work night shifts — and found they had a 17% decrease in leptin, the hormone responsible for making you feel full. 

You don’t need to be that much out of sync to gain weight, though. A 2021 study found mice who were three hours out of sync had higher blood sugar levels, fattier livers, and gained more weight than mice who were in sync. 

You can learn more about how being out of sync with your circadian rhythm can lead to weight gain here. 

RISE can predict your circadian rhythm each day, so you can see if you’re living at odds with it. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to see their circadian rhythm on the Energy screen.

Menopause Medication Can Cause Weight Gain  

Many women turn to medication to deal with menopause symptoms — like antidepressants to treat low mood or hormone treatments to solve some of the issues low estrogen and progesterone cause. But these medications may come with weight gain as a side effect. 

Aging Can Cause Weight Gain 

Menopause can cause weight gain, but so can simply getting older. Middle-aged women typically gain about 0.5 pounds a year

The amount of lean mass you have decreases with age and this can cause your basal metabolic rate — the number of calories your body burns to do basic functions — to decrease. Research also shows this loss of lean mass happens during menopause, aging aside. 

With less lean mass, you’ll burn fewer calories day to day, and if you consume the same amount of calories as before, you may be in a calorie surplus, which can lead to weight gain. 

Women can also become insulin resistant as they age, which can cause weight gain, especially around the belly, as well as type 2 diabetes. 

You may also do less exercise as you age due to stiff joints, back and knee pain, or declining muscle strength. Unfortunately, menopause may be contributing to some of these problems. Declining estrogen can impact your bone health, which can contribute to back, knee, and joint problems, as well as osteoporosis, which increases your risk of fractures — and that’ll definitely stop you working out for a while.

Older adults may also find it harder to get the sleep they need, which can cause sleep loss and weight gain this way. 

While many studies show menopause causes you to gain fat independently of age, it is hard to fully control for the effects of aging. 

And speaking of things we can’t control, gaining abdominal fat during menopause may also come down to genetics. If you have family members who carry more fat in this area, you’re more likely to as well. 

It Can Be a Stressful Time of Life  

Menopause can be a stressful time of life, making it hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You’re not only battling symptoms and coming to terms with growing older, you may also be caring for elderly parents or grandkids, have symptoms like brain fog that makes work feel harder, low libido that puts a strain on your relationship, or anxiety and depression caused by fluctuating hormones. You may suddenly become an empty nester or are retiring, which can cause stress or, at least, a change up to your routine. 

But all this stress and anxiety can impact your weight. They may cause emotional eating or overeating, and the stress hormone cortisol can cause your body to store fat, especially belly fat

Stress and anxiety also make it hard to fall asleep, meaning you may rack up sleep debt, which makes you more likely to gain weight and makes losing weight even harder.  

Plus, there’s the simple fact that when you’re stressed, you’re more likely to reach for comfort foods and choose Netflix over the gym. 

How to Lose Weight During Menopause?

Whether you’re just starting to get menopause symptoms and want to keep weight gain at bay, or you’ve already seen the scales creep up while going through the transition, there are some things you can do to manage your weight at this time of life.  

1. Keep Your Sleep Debt Low 

As we’ve shown, sleep is hugely important for weight loss. To maximize your weight loss efforts and ensure you don’t put on more weight, you need to keep your sleep debt low. 

You can pay back sleep debt by: 

  • Taking naps: Check RISE for the best time to do this. You don’t want to nap too close to bedtime or this may make it harder to fall asleep at night. 
  • Going to bed a little earlier. 
  • Sleeping in a little later: Keep this to an hour or two to avoid messing up your circadian rhythm (more on that soon). 
  • Improving your sleep hygiene: Focus on sleep hygiene habits. These can help you drift off quicker and wake up less often during the night, meaning more sleep in total. 

The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have and keep track of it as you pay it back. RISE can also guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits and tell you exactly when to do them to make them more effective.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications.

2. Live in Sync with Your Circadian Rhythm 

RISE app screenshot showing your melatonin window to tell you the best time to go to sleep
The RISE app can tell you the best time to go to sleep.

Get back in sync with your circadian rhythm to keep your hunger hormones in check and reduce the chances of weight gain. 

You can stay in sync with your circadian rhythm by: 

  • Keeping a consistent sleep schedule: Even if you no longer have to wake up for work or the kids, aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. 
  • Eat at regular times: And avoid eating at night or too close to bedtime.
  • Go to bed during your Melatonin Window: This is what we call the roughly one-hour window of time when your body’s rate of melatonin production is at its highest. Melatonin primes your body for sleep, so going to bed during this window can help you fall and stay asleep at the right time for you. This is even more important as we age as our bodies begin producing less melatonin the older we get.

The RISE app predicts your circadian rhythm each day, so you can see when your body naturally wants to wake up and go to sleep. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to see their circadian rhythm on the Energy screen.

3. Make Changes to Your Diet 

It’s easy to eat more and eat unhealthier during menopause. But even if you haven’t made any changes to your diet, your body may be burning fewer calories than premenopause. 

To lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit, or burn more calories than you consume. In general, experts recommend overweight women going through menopause eat 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day. To be in a calorie deficit during this time, it’s recommended you cut your calories by about 500 to 750 a day. More research needs to be done into how diets can help menopausal women, however. 

As well as keeping an eye on your calories, here are some other diet changes you can make: 

  • Try eating five to six small meals throughout the day: Instead of skipping meals and then overeating in one sitting.   
  • Make sure you’re eating enough fiber: The study we mentioned earlier found fiber intake decreased through menopause, and this can lead to weight gain.
  • Eat a Mediterranean diet: A 2020 study found it could help menopausal lose fat mass. The Mediterranean diet includes whole grains, fruits, veggies, fish, and legumes.
  • Increase your protein intake: Research shows eating more protein can slow how much muscle mass you lose with age and it can help with fat loss.
  • Reduce your carbs: One study on postmenopausal women found a low-carbohydrate diet may help decrease the risk of weight gain, whereas a low-fat diet may actually promote weight gain. 

4. Eat for Better Sleep 

What and when you eat can also affect your sleep, and getting enough sleep can also help make eating healthier easier. 

Here are a few diet changes that can help your sleep: 

  • Cut down on or avoid caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods, which can trigger hot flashes and cause sleep loss. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements have been shown to reduce hot flashes and overall menopause symptoms. 
  • Eating too close to bedtime can keep you up. As a general rule, aim to be done with dinner two to three hours before bed. RISE can tell you when exactly to have your last meal of the day to make sure it doesn't impact your sleep. 

You can learn more about what time you should stop eating before bed here. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their avoid late meals reminder.

5. Do More Exercise

RISE app screenshot reminding you when to work out
The RISE app can tell you when to avoid working out.

Exercise is important for weight management at any stage of life, but as studies have found physical activity level and overall energy expenditure decrease during menopause, it’s especially important during this time to ensure you’re burning more energy than you’re consuming. 

As well as burning more calories, exercise can help you fall asleep faster and it can reduce anxiety, depression, insomnia, and menopause symptoms like hot flashes. 

Menopausal women are usually advised to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. This should include aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling. A 2021 paper suggests people with obesity should do higher doses of exercise, however.

As well as cardio, incorporate resistance training or strength training into your routine two to three times a week to maintain bone and muscle mass.

A 2018 meta-analysis found yoga helped to reduce menopause symptoms, including hot flashes and mental and physical symptoms. 

Tempted to skip the gym? Exercise plus dietary changes have been shown to be the most effective combo for weight loss during menopause, more so than just making dietary changes alone.

Bonus tip: Avoid intense exercise within an hour of bedtime as this can keep you up. If this is your only time for physical activity, opt for something gentle — like yoga — and keep the lights low to make sure bright light doesn’t impact your sleep. 

We’ve covered more on the best time to work out here. RISE can tell you when exactly to avoid late workouts. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their avoid late workouts reminder.

6. Start Healthy Habits in Perimenopause 

Just started to get perimenopause symptoms? Now is the time to make healthy changes to keep weight gain at bay. 

In the study we mentioned earlier that found physical activity and protein and fiber intake decrease, the researchers concluded that the findings “support the importance of focusing on the early perimenopausal years, with the goal of increasing physical activity and encouraging healthy dietary choices to prevent weight and visceral fat gain in menopausal transition.” 

Even if you’re at a healthy weight, weight gain can be prevented before and after menopause by increasing physical activity and making long-term changes to your diet.

You can also begin focusing on sleep more during this stage, knowing that some sleep disruption may be coming up as menopause symptoms — and general age-related sleep problems — get worse. Start incorporating sleep hygiene habits into your day, keeping your sleep debt low, and living in sync with your circadian rhythm.  

7. Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy 

Hormone replacement therapy — also known as HRT — helps improve menopause symptoms by increasing the amount of estrogen and progesterone in your system. 

Research is divided on whether it can help you lose weight, so more studies need to be done, but there are some promising papers out there. One study found hormone therapy was linked to fat loss, a decline in waist-to-hip ratio, and an increase in fat oxidation three months after treatment.

Another paper states some HRT treatments can prevent weight gain and belly fat gain, and yet another paper states estrogen therapy and estrogen-progestin therapy can help reduce overall fat mass, insulin sensitivity, and lower the rate of development of type 2 diabetes.  

Even if HRT doesn’t help you lose weight, it may help improve some of the menopause symptoms that make weight loss harder — like sleep disruption. 

8. Manage Stress and Anxiety 

To improve your anxiety, stress, sleep, and hopefully, weight loss efforts, try managing your mood. You can do this by: 

  • Trying relaxation techniques: RISE can guide you through relaxation exercises like progressive muscle relaxation and diaphragmatic breathing.
  • Do a brain dump: Write down everything on your mind or tomorrow’s to-do list. Write them in RISE and you’ll get a reminder the next day. 
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine: Wind down before bed by doing relaxing activities like reading, yoga, or listening to calming music. 
  • Get professional help: Cognitive behavior therapy has been shown to help both anxiety and insomnia.

You can learn more about how to sleep with anxiety here. 

9. Speak to a Medical Professional 

Sometimes, we need an extra helping hand with weight loss. Behavioral therapy, for example, can help you set goals, control emotional eating, and stick to diet and exercise regimens. 

You can also speak to a doctor about other menopause-related health issues that may be making weight loss harder, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and sleep apnea. 

10. Consider Bariatric Surgery 

Bariatric surgery is considered as a treatment option for those who are very obese. 

One bariatric treatment option called a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass has been shown to help postmenopausal women lose up to 50% to 60% of their excess body weight in one to two years after treatment. 

Lose the Menopause Middle-Age Spread   

Menopause — and before and after the transition — can cause weight due to everything from fluctuating hormones to lowered energy expenditure. But while you can’t stop menopause itself, you can prevent or reverse the weight gain it can cause. 

Focus on getting enough sleep, syncing up with your circadian rhythm, reducing your calorie intake, and doing regular exercise. 

The RISE app can help by tracking your sleep debt, so you keep it low, and predicting your circadian rhythm, so you can stay in sync. RISE can also tell you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits to help you get the sleep you need each night. This’ll boost your overall health and power up your weight loss efforts.

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Summary FAQs

How to stop menopause weight gain?

Stop menopause weight gain by reducing your calorie intake, doing more exercise, getting enough sleep, and living in sync with your circadian rhythm. Menopause treatments like hormone replacement therapy can also help reduce the menopause symptoms that make losing weight hard, like sleep disruptions.

Natural remedies for menopause weight gain

Natural remedies for menopause weight gain include reducing your calorie intake, doing more exercise, getting enough sleep, living in sync with your circadian rhythm, and managing your stress levels.

Why is it hard to lose weight during menopause?

It’s hard to lose weight during menopause as your estrogen levels are declining. This increases your hunger levels and makes your body gain more fat, especially around your belly area. Menopause symptoms can also disrupt sleep, which makes it hard to lose weight.

What is the average weight gain during menopause?

The average weight gain during menopause is about 2 to 5 pounds, but 20% of women gain 10 pounds or more. The amount of weight you gain will all depend on hormones, genetics, and how your lifestyle changes during this time.

How long does menopause weight gain last?

How long menopause weight gain lasts will all depend on your hormones, genetics, and how much you eat, exercise, and sleep. It is possible to prevent and reverse menopause weight gain with diet, exercise, and sleep.

Is it possible to lose weight during menopause?

It is possible to lose weight during menopause. Focus on eating fewer calories and a healthy diet, doing more exercise, getting enough sleep, and living in sync with your circadian rhythm.

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