If you gain weight in midlife, you’re not alone. Women put on an average of 1.5 pounds per year between the ages of 40 and 60. About two-thirds of women ages 40 to 59 and nearly three-quarters of women older than 60 are overweight, meaning they have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25. Being overweight increases the risk for many health problems, including:
Genetics, aging, and changes in your lifestyle or hormones contribute to weight gain. As a woman, you also lose about 1% of your muscle mass each year starting around age 30. Your metabolism slows, and you burn fewer calories at rest and during physical activity. That means you may put on pounds even if you keep the same diet and exercise routine you did in younger years.
Evidence doesn’t show menopause makes you gain weight. But as the ovaries ramp down their production of estrogen and progesterone, you may notice your body stores more fat in your midsection instead of hips and thighs.
Manage your weight with simple, healthful lifestyle habits.
If long-term lifestyle changes don’t help you achieve a healthy weight, ask your doctor whether a medical problem or certain medication may be causing weight gain. Your doctor can also help you explore weight-loss treatments, such as prescription medication or bariatric surgery.
If you haven’t made any changes to your diet and exercise routines, try making some. The diet and exercise habits that worked for you in your 20s and 30s are likely now providing you with more calories than your body needs. Take a look at what you’re eating on a daily basis. Read food labels. Where are your extra calories coming from? Soda? Sugar in your coffee? Your favorite brand of salad dressing? Find ways to cut down on your calories consumed by swapping in healthier alternatives.
In similar fashion, take a look at what you’re doing for exercise. Even if you work out regularly, are you spending more time in front of the TV or hunched over your smartphone than you used to? Make a point of upping your amount of physical activity, aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week.
If you take medications, check to see if any of them list weight gain as a possible side effect. If medications aren’t the answer, it’s time to talk to a health care provider. Unexplained weight gain can be an indication of an underlying medical condition. A medical professional can help rule out conditions like hypothyroidism, and also advise on how best to address weight gain going forward.
Talk to a care navigator or schedule an appointment at the Women’s Health & Wellness Center.