MyMT™ Blog

Making sense of your weight gain in menopause [and why you shouldn’t follow weight loss strategies from the ‘Biggest Loser’ reality TV shows!]

Imagine if you didn’t have to worry about weight gain in menopause. You know what I mean – the thickening waistline, the bloating, the accumulation of belly-fat, and if you are like me and tend to be an adrenal or pituitary body-type, then perhaps your breasts feel more swollen and heavier too.

I often show this image in my seminars. Look how ‘top-heavy’ I became at 51 years old. Thinking back to that time, the distressing thing was the sore neck when I was trying to exercise! I was desperate to understand why my boobs were blowing up like my grandmother’s – she could famously balance a cup of tea on her boobs! With the knowledge that our genetics follow our maternal DNA, the weight gain left me in no doubt, that continued weight gain as I went into post-menopause might be ‘my-lot’ as well. When some of the women on my research studies were just as confused as I was about their increasing weight gain in mid-life, despite regular exercise, I knew that I had to look into it.

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  • Is your belly and back-fat increasing now that you’re in menopause?
  • Is your belly-fat hard to shift no matter the exercise you might be doing?
  • Have you always had a pre-disposition to put on weight no matter how much exercise you do or how many diets you go on?
  • As menopause has hit, have you developed facial hair or lost your eyebrows?

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  • Do you have intermittent aches and pains in your feet?
  • Are you bloated and retaining water?
  • Have you lost muscle tissue?
  • Do you feel excessively tired after a meal?
  • Are you feeling more emotional or unmotivated than usual?


Do you have any of these symptoms? Maybe you have most of them!

If you are feeling a bit despondent with your increasing fat levels in menopause (and decreasing muscle tone), then let me explain what’s happening.

When we go into our changing hormonal environment in menopause, our oestrogen and progesterone levels decline. For many women, they think that changing reproductive hormones are the only hallmark of menopause. But this isn’t true! Hormones are powerful chemical messengers and they help to maintain numerous functions in our body – from reproduction to sleep to weight management, to exercise recovery, stress management and more! They all work together to maintain our female body in survival mode, so when it comes to our increasing weight and belly-fat, then the way that our sleep, thyroid, blood sugar and adrenal hormones all ‘talk’ to one another is crucial to understanding weight management in menopause. Because of this connection, you cannot look at any of these hormones in isolation, especially when it comes to menopausal weight gain.

I had no idea about this before I went into menopause. With heart disease increasing in post-menopausal women, then I also know that it’s time to really look at prevention of menopause weight gain. It’s the single most contributor to women’s changing health issues as they go into their post-menopause years, especially in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.  Called metabolic syndrome, gaining belly-fat sends your glucose metabolism, blood pressure and cholesterol into chaos. I saw it with my grandmother and my own mother and many of her friends and it’s why I’m on a mission to help women who are putting on menopause weight (or are in post-menopause and the abdominal belly-fat is still there), to learn how to reduce it. And no, we don’t have to do hours of exhausting exercise, which many of you don’t have time (or energy) for anyway! When exercise and nutrition wasn’t stemming the increased weight gain that I was experiencing during menopause, I had to learn why as part of my doctoral studies on women’s healthy ageing. What I discovered amazed me, because everything I was doing to manage my weight and try to lose, wasn’t working, because of my changing hormones and the fact that I wasn’t sleeping.

I also learnt that when our fat cells store oestrogen, this makes the body ‘dominant’ with oestrogen in comparison with progesterone, and thanks to the research from Dr John Lee it’s now known as ‘oestrogen dominance.’  This means that oestrogen is becoming dominant in the body compared with its opposite hormone, progesterone. The same thing was happening to Heather, who is in this lovely image she sent me. As she said, once she had completed the 12 week ‘Transform Me’ programme, “My daughter has never seen me this thin in her entire life!”

For the past 20 years, I have followed the weight loss research from Professor Rena Wing  and Professor James Hill in America. Through the National Weight Control Registry, they have been following people who are losing or gaining weight for over 30 years, identifying the characteristics of strategies that are most ‘successful’ for people who are not only losing weight, but keeping it off into the longer term, which they define as 1 year or more. This is why those pumping out reality TV programmes such as the ‘Biggest Loser’ might like to actually look at this work, as we now know that for many of these participants, weight goes back on again very quickly afterwards! When I needed to lose my own belly-fat and stop the increasing fat gain in my upper body, I took heed of the work from Professors Wing and Hill. I knew that one can only begin to lose weight, when we stop gaining, so the first thing I had to do was to stop gaining. And this means, controlling insulin levels, which get out of balance as our hormones change in menopause. Only when you stop gaining, will you then begin to turn around your metabolism and begin to lose.

This is why I want you to know my 3 Key strategies that are the main principles to help you manage your weight in menopause:

  1. You must sleep all night. Fat-burning occurs overnight because of the link between our blood-sugar hormone called insulin and one of our stress hormones, called cortisol. When cortisol is high, so is insulin. When insulin is high, you can’t fat-burn overnight, when you normally do!
  2. You must control your blood sugar levels throughout the day. When you control your blood sugar levels, then you also prevent erratic surges of insulin. This powerful hormone can wreck our health as we age, because too much insulin causes extra storage of glucose in your fat cells. Couple this with muscle loss (known as sarcopenia) and therefore, loss of vital fat-burning mitochondrial cells, and the fact that your fat cells also love oestrogen and want to store any artificial oestrogen (called xeno-oestrogens) in your fat cells, then this rapidly increases fat deposits in menopausal women too. Remember too, that breast tissue is replete in fat cells in many women! Insulin provides the environment for making fat. As long as there is insulin around, the more fat gets stored into fat storage depots. In peri-menopause, this can promote insulin-resistance in some susceptible women.
  3. Eating an early dinner and practising overnight fasting is powerful to help you turn down your insulin response. Overnight fasting has been gathering momentum in healthy ageing research as it not only promotes our evolutionary fat-burning response, but when we have a period of fasting overnight (from 6pm to 9am), then our gut empties properly too. With gut health and liver health changing so much as we go into a low oestrogen hormonal environment, it’s really important, that women improve gut and liver health too. I talk about these in my programmes.

If you have put on belly-fat in menopause, then I know you will benefit from the MyMT™ Transform Me online programme. No matter what your body-type is! With Christmas coming as well, there is no better time, to get underway, so you feel and look great at this busy time of year! Over 12 weeks, you’ll discover, everything I researched (and put into place) to firstly , stop my menopause weight gain, so I could then start to turn around my metabolism and begin losing the dangerous belly-fat that sends us into worsening cardiac and metabolic health as we age. It would be my privilege to be your guide.

Wendy Sweet [PhD/ Women’s Healthy Ageing Researcher & MyMT Founder & Coach].

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