#4.3 Weight Management in Midlife

As women go through life there are times when managing their weight can be a challenge. There are many different reasons for this, I believe stages of life are a major influence. Midlife and menopause is most certainly one of those stages.

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If you ‘look up’ weight gain at menopause you may read that average weight gain is 10-15lb – more proof that menopause gets “bad press”. But this weight gain does not HAVE to happen!

True, many women do report weight gain at this stage of life but the important thing is to keep some control on the amount of extra body fat we carry and not to let it get out of hand. Carrying a lot of extra weight isn’t something that will benefit us as we go through later life as it is associated with increased health risks, joint pain, pelvic floor issues and several other issues. Increased fat stored around the middle is particularly unhelpful but due to hormones changing this is often where it decides to land! However we should try to minimise this as much as we can.

It isn’t simply about “Calories In versus Calories Out”, there are other factors that contribute to weight gain in menopause. I will help you to understand why you may gain more weight at menopause and suggest different ways of taking control.

I have taught 1000s of women over the past 30 plus years – and have known so many women who have struggled with their weight, even before menopause. I have seen faddy diets come and go and have seen many women follow them. Of course, any restrictive eating plan is likely to result in weight loss but most dieters will regain the weight they lose. As well as losing body fat there is often a loss in active muscle tissue. Muscle tissue burns more calories - so in dieting, you are probably fighting a losing battle!

I am not a fan of ‘diets’ but very much a fan of making the right choices in terms of nutrition and lifestyle. I totally understand and respect anybody’s personal choices and can see how easily they are persuaded to try the latest fat-busting plan! Clever marketing wins many women over every time “sign up here madam, you’ll lose weight so quickly!!” “pay here” many women will pay if they think there is guaranteed success! Let’s take a look at WHY we may gain weight, the added associated risks and what we can sensibly do to take control!


Nothing in menopause is just about hormones, but they do have a part to play in contributing to weight gain

  • We know that men tend to store fat around their middle and as a woman’s hormones change and less female hormones are produced we can mirror how men gain weight. The hormones that regulate our appetite, Leptin and Ghrelin, can also be disrupted.
  • As we discovered in the hormones section, belly fat is hormonally active and has the potential to produce the more toxic form of oestrogen that women produce at menopause so managing the storage of belly fat is important.
  • Visceral fat stored around the middle also contributes to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, inflammation, diabetes and some cancers.


  • High cortisol levels can interfere with the function of the thyroid and this can contribute to slowing our metabolism leading to weight gain
  • Cortisol can drive us to crave sugary & fatty foods.
  • Over production of Cortisol encourages storage of fat around the middle, it increases appetite and so “locks” the fat in.
  • Abdominal fat cells have 4 times the cortisol receptors than anywhere else in the body. This means that cortisol contributes to a gain in abdominal fat, which then leads to excess cortisol – a vicious circle!
  • High cortisol levels can lead to muscle breakdown - loss of muscle gain can contribute to weight gain. So STRENGTH WORK IS ESSENTIAL!
  • Adrenaline and cortisol, our stress hormones, have an effect on weight gain. The ongoing chug, chug, chug of stress has the biggest effect on these hormones. Women with a higher waist to hips ratio also tend to produce more cortisol
  • If you are on a restrictive diet this can lead to your body thinking you are in ‘famine mode’. This is a stressor that then makes you release more cortisol leading to more cravings which equals more weight gain!


Eating sugar = increased INSULIN = roller coaster of blood sugars = more stress = increased risk of insulin resistance = increased inflammation = increased belly fat


This seems to be the number one thought when thinking about managing our weight. You may feel that this is the hardest job in terms of YOU taking control. Of course, what we put in our mouth is going to have a big influence on our weight but it is never the whole story.

You may notice that you cannot eat now what you used to eat without putting weight on. That you may now simply walk past a bakery and gain weight! True, the way you used to eat may not be working for you now but that is down to many things, not just hormonal changes.

• You may be more sedentary than you used to be;
• Your eating patterns may have changed;
• You may have higher stress levels;
• You may sleep poorly;
• You may have increased your alcohol intake; Socialise more and eat out
• Your attitude to eating may have altered;
• Your gut health may need some consideration.

Many things to consider! Within this program you will get a clear picture of the influence of other factors on your weight.

It just takes some careful consideration as to what changes you may need to make to influence your body composition. Making these changes is always the difficult part.

We cannot expect to follow a ‘diet plan’ and have long term results if we revert to old habits – but you know that! Many women I have worked with have said to me time after time “I know what to do, it’s doing it that’s the hard part!”

So how do you do what you need to do?

You have to WANT to make changes, there is only one person who can make those changes and it is YOU – but you knew that too!

I think support is key, this is why for many years women find ‘diet clubs’ so good. They have that support, encouragement and someone who can give them the guidance to lose weight. Unfortunately, dieting is unsuccessful in the long term as boredom sets in, results slow or plateau and momentum is lost. This usually leads to the weight that has been lost being regained, often adding more - how soul destroying!

Yet many women live on this rollercoaster without exploring other reasons for their lack of control over their weight.

Then menopause arrives and gives women the very excuse they need. Because “don’t we all get fatter when our hormones change?”

You will have your best chance to achieve a happy balance if you have an understanding of how to eat well at this stage of life (and the associated support required), the encouragement to try other avenues and to make the necessary changes required.


Without regularly doing the right type of exercise it is much harder to control weight gain. Once again, what you did before may not be what works for you now. It’s definitely time to change it up in midlife!

Once you find what works for you and find a sensible and regular exercise plan it’s easier for you to influence your weight, your emotions and your wellbeing. As always, nothing works in isolation, it’s just another part of the jigsaw.
I will be able to motivate you and guide you in the exercise section of this program. As a fitness and exercise teacher with many years of experience I have all the tools needed to enable you to find your way.

Whatever restrictions you feel you may have can be overcome, I have literally motivated the most reluctant of exercisers to get moving and they have been forever thankful! Nike may say ‘just do it’ but without the help, guidance and motivation it’s actually not as easy as that!!


Sleep patterns and sleep disruption affect weight gain. Sleep in menopause can be a challenge. But sleep is affected by stress, vasomotor symptoms, worries and many other things that can be worked on.

Let’s do this one together too! You will see a jigsaw building here. Every part of this program relates to every other part – the same as our bodies. As we build the jigsaw together it is hopefully beginning to get easier for you to see how everything relates to everything else and how we can put everything back in a way that suits your NEW SELF.


I know that this is the toughest challenge of all. You may have battled all your life with weight, you may have always been slim but now you find some weight creeping on. None of us like the feeling of our clothes becoming tight and it can make us miserable, irritable and can result in a loss of self-confidence.

I have found over the years I have been teaching that many women have come to me for help to lose weight. However, there is not one easy answer to how we can achieve weight loss, there are many things combined that contribute to weight gain as I have mentioned.

As women we have been lead to believe that slim is beautiful, we often pursue the ‘ideal’ even if we know we cannot achieve it.

For those who know me, it would be the most ludicrous idea that I should believe I can have long slim legs and be tall and willowy! I have accepted that I am small and short limbed and have worked to make my small and short limbed body strong and to feel good! Who even said that we should only be credited if we are the ‘ideal shape and size’?

We owe it to ourselves to appreciate the body we have, to work to make the best of what we were given but more importantly at midlife remind ourselves that if we measure our worth on our LOOKS we must still have a 20 year old’s brain! Why waste your time chasing the impossible? - Acceptance is so important

Mindset is so hard to change. I urge you to focus on the positives, to note what you like about yourself not dislike, I know it is a tough call. To accept that you are not the woman you were earlier in your life, to embrace your wisdom and experience and to know that the new woman you are is every bit as good if not better than your 20 year old self.

Taking control is powerful Beating yourself up is not. You can do anything you want if you want it enough, having some encouragement and support makes it that much easier!