Many women in their 20s and 30s notice that they have started to gain weight, even though they have made no changes to their diet or exercise. One might not think that weight gain from hormone changes could affect a woman until their body has started going through the process of menopause.
During the years before menopause, women gain an average of one pound per year. Hormone levels can start declining as early as 10 years before the onset of menopause. Hormones directly affect a woman’s body in many ways. Hormones influence fat storage, appetite, and metabolism. Therefore, it is common for women to experience weight gain from hormone fluctuations.
Exploring the causes of hormonal weight gain
Estrogen is the female sex hormone that is responsible for initiating monthly ovulation. It appears that estrogen can play a role in weight gain. When the body does not produce the levels of hormones needed, it must attempt to find the hormones in other places.
Fat cells produce and store estrogen so the body converts more calories to fat in an attempt to raise estrogen levels. Since fat cells cannot burn calories as well as muscles do, the body is left with excessive amounts of fat which contributes greatly to the additional weight gain.
Androgen is the hormone necessary for the process known as estrogen synthesis (the production of estrogen) which is, itself, synthesized from the DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) hormone. An increase in the body’s levels of this particular hormone is responsible for the extra weight that accumulates around the body’s midsection.
Because this is such a common feature of menopause, menopause is often referred to as “middle age spread.” Weight gain from the hormone androgen, which accumulates around the abdominals, is one of the first signs of menopause.
Progesterone is the hormone involved in regulating the female menstrual cycle. When the body produces less progesterone, water retention and bloating can occur. Though water retention does not account for a lot of unwanted pounds, it does inevitably contribute to hormonal weight gain.
Water retention and bloating cause clothes to fit much tighter, makes the individual feel heavier, and gives the appearance of further weight gain. Fortunately, water retention and bloating are only temporary conditions which typically go away in a few months.
Testosterone is the hormone responsible for converting the calories ingested by the individual to lean muscle mass. These muscle cells are able to burn calories at a much higher rate than fat cells which, in turn, increases metabolism.
Muscle loss is experienced when testosterone levels in the body decline. Regrettably, less muscle mass directly corresponds to a lower metabolism, leaving the body unable to burn calories at its normal rate.