The Fluffy Middle Syndrome
The Shifting Shape Of Womanhood
Menopause brings with it a number of interesting, and sometimes disturbing, effects. Although this passage is common to all women, some just seem to go through it easier than others do. However, one thing that seems to be consistent in many perimenopausal women (other than hot flashes) is weight gain. The shape of the body changes as hormonal shifts cause a different distribution of the weight that creeps on at the rate of about a pound a year.
The good news (if you can call it that) is that this is a common occurrence for women in their perimenopausal stage. Most women will gain between ten and 15 pounds over the ten or 15 years of perimenopause that they will experience before hitting menopause. Even though a woman is eating properly and exercising, as she has been doing for years, maintaining the same weight over the perimenopausal period is difficult.
Why Is It So Tough To Keep Weight Under Control?
Losing weight is almost impossible during this period and that is due to hormones. It seems that no matter how valiant the effort, the weight stays put. The entire menopausal journey is centered upon hormones. The fluctuation of estrogen, progesterone, and androgen levels has an effect upon appetite, metabolism and fat storage.
Estrogen is known as the female sex hormone and is responsible for causing ovulation every month. Once a woman becomes perimenopausal, this hormone gradually decreases and eventually, the body stops ovulating completely. The halt to ovulation happens in menopause, which is defined as 12 months without a menstrual period. Weight gain is also affected by estrogen levels. When the levels begin to drop, the body looks for a source of estrogen and finds it in fat. As a result, signals are sent to the control center telling the body to convert calories into fat in order to increase estrogen levels. Since the body cannot burn the fat as quickly as the calories convert, fat is stored and pounds are packed onto the abdomen. Progesterone, another of the sex hormones, affects the body by causing fluid retention. Although this weight is water weight, just carrying it on the body makes clothes fit tighter and can make a woman “feel fat.”
…And Male Hormones
Androgens, considered a male hormone, are the communicators that tell the fat to land in the mid-section of the body. Androgens increase during perimenopause, causing that famous “middle-age spread.” Another hormone considered a male hormone is testosterone. This hormone is the one that helps the body to create lean muscle mass from calories. Metabolism increases when muscle is increased because muscle burns calories. When testosterone levels drop during menopause, metabolism drops and so does muscle mass. The lower the metabolism, the slower the muscles burn fat.
Hormones play a significant role in the process of weight gain during perimenopause. However, other factors come into play as well. Insulin resistance and stress work to cause the body to convert calories into fat and to store the fat as protection. All of this protection can make for a fluffy middle.