Are my hormones to blame for that annoying weight gain?

Hormones and weight gain through the perimenopause and menopause is a common concern for women.

The average weight gain is 2-5kg over 5 years – enough for you to notice a difference in clothes size.

Hormones and Weight Gain

And aside from the inconvenience of having to buy new clothes, weight gained in the perimenopause and menopause is deposited around the waist, which has implications for our health.

Central obesity (where did my waistline go??) is associated with high levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol) and triglycerides and low levels of HDL (the good cholesterol). It also decreases our responsiveness to insulin resulting in higher blood sugar levels.

These changes to metabolism can result in heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, fatty liver and depression. Good grief! Pass me the carrot sticks…

A BMI or body mass index doesn’t always tell us the whole story however, and a waist circumference measurement is a much more reliable way of predicting your risk of health complications.

The burning question is, why do we gain this weight?

Well, oestrogen deficiency increases hunger and so we eat more. In animal studies, this decline in oestrogen was also associated with a decline in activity levels.[1]

Combine this with our busy lives – work, family, study, which may mean we exercise less and drink a little more wine – and none of that is good for us.

We know that oestrogen levels start to decline three years before periods stop, and decline even further when periods finally stop, so weight can slowly, but steadily increase.

Replace the oestrogen, I hear you say. If only it were that simple!

This is unfortunately just not enough, with scientists proving that we also need to exercise more and eat less. And exercise needs to be fat-burning cardio, sadly that gentle Pilates class just won’t cut it.

In a study of 535 health premenopausal women aged 44-55 years, Simkin-Silverman et al[2] demonstrated that weight loss could be achieved with a diet of 1300kcal/day and an increase in physical activity of 1000-1500kcal/week. A great reason to get that dusty fitness tracker out of the drawer.

In regards to diet, I recommend the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet to reduce calories – sensible, easy to follow, and lots of great recipes. Essentially, a plan for life and food your husband and kids will eat, because having two different meals is never a good idea. Go to: for more information.

For more significant weight loss goals, a two day ‘very low calorie diet’ (VLED) is a great way to kick-start your metabolism. Two consecutive days of a VLED triggers your metabolism to change from burning glycogen as its main fuel source – to fat burning.[3] This is then followed by a low/moderate carb diet – either the CSIRO diet or Dr Michael Mosely’s 5:2 diet. Go to for more information.

Replacing testosterone, a hormone that is also depleted in women in the perimenopause and menopause, can help to give the energy to get back your ‘get up and go’ and make healthier, more positive choices.

Visit Wellend Health for more information on hormones and weight gain, or make an appointment on 1300 652 028 and we can discuss how you can get back control of your hormones, your life and your health.


[1] Ainslie DA, Morris MJ, Wittert G, Turnball H, Proietto J, Thorburn AW. Estrogen deficiency causes central leptin insensitivity and increased hypothalamic neuropeptide Y. Int J Obesity Relat Metab Disord 2001;25(11):1680-88.

[2] Simkin-Silverman LR, Wing RR, Boraz MA, Kuller LH. Lifestyle intervention can prevent weight gain during the menopause. Results from a five year randomized clinical trial. Ann Behav Med 2003;26(3):212-20.

[3] Purcell K, Sumithran P, Prendergast LA, Bouniu CJ, Delbridge E, Proietto J. The effect of rate of weight loss on long-term weight management: A randomized controlled trial. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 2014;2(12):954-62.


Dr Tonia Mezzini is known for offering the best possible advice and treatment options for a person’s sexual health care needs. In particular, she cares for patients with: