FAT, FRUSTRATED, FORTY, AND FEMALE: MENOPAUSE AND WEIGHT GAIN
Sally recalled exactly when she gained her most recent weight: "I gained after the hysterectomy and going on Premarin when I was forty-three years old.
I ate just as carelessly prior to that but never carried extra weight. I was always thin."
According to The Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs, 1992, side effects of estrogenic drugs include fluid retention and weight gain, and they call
these effects "natural, expected, and unavoidable."
In her book Super Nutrition for Menopause, Ann Louise Gittleman writes:
The preliminary results of a survey conducted by Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, seem to indicate that 65 to 75 percent
of women involuntarily gain weight at menopause . . . and it appears that a slightly higher percentage of women on hormone therapy gained weight
compared to those women who took no hormones. . . . Those extra pounds that show up at menopause may be due to a lack of progesterone and the
consequent estrogen dominance. Estrogen that is not balanced by an adequate amount of progesterone causes weight gain. This is something farmers
have known for years; that's why the synthetic estrogen hormone diethylstilbesterol (DES) is given to steers to fatten them up.
Another reason for the weight gain is that during the first ten days to two weeks of our menstrual cycle, our bodies use up a substantial number of calories
in the process of ovulation. So when we stop ovulating (enter menopause) we are left with extra calories, up to 300 daily in some cases, that are not begin
[sic] burned. . . . Weight gain during and after menopause may also result from negative attitudes about aging and perceived loss of sexual attractiveness.
Many of us choose to compensate for this perceived loss through food.
Clinicians understand the connection between menopause and weight gain. Dan Mowrey, author of Fat Management: The Thermogenic Factor and the
Director of Research for the American Phytotherapy Research Laboratory, stated in a telephone interview that of the hundreds of women they have counseled
over the past five years, about 20 percent cannot drop the weight no matter what they do, and the vast majority of these women are using estrogen replacement therapy.
Imbalances in the female hormone system occur routinely around the time menopause starts, around the age of forty to forty-five. But there may be a
number of reasons why menopause (whether natural menopause or forced menopause through hysterectomy) can put the pounds on. As we've already noted,
excessive estrogen in relation to progesterone causes the body to sequester both water and fat. The other side of the coin is that excess body fat increases
estrogen levels because fat produces small amounts of estrogen. Obesity, therefore, can aggravate hormone imbalances along with premenstrual and
menopausal symptoms. Many women's estrogen levels soar upon the onset of the perimenopausal years.
Isn't that wonderful—even your body fat jumps into the fray! Let's take a look at the most abundant form of fat in the human body: triglycerides. Triglycerides
are what we ignominiously call body fat or white adipose tissue (WAT).