Hormones Weight Loss

The secrets of how to lose weight during menopause

By Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: September 6, 2018
how to lose weight during menopause

how to lose weight during menopauseHow to lose weight during menopause can be tricky!

How to lose weight during menopause? Wow, if I could have a dollar each time someone asked me that, LOL! Not to worry, it’s doable!

It’s about hormones, yes, but not just “female hormones”-there’s more. Very few doctors people know the “tricks, ” but you’re in the right place! You absolutely can learn how to lose weight during menopause. It just takes knowing what you’re “up against.”

I know that everyone seems to have what they deem to be unexplained weight gain during the menopausal years but I’ll give you the knowledge to beat it and I hope you’ll share it with friends.

Most women experience a 5% decrease in metabolic rate per decade. This translates to a need for 200 fewer calories per day.

This can be reversed. How to lose weight during menopause is harder than pre-menopause but totally “doable” so follow these steps below and start losing! 

Women typically begin gaining one pound a year during peri-menopause, the roughly 10-year period leading up to menopause that generally takes place between age 45 and 55.

This is when your progesterone levels start to go down, and that is one factor. File that.

Quick “Preamble” Here:

If you are not well versed in “hormones” including leptin, ghrelin, estrogen, progesterone and cortisol the next sections might be a bit complex. So let me tell you first there is a physiologic reason why all peri-menopausal women gain weight. Multiple reasons-all 100% fixable. Your  solutions are coming!

Notably, diet plans do not address this, and most regular doctors don’t even understand what is happening so they can’t be of help either.  Am I the only Functional Medicine doctor who can help you? No, of course not. However, I’m saying you need a well-trained doctor’s advice if you want to lose the weight and keep it off.

We must checks labs. This includes all hormones including a leptin level. I can tell you exactly how to reach your goals and even help you find a hormone specialist in your area. Also, since I trust my opinion (and you will too), I’ll even tell you exactly what you’ll need. So, with all of that in mind, enjoy this article and know that I’m here to help!

What’s up with hormones?


As a woman’s ovaries produce less estrogen, her body attempts to find the hormone in places other than the ovaries. Fat cells can produce estrogen, so her body works harder to convert calories into fat to increase estrogen levels. Unfortunately, fat cells don’t burn too many calories. A topic we’ll focus on specifically in another place is menopause belly fat (there is a reason, and you CAN fight it when you know what to do).

shrink pores when you lose weightProgesterone:

Water retention is often linked to menopause because water weight and bloating are caused by decreased progesterone levels. Though this doesn’t actually result in weight gain, clothes can feel tighter, and you might “feel” heavier. Low progesterone also adds to the increase in leptin, as does the decrease in estrogen.


This stress hormone is secreted during times of physical and/or psychological stress.

Women who are peri and then menopausal tend to be caring for kids, husbands, parents and juggling a job/career too.

There is a lot of stress reported by this demographic, and rightly so.

Cortisol will put on body fat and the dreaded menopause belly fat, and two hormones resist cortisol’s attempts. Of course, those would have to be estrogen and progesterone, right? The first order of business is easy. Get the stress under control immediately! So, now you are aware of reason #1 for weight gain. You also now know to lose weight during menopause, it involves increasing progesterone and estrogen bioidentically and lowering your cortisol with adrenal support. You can use pregnenolone (in store under hormones) and correct the cortisol with adrenal support and often that’s enough. Take adrenal herbal adaptogens plus adrenal glandulars AM and noon-2 PM to re-set adrenals.


Testosterone helps a woman’s body create lean muscle mass out of the calories consumed. Muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells do, increasing metabolic rate. As testosterone levels drop, fewer calories are transformed into lean muscle mass. This slows down a woman’s metabolism. There is a pretty steep drop in these levels during the menopausal years causing a drastic reversal of fat to muscle ratios.

There is on average a 40 to 50% reduction in an individual’s lean body mass between ages 30 and 70, with a simultaneous increase in body fat. 

This transition sets the groundwork for slower metabolism, reduced physical activities, and difficulty burning calories, thus leading to weight gain. This is yet another whammo to your body. Taking BCAA  supplement powder will help you make muscles when you work out as will acetyl l carnitine. Notably, not all women NEED testosterone.

Hormones and Appetite:

A drop in hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, can increase a woman’s appetite and influence her to eat a lot more, up to 67% more, according to one study. An increase in appetite coupled with a slower metabolism with the onset of menopause can cause weight gain in women.

I like to recommend a non-stimulant appetite suppressant like chromium nicotinate or 5-HTP. However, if not enough (usually isn’t!), you may need something to amp up your metabolism while suppressing appetite. I suggest products which are non-stimulant appetite suppressants which can also help re-set the cravings/satiety hormones leptin and ghrelin and even insulin. All of these hormones get out of whack during menopause too.

Hormones and cravings:

Adequate levels-not high, not low-of estrogen appear to help hunger regulation, resulting in that being full effect also brought about by the happy brain chemical called serotonin.

However, if the ratio between estrogen and progesterone is off, cravings can be triggered.

This can be ameliorated with progesterone and ghrelin/leptin/insulin manipulation as discussed above. A little serotonin boost (add 5-HTP) helps the cause as well.

Insulin Resistance:

Insulin resistance can occur during the menopausal years. This is when a woman’s body mistakenly turns every calorie ingested into fat. Over time, processed and refined foods may make a woman’s body resistant to insulin produced in the blood stream. The first thing you see is a rise in blood sugar. That is insulin resistance known as glycation. By now everyone reading this SHOULD be on an anti-inflammatory diet, a Paleo diet, or likely best: a nutritional ketosis eating plan. Lately, studies are starting to show that lectin reduction, as in a good autoimmune diet, is probably the pinnacle of anti-inflammatory eating. Here are the main supplements you need to accomplish your weight loss goals. 

Hypothyroidism and weight gain:

many people with high thyroid function need supplements for anxietyMany experts (including me!) believe there are many cases of undiagnosed hypothyroidism which occur during the menopausal years.

I’ve gone through the “right” tests many times, but if you haven’t seen them, you need the following: Free T3, Free T4, TSH, TPO antibodies. All other tests are useless and embarrassingly out of date.

Odds and ends:

Change in eating habits, medication use, drinking excess amounts of alcohol and quitting smoking all can pack on pounds.

So now for the really good news on how to lose weight during menopause!

You can fight back now that you “know the enemies.”  You know you are losing muscle mass fast, so now is the time to start weight training in earnest. Use this how to get a great body with minimal time guide to begin your exercise.

You know that your insulin regulation gets “out of whack” when estrogen goes down. So, make sure you are eating ( at the very least) an anti-inflammatory diet. If needed, take anti-inflammatory supplements to suppress the inflammation that happens with weight gain such as curcumin, decaf green tea, and Omega-3 rich fish oils.

doesn't need help falling asleep anymoreGet sleep issues under control and energy issues under control as well. See articles, blogs and books on this website for help.

You know you have life stresses, so it’s time to hand off responsibilities to others! In addition, take adrenal support supplements to get those pesky cortisol levels down.

If you have out-of-control cravings, they can be controlled.

Nonhunger Eating = Cravings = Common for all (especially during Menopause)

When you are losing weight during menopause, you will likely have some cravings. Here’s what you can do:

Food cravings and just always being hungry:

-Natural appetite suppressants such as chromium nicotinate and 5-OH tryptophan are helpful

-5-HTP complex (just mentioned) also curbs sugar cravings

-More heavy duty supplements are found in our weight loss store section and on other websites as well. Always look for a non-GMO sticker, a GMP sticker and avoid sugars in fillers.

Sugar cravings:

-5-OH tryptophan (5-HTP) helps

-A healthy (not Atkins!!) nutritional ketogenic diet also helps

-Sometimes we need to increase dopamine which takes SAMe and L-tyrosine

-Oxytocin is sometimes useful; best is to get this via a compounding pharmacy

Stress eating:

-Stress management techniques augmented by 5-OH tryptophan to increase serotonin

-GABA chewables to increase GABA, the relaxation brain chemical; tasty, sugar-free; chew 2 at a time and put them under your tongue (Note: You can take as much as you want but too much, since they are sorbitol-sweetened, can cause diarrhea so careful with those).

Lack-of-energy eating:

-Supplementing dopamine levels with L-tyrosine and another amino acid called SAMe; take 800 mg 2x per day; also eases mild depression and irritability.

-Eat foods that give you energy; energy slumps during menopause; ALC (mentioned above) will help as will other mitochondrial boosters.

-Irritability eating is treated by fixing the source of the irritability whether it’s a “situation” or lack of sleep; supplements mentioned above for lack of energy eating are useful.

Sluggish Metabolisms:

This is when I am “OK” with the safe stimulant supplements such as small doses of caffeine, decaf green tea, and keto-DHEA, a hormone which generally goes down in menopause. I also am “fine” with the very mild stimulants that do not stress the adrenals.

I should also note that bio-identical hormone replacement therapy is an individual choice, and often quite helpful. However, only a real hormone specialist should be consulted-not your primary care doctor or your Gynecologist.


 Final words

To review, the culprits are low estrogen and progesterone. To be honest, what is worse is an elevated cortisol and leptin/ghrelin (hunger hormones) being all out of whack.

Metabolism goes down due to loss of muscle mass and usually, a messed up GI “microbiome” which wasn’t discussed in this article. More about that can be found in many places in this blog. In short, I’ll just say here fixing your GI tract to be more metabolically effective will help your weight loss too. If you are having any GI symptoms you will want to read about leaky gut supplements and diet plans. There are other GI-oriented articles to guide you through optimizing your gut for weight loss, too.



  1. Ohhhh I bet I have a leptin issue……and for sure need hormones…thanks!

    • Monica please see the article called “weight loss solutions” (that’s the search term) to go more into leptin and it’s cousin, the other hunger hormone, ghrelin.

  2. This is full of great information and what I want to know is why my own doctor didn’t bring any of this up!! Love your blog, this is another winner article Dr.Kim!

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