Diet and Women

Medical Author: Carolyn Janet Crandall, MD, MS, FACP
Medical Editors: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD and William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Ms. W. J., a 55 year-old woman, comes to her doctor saying, "Doctor, I have never been this heavy in my life, even after I had my kids. I am trying to diet, but it's not working. I'm so frustrated. Is it due to my hormone pills? It seems like it's worse since my mother passed on last year." This type of encounter occurs every day across the U.S. Over half of all Americans are overweight, meaning they are at a weight that is associated with increased health risks. Even though Ms. W. J. has worked hard at trying to lose weight, she needs to know some of the possible reasons why she hasn't been successful. Her situation brings up four major issues, including menopause, hormones, personal loss, and diet failure.

Menopause and hormones

Women have more body fat throughout their lives as compared to men. After menopause, women generally gain weight. Research is still conflicting as to whether this is due solely to menopause or solely to age (because men also typically gain weight as they become older), or perhaps a combination of age and menopause.

When women are taking hormone therapy, they are just as likely to gain weight as women taking a sugar pill (placebo). This means that the hormones are not causing the weight gain but rather that menopause itself, in conjunction with age, is likely to be responsible. It is not Ms. W. J.'s imagination that she is heavier than she has ever been during this menopause period. This is very common.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/9/2014