7 eating changes to help hormonal weight gain

October 14, 2022

The hormone activity faced during perimenopause and menopause can lead to unwanted weight gain.

But, eating to support your hormones and manage your weight is easier than you think, says Peppy’s registered nutritionist Kylie Hendrikse.

Quick tips:

  • Diets can trick your body into starvation mode, so you feel hungrier.
  • Eating protein at each meal can help keep you full.
  • Cutting back on refined carbs and sugar can help midlife weight goals and control weight gain.
  • Try lower-carb alcohol choices such as gin, vodka and dry white wine.

If you only do one thing…

Avoid eating after dinner – studies show it can help overnight fat-burning.

Many perimenopausal women have complained about how much harder it is to shift weight gained now, compared to your pre-menopausal years.

If that sounds like you, it’s not your imagination. Declining oestrogen makes it harder to maintain a healthy weight, which is why your go-to methods for losing unwanted pounds may no longer work the way they used to.

But that doesn’t mean nothing will.  By taking steps to support some of the ways your body maintains hormonal balance – like choosing the right foods, of course, but also the right times to eat – you can achieve your weight goals.

hormonal weight gain

Here’s a rundown: 


  1. Eat protein at each meal

As you get older, you lose muscle mass.  As muscle burns more calories than fat at rest, this can slow down your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight.  That’s why eating more protein as you get older is so important, because it helps to build and repair this lost muscle.

But eating a meal containing protein doesn’t only help replenish muscle stores. It also makes you feel fuller than a meal based around carbohydrates which means you’re less likely to experience food cravings between meals.

Make the change: Try to include some protein at each meal. This could be lean meat, fish, eggs or dairy and if you avoid animal products, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, nut butters and high protein grains like quinoa.

  1. Eat healthy fats

Many of us grew up having the low-fat message drummed into us. But eating fat doesn’t make you fat. In fact, healthy fats stimulate your metabolism, increase fat-burning and help you feel satisfied after eating.

Research shows that eating more healthy fat combined with a low-carb diet promotes healthy weight loss.

Make the change: Include healthy fats at each meal. Avocado, olive oil, olives, nuts and seeds, oily fish like salmon, eggs, coconut oil, butter and full fat dairy are great sources. Try and avoid vegetable oils as these can make it harder to lose weight.

  1. Cut back on sugary treats

It’s hard to resist the lure of a 4pm cupcake or piece of chocolate. But eating too much sugar leads to  blood glucose ups and downs that can cause your body to accumulate fat, leading particularly to weight gain around the abdomen.

Make the change: Check food labels and opt for choices containing 1 tsp (4g per 100 grams on labels  or less of sugar (or none at all if you can manage it).

If sweet treats are your thing, you don’t have to deprive yourself. Try opting for a square or two of dark chocolate instead of a bar of milk (Lindt 70% is satisfying on a sweet tooth but less binge-worthy).

If you’re heading back to work, and you know that colleague’s home-baked muffins will come calling, have fruit handy like satsumas or apples to satisfy your sweet cravings. It works.

  1. Reduce bread, pasta and rice

Your body treats refined carbohydrates like bread, pasta and white rice in the same way it treats sugar. So, too many can lead to weight gain.

Make the change: Try and pile your plate high with vegetables of all kinds,  along with protein and healthy fats and slowly reduce your intake of refined carbs. The vegetables, protein and fat together will fill you up and ensure a good supply of nutrients too.

You can also make healthy swaps, for example, opt for sweet potatoes or new potatoes instead of regular potatoes, as they have a more stabilising effect on your blood sugar.

  1. Eat real food

When you’re busy, cooking a meal from scratch can often feel like yet another chore on a never-ending to-do list. But where you can, try and eat as much whole, real food as you can so you know what’s in it.

In one study, people who ate home-cooked meals more than five times a week consumed 62.3 g more fruit and 97.8g more vegetables. They were also 28% less likely to be overweight. Now, cooking at home five times a week may be a stretch. But even if you can manage to cook one meal more this week than you did last, it’s a step forward.

Make the change: Take short cuts to real food. Aiming to make Jamie-Oliver worthy meals every night is setting yourself up for failure. So, make it easy.

This could mean sautéing some vegetables in olive oil and adding salt, pepper and lemon juice (surprisingly tasty). Then, grilling chicken breast with a marinade of peri-peri sauce you bought at the supermarket.

Or, try making a mountain of fresh vegetables and topping them off with a ready-made pasta sauce and a little grated Parmesan cheese. See? Real food (mostly) and real taste.

  1. Don’t eat too late

If you’re in the habit of eating late, this can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight. In one study people who ate dinner at 10pm decreased their overnight fat burning by 10%, compared to those who ate dinner earlier.

Make the change: Ideally, aim to eat your last meal of the day no later than 7pm. Try not to eat anything after dinner as eating before bed can cause the body’s metabolism to slow as it quiets down its functions at night to prepare for sleep.

Try to avoid late night eating, especially if it’s food that’s high in carbohydrates, as this can make it harder to digest and result in weight gain. Make sure you eat enough lean proteins, vegetables and healthy fats during the day to help beat late night cravings.

  1. Make smarter alcohol choices

With so many of us using alcohol in lockdown as one of the last pleasures allowed, this isn’t going to be welcome news. But alcohol is a source of extra calories that offer no nutritional value.

The liver can’t metabolise too much alcohol properly and this ends up damaging liver cells, so they start to build up as fat.  Plus, alcohol tends to be high in sugar which can lead to blood sugar imbalances and food cravings.

Make the change: Try lower-sugar, lower-carb choices if you’re going to drink. For example, dry white wine instead of Prosecco, gin or vodka and soda with a squeeze of lime instead of sugary mixers.

Women's Health

Expanding inclusion: Addressing the overlooked stories of women left behind

Achieving true inclusion isn’t about grand gestures; it’s about the little moments and the individual stories. It's listening to "THAT Woman" – you know, the one who’s brilliant but maybe a bit misunderstood or overlooked at work. We should be giving her the mic and making sure we're all ears.


A decade too late? The hidden costs of menopause


Navigating silent grief: How employers can support employees through baby loss

Every year, an unsettling statistic resounds across the UK – at least 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. This striking number implies a significant portion of your workforce has, or will, experience this traumatic event. Our new research, conducted by Censuswide in partnership with the British Infertility Counselling Association and Fertility Matters At Work, with over 1000 employees, delves deep into the subject, bringing to light the scale of the issue as we explore in this article. This is Baby Loss Awareness Week, there's no better time for employers to address and provide the needed support for this heart-wrenching loss.


How to help new parents return to work after parental leave

Navigating the transition back to work after parental leave is a journey filled with excitement, anxiety and a host of unexpected challenges. The real experience of returning to work is often more complex than policies and guidelines can capture. Here's an in-depth look at the unspoken realities and how employers can provide the support new parents truly need.


The long road to PCOS diagnosis

Over 1 million people in the UK are living with undiagnosed polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). But is this just another period problem for women to learn to live with, or is the long and complex road to diagnosis something employers should be doing something about? 

Men's Health

Men matter: Addressing the impact of male fertility on business

From our school days, we're taught about the 'birds and the bees' with an unmistakable emphasis on female fertility, when in fact male-factor infertility makes up around 50% of all cases. In our modern age, it's astounding how this outdated narrative continues to dominate not just societal discourse, but also workplace health policies across the globe. It's time we rebalanced this equation. Men's fertility is an integral part of the reproductive story and needs equal attention and support.


Miscarriage in the workplace – the do’s and don’ts

Experiencing a miscarriage is massively traumatic, both physically and emotionally, with long-term feelings of grief and loss. Whether you’re a close friend, family member, colleague or line manager, this is a difficult issue to tackle. But it needs to be tackled – with sensitivity.


Why Businesses Can’t Afford NOT to Support Menopause