Harvard Women's Health Watch

Why am I gaining weight?

Ask the doctor

Q. I have gained 10 pounds this year. I am 52, healthy, and am eating the same foods I have always eaten. Why am I gaining weight now?

A. A lot of patients come to me with the same problem. Besides food intake, there are many factors that influence one's weight, including changes in lifestyle, level of physical activity, medications, and medical conditions. For most people, some factors change over time even if their diets don't. For example, some people become less physically active with age, either from age-related fatigue or because they develop physical limitations. Some medications may also increase weight.

Although people can gain weight at any age, weight gain soon after menopause is very common. Hormonal changes can also shift fat distribution, especially in early postmenopause, resulting in a greater accumulation of abdominal fat. However, there are many ways to combat weight gain and fat redistribution. For example, aerobic exercise and resistance training can help you maintain a healthy weight by boosting metabolism, building bone and muscle mass, and reducing body fat. Simple changes in your diet—such as replacing fruit juice with whole fruits, soda with water, or white rice with brown rice or quinoa—are a good start. You may also want to take a moment to reflect on other ways to improve your day-to-day routine to minimize weight gain and maximize your health. Midlife is a great time to take stock and map out the road ahead!

— by Hope Ricciotti, M.D., and Hye-Chun Hur, M.D., M.P.H.
Editors in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch