Tips for Exercising and Losing Weight in Forced Menopause

Many women with hormone-positive cancer receive treatment to put them into a forced menopause state. This can happen either through drugs (tamoxifen, anastrozole, letrozole) or it can be a result of surgery (e.g. hysterectomy). Whatever way led you to find yourself in forced menopause, you know the side effects are severe. Hot flashes, brain fog, insomnia, joint pain… oh yah and weight gain!

Forced menopause weight gain is distressing to a lot of cancer thrivers. You want your body back after treatment but now you have a lot more weight gain in your tummy area (e.g. belly fat). Let me reassure you that you are not just being vain by wanting to do something about this weight gain. Gaining fat in your central or abdominal area has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions. It’s not just vanity - it’s about your overall health!

Forced menopause weight gain is stubborn! Before cancer, if you wanted to, you could probably drop weight no problem. But now, everything you are trying doesn’t seem to work!  Your body is different in forced menopause so you need to try different strategies for weight loss. Without estrogen on board, it makes losing weight much more difficult (but definitely not impossible!) 

Here are three ways to get started with dropping 20 lbs in forced menopause:

Work Up to 20g of Lean Protein at Each Meal

Protein is critical in both weight loss and cancer recovery. It helps to keep you feeling fuller longer but also helps maintain your lean muscle. Without as much estrogen, it is more difficult to preserve or gain lean muscle in forced menopause. This is why it is very important to start increasing the amount of lean protein in your diet and this is the first goal I set out for my clients in my coaching practice. The best way to start increasing your daily protein is to read food labels and identify the amount of protein per serving. By raising your awareness, you will be able to strategically add in more high protein options.  

High Protein Options:

  • Egg whites
  • Back bacon
  • Chicken breast
  • Extra lean ground beef
  • Tuna
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese

Increase Your Daily Step Goal By 500 Steps Each Week

When trying to drop weight, we often think that we need to be hitting the gym 7 days per week. It’s just not true. For fat loss, you need to be strategic about the exercise that you select. Walking is an excellent exercise for fat loss so focus your energy here. Start by tracking your steps throughout the week. Once you’ve tracked for 7 days, calculate your daily average and then add 500 steps. Use this as your goal for the upcoming week. By adding 500 steps each week, you will start losing weight and gain other incredibly valuable results specific to cancer thrivers.  Increasing your exercise will help reduce your hot flashes and can decrease your risk of a cancer recurrence by 59%! (J Natl Cancer Inst 2021) 

Example step goal:

  • Week 1 - daily average = 6,500 steps
  • Week 2 - 7,000 steps
  • Week 3 - 7,500 steps
  • Week 4 - 8,000 steps 
  • Week 5 - 8,500 steps

Set Alarms to Remind Yourself to Eat

It’s counterintuitive but you likely need to eat MORE to drop weight! What I see all the time in my coaching practice is that women are not eating enough on a daily basis. Maybe your taste has changed since chemo or maybe you just don’t have an appetite anymore. But losing weight during forced menopause is not about eating as little as possible! Set an alarm to remind yourself to eat 3 meals and 2 snacks each day.  

Example of meal/snack schedule:

  • 7 am -Breakfast
  • 10:30 am -Morning Snack
  • Noon - Lunch 
  • 3:30 pm - Afternoon snack 
  • 6:30 pm Supper

Jump start your forced menopause weight loss with these three simple steps.  It doesn’t need to be complicated and you don’t need to change everything about your diet and exercise all at once. Make simple changes that build over time and that will lead you to your 20 lbs weight loss in forced menopause!   


Photo courtesy of Unsplash.