Hysterectomies can provide relief from painful and dangerous medical conditions, but the physical and emotional impact of these surgeries can be profound. This is especially true when a hysterectomy disrupts your body’s hormonal balance and triggers menopause—sometimes long before you would have experienced it naturally. For many women, one of the most frustrating effects of this transformation is weight gain. By understanding how to lose weight after a hysterectomy, you can create a plan for supporting your health and feeling like yourself after your surgery.
Understanding Weight Gain After Hysterectomy
Hysterectomy, the removal of the uterus, is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States. In some cases, the fallopian tubes and ovaries are removed along with the uterus. However, surgeons generally attempt to spare at least one ovary if possible to preserve hormonal functioning in women who have not yet reached menopause. This is a major consideration, as most women undergo this surgery long before menopause. In fact, the average age of a hysterectomy patient is 40-45, whereas the average age for menopause is 51.
While hysterectomy may be necessary to resolve a medical condition or concern, the hormonal changes triggered by the surgery can also introduce new and uncomfortable symptoms, particularly if the ovaries are also removed. Weight gain is an example.
A study on premenopausal women by researchers at the Duke University Medical Center found that “women undergoing hysterectomies appear to be at higher risk for weight gain in the first year after surgery.” Significantly, researchers have found that women who undergo hysterectomy with ovary removal gain more weight and gain weight faster than women who undergo hysterectomy alone or who enter natural menopause. This weight gain can have a deep impact on how you look and feel. It can also have serious implications for your future health.
How to Lose Weight After Hysterectomy
Whether you want to lose weight after your hysterectomy or try to prevent weight gain from starting, these steps can support a healthy balance:
Consult your practitioner. By sharing your concerns with your practitioner, you can create a plan to try and counteract post-surgical weight gain. Proposed changes to your diet and exercise routine should always be cleared with your healthcare provider.
Focus on nutrition. Plan your meals around lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables, and prep healthy meals to try and eliminate the temptation to reach for empty calories. If you have the opportunity, stocking your freezer with nutritious meals ahead of time can be a timesaver after surgery. Besides ensuring that your diet supports your goals, meal planning can maximize time and efficiency as well as minimize waste.
Prioritize movement. As soon as your surgeon gives the go-ahead, start walking or engage in another low impact movement you enjoy. Increase activity as you regain your strength and ease your way back to full function. Once your recovery is complete, you can adopt a more focused exercise plan that includes fat-burning cardio as well as muscle-building strength training. Finding activities you enjoy can make your exercise plan sustainable long-term.
Manage stress. Minimizing stress and getting adequate rest are always beneficial, but can be especially vital when recovering from a hysterectomy. An increase in the stress-related cortisol hormone and the effect of short sleep duration on appetite are each separately associated with weight gain and can compound this postoperative problem.
Explore Hormone Replacement Therapy. If you have had a hysterectomy with bilateral oophorectomy (the removal of both ovaries) and are premenopausal, you will enter surgical menopause. Even if one or both ovaries were conserved, recent research suggests that ovarian failure is common after hysterectomy and may be related to the type of surgery performed. For these reasons, it may be important for you to follow up with a practitioner who specializes in menopausal hormone changes, as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be indicated.
HRT may alleviate hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause (natural or surgical), and it may also protect against loss of lean muscle and bone density. While HRT alone does not cause weight loss, research suggests it can help to prevent the abdominal and visceral weight deposition common after menopause and associated with chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. By finding relief from distressing symptoms, you may also be more able to maintain a healthy lifestyle while shedding unwanted pounds.
Finding the Right Supports
If you are one of the 400,000 women undergoing hysterectomy in the U.S. each year, you are wise to be concerned about post-surgical weight gain. A specialist in hormone health can advise you on lifestyle supports to enhance your recovery and will recommend hormone replacement therapy only when appropriate. By establishing an ongoing relationship with a knowledgeable hormone health specialist, you can ensure that you are in capable hands as you recover and adjust after your surgery.
If you are struggling with how to lose weight after hysterectomy, BodyLogicMD wants to help. The expert practitioners in the BodyLogicMD network can assess your needs and design a personalized BalancePro plan to help you achieve your health goals—from virtually anywhere. Set up your telehealth consultation, or take the Hormone Balance Quiz to learn more about the programs offered by BodyLogicMD.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.