Obesity is recognized as one of the most important underlying risk factors for a wide variety of diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Women are particularly prone to obesity, and approaches that address life transitions across the life span suggest that a number of factors may converge at passage points, such as menopause, that contribute to weight accumulation in the aging woman. The menopausal phase of a woman's life brings a number of changes that may trigger and maintain weight gain. Although the prevalence of overweight and obesity is attributable to each of these factors, it is most likely the interaction among multiple factors that determines an individual's propensity for excess energy intake, sedentary behavior, patterns of fat distribution, and risk of developing obesity. The problem of weight change and obesity in perimenopausal women is best understood from an ecological perspective that can integrate the analysis of factors across levels, from the culture and built environment of the community to family-related factors to individual factors, such as subjective norms, values, attitudes, and beliefs, and biological/genetic predispositions. This review describes the literature relevant to weight change during perimenopause using a multilevel perspective and recommends future directions for the development of translational weight management research to meet the unique needs of women.
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