Non-Profit Trusted Source of Non-Commercial Health Information
The Original Voice of the American Academy of Anti-Aging, Preventative, and Regenerative Medicine
logo logo
Women's Health Aging Anti-Aging Anti-Aging Tip Sheets

Fighting Menopausal Belly Fat

10 months, 1 week ago

8896  0
Posted on Dec 17, 2020, 5 p.m.

Fighting belly fat is not exactly easy, to add to this challenge hormonal changes as we age can lead to extra weight around the middle, but there are ways to battle the unwanted weight gain. 

A lot of people feel as if weight gain is rather inevitable once entering those middle years, but this is not a fact and it does not necessarily have to be that way. Women may start to notice symptoms of menopause due to natural hormonal changes such as mood swings, night sweats, and hot flashes, but weight gain is one of those symptoms that you don’t have to simply sit back and accept. 

With menopause your weight distribution will change, the added pounds will most likely be accumulating around your belly now. Your estrogen levels begin to wane and your metabolism will slow making it more difficult to lose weight, particularly around the middle section. Unfortunately, studies show that fat in this area is extra unhealthy, increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancer, and even early death, which is why one should fight back against the muffin top of menopot. 

If you exercise more often, more intensely you can counter midlife weight gain. Now you don’t have to go full out right off the gate, try starting with a mix of moderate exercises with those that are more vigorous, slowly increasing intensity to burn off that weight gain. Try including aerobic exercises such as running, bicycling, tennis, walking, and swimming as well as resistance or strength training working up to employing high-intensity interval training. You are not going to be at the same level you were in your 20s, so redefine your expectations. A gradual increase in activities is the best route for success. 

Whenever you can stand rather than sit if you are able to. This small change keeps the body in motion making it burn more calories, and it will help to prevent other health problems. A study published in the journal Obesity found that prolonged sitting is connected to higher levels of abdominal fat as well as fat accumulated around internal organs. Try to stay upright more, stand in place or walk in a circle when on the phone, stretch or do yoga while watching tv, and take standing breaks if you sit at a computer all day. A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that a person weighing 143 pounds could potentially burn 54 calories a day by standing rather than sitting for 6 hours a day. 

Try to keep portion sizes under control and keep track of when you eat, because research suggests that this can help you to burn a couple of hundred calories a day, but left unchecked it can also add up calories. Eating a lot of take out or restaurant meals can really ruin portion control efforts, don’t feel that you have to clean those oversized portions, ask for a container and take some to finish at another meal or share with someone else. 

Fat adds flavor to meals and makes them taste better, but too much fat is not going to do you any favors, and once more take out and restaurant meals aren’t helpful in this department either. Look for healthy fats, these are typically ones from vegetable sources like nuts, avocados, and olives. Even though these are considered to be healthy fats, you can go overboard with them, so measure the amounts you use and remember everything in moderation. 

Also, it is not just what you eat, it is also when you are eating. Those midnight binges and cravings are an especially bad idea now. Try to rein in your snacking habits so that you are not overeating, and start to pay attention to your circadian rhythm. Intermittent fasting may be a good option to help with this, that means maintaining an eating widow of 8-12 hours a day and then abstaining from food for the remainder of the day. For example, your first meal of the day can be at 7AM and last at 7PM. A study published in the JBI Database Of Systematic REview ANd Implementation Reports found that restricting the hours that a person eats may be an effective strategy to treat overweight/obese adults. 

Ideally, you should be exercising 3-4 times a week to establish a routine. But this can cause a rut, to avoid this vary your workouts and try new activities. Try some CrossFit, join that Zumba class, give PiYo a try, enjoy that dance aerobics lesson. There really are many options to try, if you find ones that you enjoy this will increase your chances for success because you will stick with it. A study published in the Journal of Sport Behavior found that adding variation to your exercise routine may be the most successful way to maintain a healthy habit. While any physical activity is better than none, if the body becomes too accustomed to a single routine it will not burn any fat as efficiently. 

According to the North American Menopause Society, the transition towards the final menstrual cycle can last 4-8 years. During this time insomnia is a serious concern, but it is imperative to take steps to make sure you get enough sleep as inadequate sleep impacts much in our lives, including the hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin. When these hormones become dysfunctional it can make losing weight an extra hard struggle. Remember not to eat before going to bed as it can also interrupt your sleep, and aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Try to keep the bedroom cool to offset those hot flashes, and shut down all those glowing screens at least an hour before you go to sleep to give your mind time to disconnect and settle down. 

Burning between 400-500 calories a day with cardiovascular exercise should help you to tackle weight gain. A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that exercising with a partner is beneficial for both exercise and emotional support. If you don’t have or want to have an exercise buddy try a class at a community center, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association participating in regular fitness classes resulted in a significant decrease in stress and an increase in physical, mental, and emotional quality of life. 

There is a stress fat connection, walking around stressed all of the time makes your cortisol hormone levels increase, and this makes it easier for the body to deposit fat deep inside of the belly. This hormone stimulates the liver to increase the production of blood sugar and helps the body to convert fats, proteins, and carbs into usable energy. Cortisol is released during stressful times to give the body a boost of energy, but chronic stress can result in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Try to keep stress in check by employing calming techniques such as mediation, yoga, stretching, going for a walk, enjoying some nature, listening to music, think of happy times, or looking at photos that you love. Also keep in mind that while alcohol may feel like a stress reliever, it is really not, and that extra sugar will only add to unwanted belly fat. 

If you think that your lack of estrogen is adding to typical symptoms of menopause you might want to talk with your doctor to address your concerns. You may be told about exercises, hormone therapy, other medications, or supplements. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that HT may help some women to prevent an increase in visceral belly fat, BMI, and body fat in general. Don’t be afraid to talk with your ob-gyn about ways to help you to control your menopause symptoms and weight gain. 

WorldHealth Videos