Is Menopause Belly Inevitable?

Updated: Aug 9, 2020

Are you finding it more difficult to do up your jeans or squeeze into your favourite dress? Is it inevitable that as you reach menopause you are going to put on weight?

Getting older is often associated with an expanding waistline and for women, this can be especially true after menopause, when body fat tends to shift to the tummy area. Whilst it is an inconvenience to have that belly-bulge, it also carries some serious health risks.

But it is not all doom and gloom - you can do something about it!

Why does it happen?

Your weight is largely determined by three main factors:

  • Your age

  • The amount of calories you take in during the day.

  • The amount of calories you burn off during the day.

Simply put - If you eat too much and exercise too little, you're likely to carry excess weight — including belly fat.

Muscle mass might diminish slightly with age, whilst the pesky fat increases - well that's fair isn't it?? The more muscles you have the faster you burn calories and obviously the less muscles the harder it is to maintain a healthy weight.

Because of the lower levels of estrogen as we get older, even though you may not be gaining weight, you may notice an increase in fat around the belly. The problem with this is that it is not just the fat you can grab that is the problem but the fat that has gone deeper inside, called visceral fat, this surrounds your internal organs....yuk and is linked with:

  • Heart disease

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • High blood pressure

  • Abnormal cholesterol

  • Breathing problems

Research has shown belly fat holds an increased risk of premature death — regardless of overall weight - and a growing waistline may increase the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease.

What can you do?

Start with what you eat: As we get older we don't need as many calories as we did when we were younger, running around after a young family and holding down a job, Being more active meant it was easier to keep your weight in check. As we age we tend to slow down a bit and if we continue to eat the same amount of food it is obvious that the scales will reflect this so watch your portion size and cut down on snacks (yes Tina, that means crisps!) fizzy drinks (empty calories) and those 'little' glasses of wine or G&T's that sneak in more as we get a little older. That is not the same thing as saying cut them out completely - what is the point of living without crisps??? - just cut back and put in place tiny tweaks like:

  • drinking a glass of water before snacking

  • having a salad at lunch or dinner

  • moving away from processed food

  • keep a food diary to check where those extra calories are creeping in

I am of course referring purely to myself and understand that not all menopausal women have the same dreadful habits I have!

Include some exercise every day: I know, you hate me already for saying this but it needn't mean signing up at the gym and doning lycra.....unless of course you have always fancied it!! Try and walk for around 30 minutes a day, every day - it needn't even be 30 minutes straight, it could be 2 x 15 mins or 3 x 10 mins and it could be more (which is definitely going to be a plus) Make sure the walk is brisk, like you are on a mission, not just an amble in the park HOWEVER if you have not been in the habit of exercise and going at an amble is all you can manage to start least that is a start!! You can dance along to your favourite 80's music in the kitchen where no-one is watching - at least you are moving. You should also try some more energetic form of exercise a couple of times a week to really get the blood pumping and to keep your bones strong - think jogging, aerobics, zoomba, tennis or follow along to a fitness class online - there are endless ones to try for all different abilities - look for ones aimed at using body weight for strength training to keep your muscles toned - not only will you help to burn calories but you will also look great in your sleeveless top......BONUS! Some exercise every day is better than a burnout once a week which could lead to injury.

Get a step-counter: this doesn't have to be the latest all-singing all-dancing model, a simple pedometer will suffice. Whilst we are advised that 10,000 steps a day is a good number to aim for, a study has shown that menopausal women would do better aiming for 12,500 - seems enourmous but you will be surprised just how many steps you use just going upstairs several times a day because each time you get up there you forget what it was you were up there for - so that is one bonus of menopause headfog!

Get your zzzzz's in: you might as well not diet if you get less than six hours quality sleep a night - for real!! Sleep plays a huge role in weight loss. Poor sleep causes changes to the hormones that regulate hunger and appetite and your metabolism doesn’t work properly. You can crave goodies high in simple carbohydrates (crap) when you are sleep deprived. Unfortunately, perimenopausal and postmenopausal women tend to get the least amount of sleep. Work on getting around 7-8 hours of sleep - it's much easier than dieting and exercising hahaha.

To lose excess fat and keep it from coming back, aim for slow and steady weight loss and

set realistic, achievable goals. Rather than vowing to 'exercise more', which is pretty vague, commit to a daily 30-minute walk after dinner and enlist a friend or partner to be your exercise buddy - often if you have committed to meeting up with someone to exercise, even if just a walk, you are more likely to do it than if you just plan to go by yourself. Frequently update your goals as you achieve greater levels of fitness - you might even enjoy it!!

Gaining weight is not written in stone as you hit menopause.

More soon xx

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