Posted on Jan 03, 2024, 4 p.m.
Fighting belly fat is not exactly easy for anyone, but menopause can take it to another level with challenging hormonal changes occurring that can lead to extra weight around the middle, but there are ways to battle the “menopot” 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 as being unstoppable.
With menopause, your weight distribution could change, and 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. Making healthful lifestyle changes could help you fight back against these undesirable changes. Regardless of age, studies show that it is never too late to work towards becoming a healthier version of yourself.
If you exercise more often, more intensely you could counter unwanted 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 you may need to redefine your expectations. A gradual increase in activities is the best route to success.
Keep in mind that exercising does not have to be tedious and boring. Try out something new or something that you are interested in. Additionally, exercising with friends can add to the fun, and provide extra motivation, that is not saying you have to exercise with a friend every day, but every now and then it could be fun. There are so many fun physical activities that you could try such as pickleball, ping pong, badminton, bocce ball, water polo, water aerobics, Tai Chi, racquetball, archery, curling, performance arts, frisbee golf, canoeing, shuffleboard, bowling, cross-country skiing, hiking and so many more fun opportunities to get up and move while bonding.
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 helps 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.
It is also important to 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. Be mindful of what you are eating, how much you are eating, and when you are eating. Eating a lot of takeout or restaurant meals can really ruin portion control efforts, don’t feel that you have to clean those oversized portions off your plate, ask for a container and take some to finish at another meal or share with someone else.
Eating healthy does not have to be bland either, try reaching for herbs and spices to enrich the food on your plate. 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 takeout 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.
To borrow a phrase: you are what you eat. To add to this, 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 7 AM and last at 7 PM. 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 for treating overweight/obese adults.
Ideally, you should be exercising 3-4 times a week to establish a routine. But repetitive activity could cause a rut, to help avoid this vary your workouts and try new activities. Try some CrossFit, join that Zumba class, give PiYo a try, and enjoy that water or dance aerobics lesson. There are many options to try, if you find ones that you enjoy this will increase your chances for success because you will stick with what you enjoy. 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 may not burn fat as efficiently.
According to the North American Menopause Society, the transition towards the final menstrual cycle can last 4-8 years. Doesn't that sound like an extra special fun-filled time (<-that was sarcasm)? During this time insomnia is a serious concern, meaning it is imperative to take steps to make sure you get enough sleep as inadequate sleep impacts much in our lives, including release of the hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin. When these hormones become dysfunctional it can make losing weight an even harder 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. It might be a good idea to try to keep the bedroom cool to offset those hot flashes and shut down all those glowing device screens at least an hour before you go to sleep to give your mind time to disconnect and settle down.
For most people, 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.
The stress-fat connection is a real thing, 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 (visceral fat around the organs). 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 levels in check by engaging in calming techniques such as meditation, yoga, stretching, going for a walk, enjoying some nature, listening to music, thinking of happy times, or looking at photos that you love. Also keep in mind that while alcohol may feel like a stress reliever, it really is not, and that extra sugar will only add to unwanted belly fat.
If you think that your hormone levels are 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 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 control your menopause symptoms and/or weight gain.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WHN/A4M. Any content provided by guest authors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.
Content may be edited for style and length.
References/Sources/Materials provided by:
T.W. at WHN