July 31st 2017
We usually think of menopause as our break up with Auntie Flo—and no, we’re not going to stay friends. But, that doesn’t give full credit to all the changes going on in your body.
Like changes in your metabolism, mood, and—our least favorite—body fat. Belly fat is one of the top complaints of women in perimenopause and menopause—probably because belly fat can increase by an average of 12 pounds for some.1,2
Understanding why this occurs can help you avoid—and maybe even shed a few—of those unwanted pounds.
Let’s break it down.
What is belly fat?
“Belly fat” includes two types:
- Subcutaneous belly fat: Subcutaneous fat is the “padding” just below the skin. It’s the inch that you can pinch.
- Visceral: Far more hidden, visceral fat surrounds our inner organs. Too much visceral fat can be unhealthy.
Why does belly fat increase during menopause?
Even if weight wasn’t a struggle before, menopause has been known to increase belly fat. Why? Well…:
- Your changing hormones actually affect the shape of your body. During your fertile years, your body stored fat in your hips and thighs (Wasn’t that fun?) to use as a backup store of nutrients for breastfeeding. As you age and your estrogen decreases, your body no longer needs to keep fat reserves for breastfeeding. Instead, excess fat is stored in your belly area.
- Then there are the proteins that stimulate fat cells to store fat—the decrease in estrogen stimulates these proteins.
- Decreasing estrogen and increasing fat-storing cells work together to slow down your fat-burning processes.3
Battling the new bulge.
Whether it’s about the size of your jeans, or concern about the health risks, aging doesn’t have to be synonymous with belly fat. There are options to fight stubborn belly fat.
- Don’t skip the (healthy) fats: Not all fat is created equal. Healthy fats are found in olive oil, salmon, walnuts, and coconut oil. And, of course, try to avoid the unhealthy fats found in hydrogenated oils, vegetable oils, and trans fats.
- Drink apple cider vinegar to boost metabolism.4
- Avoid mindless snacking and midnight munchies: Sure, a midnight trip to the cookie jar feels like a treat. But, late night snacking can contribute to belly fat more than snacking earlier in the day.5
- Make sleep a priority: Those pesky hot flashes can cut into your beauty rest, possibly causing your energy levels to dip. Without sleep, your body needs substitute fuel—usually in the form of more food.6
- Pay attention to the numbers: Aim to burn at least 400 calories daily.
- Reduce stress: Cortisol can reduce your body’s ability to lose fat. Lowering stress can lower your cortisol levels. Attend a yoga class, practice mindfulness, and work on eliminating unnecessary stressors from life.