Hormonal changes as we age can lead to us accumulating extra weight around our belly, especially during menopause . So here are some tips to help you stay fit and healthy.
Weight gain may seem inevitable once you’ve entered middle age and menopause, but the truth is, it doesn’t have to be.
Natural hormonal changes mean that you may start to notice menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats , and mood swings, but this doesn’t mean you just idly accept that the number on your scale will also increase.
Here’s what’s happening to your body if elastic waist pants have become your clothing staple: weight distribution changes as you hit menopause, and extra pounds start to accumulate around your midsection .
Reduce belly fat caused by menopause
Before, during, and after menopause, your estrogen levels start to drop and your metabolism slows down , making it harder for you to lose weight, especially around your belly .
However, belly fat is not only a nuisance, it is also unhealthy. Studies show that it increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancer, and perhaps even premature death.
We show you 10 ways you can successfully win the battle against belly fat.
1. Exercise more often and intensely to counter midlife weight gain
Start with a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise to burn off all that extra weight that accumulates in menopause. Your routine should include aerobic exercise, such as swimming, walking, cycling, and running, as well as resistance or strength training.
What you are looking for is to use high intensity interval training (HIIT). This means that you will have to intersperse high intensity exercises with some lower intensity activities during your workout.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week.
In addition to having two or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that target all major muscle groups, such as the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.
If you adopt the HIIT approach, the CDC recommends that you aim for an equivalent combination of moderate and high intensity exercise each week, along with those same two days of strength training.
2. It is better to stand than to sit, as much as you can
The formula is simple: the longer your body is in motion, the more calories you will burn. And what is a way to achieve that that does not require much effort? Try to be on your feet for as long as possible during the day. Not only will this increase calorie burn, it can also help prevent other health problems.
A study published in January 2018 found that prolonged sitting is linked to higher levels of abdominal fat, as well as accumulated fat around organs such as the liver, increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
To be able to stand up more often, stand up and walk when you’re talking on the phone, or park further away from where you’re going so you have to walk a bit more.
If you are a compulsive observer, place a pedal exerciser on the floor in front of your sofa, so you can perform the necessary movement while you catch up on your favorite shows. And if your work keeps you sitting in front of a computer all day, try getting a desk to stand on.
3. Keep your portions under control and schedule your meals correctly
Your metabolism has slowed down by the time you hit menopause, and some research suggests that it burns a couple hundred fewer calories a day. You can very easily avoid 200 calories, but just as you avoid them they can add up quickly if you do not reduce the amount of calories you consume.
Also, this may be that time in your life when you want to get away from the daily chores of preparing meals for your family, and just want to take a break from the kitchen. So you will probably resort to going out to restaurants and ordering food at home.
What happens then is that you will inevitably eat twice as many calories as you need in those meals, which will often be accompanied by alcohol, which is also associated with abdominal weight gain.
What you can do is order appetizers as main dishes and ask the waiter to put the leftovers to take away on the occasions when you order a large plate.
Reducing what you eat at the restaurant and managing the food you take out is an easy way to control your portions, but the timing and frequency of your meals can also make a big difference.
There’s a lot of research on meal timing, and more and more discoveries suggest we’ve been wrong when we were talking about eating five or six small meals a day.
Research indicates that the best way to maintain a healthy weight is to eat three meals a day. Start the day with a hearty breakfast containing lean protein and stick with a light dinner. Also, eating your main meal at noon can be beneficial for your weight.
4. Choose wisely and eat foods with healthy fats.
Fat has a lot of flavor and generally makes our food taste better. If you want to lose weight, the good news is that you don’t need to eliminate it completely from your diet. You just need to learn to be more selective. For example, choosing walnuts over a Big Mac.
The healthiest fats are those derived from plant sources such as olives and walnuts, but keep in mind that healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, have the same amount of calories as the fat found in an ice cream.
28 grams of walnuts contain 170 calories, so you have to be very careful. The same goes for extra virgin olive oil. That is why you must be extremely cautious when using it and measure the amounts of fats and oils you consume.
Fortunately, trans fats, once the most notorious type of unhealthy fat, are no longer a reason to worry.
In 2015, the FDA determined that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the main source of artificial trans fats in the food industry, are no longer recognized as safe, and as of June 2018, manufacturers can no longer add PHOs to food.
5. Timed meals and snacks to counteract mindless eating
When you’re on a midlife diet, it’s not just what you eat that matters, but also when you eat. Binges on midnight ice cream and potato chips, for example, are generally not the best idea.
But the overall message here is very clear: Don’t eat too much and don’t eat too late. Eating late at night will basically destroy all your efforts to maintain a healthy weight.
Another way to keep calories in check is to avoid snacking on snacks throughout the day or being tempted to have snacks in the afternoon. What a menopausal woman does after 3 pm every day will determine how big her belly will be.
In order to control your snack cravings, start paying attention to your circadian rhythm. Eat for 8-12 hours a day, and then don’t eat for the rest of the time. Experts consider it imperative to watch your weight at any age, but especially during menopause.
Be strict with your time limit. Stop eating at a reasonable time, like 7 pm, and start again 12 hours later, the next morning at 7 am.
6. Vary your workouts and try new activities
It’s easy to get into an exercise routine, but it’s even easier to kick the exercise habit. But at this stage in your life, abandoning your efforts is not an option. Ideally, to keep your weight in check, you have to train three to four times a week, including a little HIIT, and you only need to do it for 15 to 20 minutes.
So go ahead and take a Zumba class. See what all your friends are talking about and join them for a weekend at a CrossFit center. There are so many different exercises that you can try that you will be able to find the ones you like best and stick with them.
7. Adopt healthier sleeping habits to get better rest and fight weight gain
Insomnia is an extremely common symptom of perimenopause, which is the period of time when women’s bodies transition into their final menstrual cycle. This transition phase can last from four to eight years.
All those times when you wake up not feeling recovered, you probably also feel too exhausted to go out to train. As we age, sleep becomes essential. One of the things that really helps fight menopause symptoms is getting quality sleep.
Inadequate sleep affects our hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. When you don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin and leptin become dysfunctional, so good luck trying to lose weight if you don’t fix that problem.
Aim for a minimum of seven (and ideally eight) hours of sleep. Keep your bedroom cool to offset hot flashes and night sweats, and turn off any electronics for at least an hour before you go to sleep.
8. Find a friend or group to exercise with
To target belly fat and any other weight gain during menopause, you’ll need to burn 400-500 calories most days of the week with cardiovascular exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, biking, dancing, or swimming.
Do you need motivation? Find a friend who needs to exercise as much as you do and set a date to exercise together. One study found that actively seeking an exercise partner and exercising together is beneficial both for exercise and emotional support.
If you don’t have a friend to join you on your weight loss mission, it may be time to try a group exercise class at your local gym or community center.
A study published in November 2017 found that participating in regular group fitness classes resulted in a significant decrease in stress and an increase in physical, mental and emotional quality of life compared to regular exercise alone or not participating at all. regular physical activity at all.
9. Change your coping strategies and manage your stress levels to reduce weight gain.
If your fat makes you feel stressed, or vice versa, don’t ignore this link. There is a stress-fat connection. If you go through life completely stressed all the time, your cortisol levels will increase and that will make it easier for you to deposit fat on your abdomen.
Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, stimulates the liver to increase blood sugar production and helps the body convert fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into usable energy.
As part of the body’s fight or flight response, cortisol is released during stressful times to give your body a natural energy boost, but when cortisol levels are consistently high due to chronic stress, these same effects can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
To reduce stress, use quick and simple calming techniques:
- Get out and enjoy the greenery. Research has shown that being in nature reduces stress. A study published in September 2014 found that people who simply looked at images of trees reported feeling less stressed.
- Try a new app. Meditation apps, such as Insight Timer, Headspace, and Calm, offer five-minute meditations for beginners that can lower your heart rate and reduce your stress response.
- Decrease alcohol consumption. While drinking wine or alcohol may seem like a stress reliever, it is not a long-term coping strategy, and the extra sugar in alcohol is also contributing to your belly fat situation.
10. Talk to your doctor about how to minimize the symptoms of menopause
If your lack of estrogen is contributing to typical menopausal symptoms, such as severe hot flashes and night sweats, you may want to consider hormone therapy or another medication.
Hormone therapy has had a controversial history since it was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of menopausal hot flashes in 1942.
As early as the 1950s, suspicions arose that taking hormones could harm a woman’s health, and concerns have continued ever since.
However, if the risks outweigh the benefits, it is something that every woman should discuss with her healthcare provider, especially as newer lower-dose formulations become available.
Some research suggests that hormone therapy may actually help women prevent menopausal weight gain. According to a study published in March 2018 , menopausal hormone therapy can help prevent an increase in visceral (belly) fat, body mass index (BMI), and overall body fat.
The study reported that, compared to women who had taken hormone therapy in the past, current users were found to be nearly 1 point lower on the BMI scale and had nearly 1.5 kilograms less fat mass.
Consult with your obstetrician about medications you can take to control your menopausal symptoms. Your doctor will likely investigate whether your weight gain is really due to menopause and not some other health condition that also needs treatment.