Menopause is a natural and inevitable phase in a woman’s life, signaling the end of her reproductive years. Alongside the well-known symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings, many women also experience changes in their body shape, particularly the development of a “menopause belly.” This excess weight around the midsection can be frustrating and challenging to deal with. In this blog post, I’ll explain why your menopause belly is more likely related to your diet and or lifestyle, than menopause, and what you can do about it.
- Common Theory – Hormonal Changes: One of the primary culprits behind menopause belly is the hormonal fluctuations that occur during menopause. As estrogen levels decline, fat tends to redistribute from the hips and thighs to the abdominal area. This shift in fat storage can lead to an increase in waist circumference and the development of visceral fat, which surrounds the organs and poses health risks.
My Thoughts – “Fat tends to redistribute from the hips and thighs to the abdominal area”. Really? This has not been my experience. I did not get thinner thighs and hips and a bigger belly during menopause. I got fat all over like I always have.
Just because many women going through menopause gain weight at this time in their lives doesn’t mean it’s caused by menopause. Men also start gaining weight in their 40’s and 50’s. Why are there no commercials about “belly fat” for them?
As we get older our bad diet and less active lifestyle catches up with us. We start gaining weight and metabolic diseases are showing up in the form of, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disorders.
The simple fact is, we get fat and sick because our bodies are producing too much insulin. Too much insulin causes fat storage and metabolic diseases.
Metabolic diseases in a nutshell: Metabolic syndrome AKA, Diseases of Civilization are caused by improper diet and lifestyle.
- Common Theory – Age-Related Metabolic Changes: With age, our metabolism naturally slows down, making it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight. During menopause, the decline in estrogen further exacerbates this metabolic slowdown, resulting in weight gain. Additionally, the loss of muscle mass that often accompanies aging can contribute to a decrease in overall metabolic rate, making weight management even more challenging.
My Thoughts – “With age, our metabolism naturally slows down.” Does it slow down naturally or does it slow down, because YOU got lazy? Think about it. How was your activity level in your 20s vs today? Use it, or lose it, is real. Exercise is essential for preventing sarcopenia (muscle loss) at any age. When an athlete of any age, takes time off from training, they lose muscle and strength. If you continue to train or workout this does not happen. Jack La Lane worked out and was fit and strong until he passed away at the age of 96. Use it or lose it!
Think you’re too old to start working out? For true inspiration check out Train with Joan! Her health and body transformation is so inspirational. It’s a lot of work, but the rewards are so worth it. How bad do YOU want it?
- Common Theory – Lifestyle Factors: Menopause belly can also be influenced by various lifestyle factors. Poor dietary choices, such as consuming excess calories, refined carbohydrates, and sugary foods, can contribute to weight gain and the accumulation of belly fat. Sedentary behavior and a lack of regular physical activity can further compound the problem by slowing down metabolism and muscle loss.
My Thoughts – The above “Common Theory” is almost correct. ( Calories don’t matter on a zero carb diet and it’s not specifically “refined carbohydrates” that are bad, it the over consumption of any carbohydrate that is bad. Fruit is no better than cake.) Improper diet and lifestyle factors are why we gain weight, not specifically “Menopause.”
- Common Theory – Stress and Cortisol: Chronic stress, which many women experience during menopause due to a combination of personal, professional, and hormonal factors, can contribute to the development of menopause belly. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone associated with increased abdominal fat deposition. Elevated cortisol levels, combined with hormonal changes, can create the perfect storm for belly fat accumulation.
My Thoughts – The above “Common Theory” is correct except for calling getting fat, “menopause belly”. It’s a fat belly caused elevated cortisol, not menopause or age. Other hormonal changes don’t matter; it’s the chronically elevated cortisol that’s making you fat, not menopause.
Chronically elevated cortisol creates chronically elevated blood glucose, and that creates chronically elevated insulin, and that promotes fat storage. This is why I gained weight after 5 years on a zero carb diet. It wasn’t my diet or menopause, it was chronic stress. In fact, I suspect it was stress that threw me into menopause at 46 yrs old.
- Common Theory – Genetic Predisposition: Some women may have a genetic predisposition to store fat in the abdominal area. If your parents or close relatives tend to carry weight around their midsection, you may be more prone to developing menopause belly. However, it’s important to remember that genetics are not the sole determining factor, and lifestyle choices still play a significant role.
My Thoughts – The above “Common Theory” is correct except for claiming genetic predisposition make you more prone to “menopause belly”. Depending on your body type, you can be genetically predisposed to carrying fat in your belly at any age. Menopause has nothing to do with it.
Managing Menopause Belly: – It’s not a “menopause belly”, it’s fat gain that happens at any age!
- Common Advice – Healthy Eating: Adopting a balanced diet that focuses on whole, nutrient-dense foods can help manage menopause belly. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats while limiting processed foods, sugary snacks, and high-calorie beverages. Be mindful of portion sizes and consider consulting a nutritionist for personalized advice.
My Thoughts – Blah, Blah, Blah! If the above standard advice worked we would not have a world wide growing obesity problem.
To lose fat you must lower your carbohydrate consumption. This has been known for well over 100 years and was first made popular by William Banting in 1863. Low carb, Keto or Zero Carb Carnivore diets is a must for fat loss. I can’t eat low carb, I have to eat Zero Carb because I’m a carbohydrate addict. I can’t have just a little or I suffer from food cravings 24/7. Eating Zero Carbs eliminates those cravings and keeps my insulin at healthy levels.
- Common Advice – Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight and reducing menopause belly. Incorporate a combination of cardiovascular exercises, strength training, and core-strengthening exercises to target the abdominal area. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.
My Thoughts – If you like working out and have the time, then the above advice is ok, but not necessary. I run or hike 2 or more times a week and do strength training via the Dr. Ben method. For me, cardio helps manage my stress, so I keep that in my routine mostly for stress management, but 15 mins 2 times per week, of proper strength training is really all you need for optimal metabolic health.
- Common Advice – Stress Management: Implement stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or engaging in hobbies to help lower cortisol levels and manage your weight. Prioritize self-care activities that promote relaxation, restful sleep and emotional well-being.
My Thoughts – I agree with the stress management advice 100%!
- Common Advice – Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): For some women, hormone replacement therapy may be an option to manage menopause symptoms, including weight gain. HRT can help balance hormone levels, potentially reducing belly fat accumulation. However, it’s essential to discuss the risks and benefits with a healthcare professional before considering this treatment.
My Thoughts – HRT is a rabbit hole I’m not going to go into here. Personally, I have chosen to age naturally, except for coloring my hair. I’m not ready to go grey. As far as your fat belly is concerned adding HRT is not going to fix the real problem, which is your over-consumption of carbohydrates, or chronic stress, keeping your insulin elevated resulting in fat storage.
Conclusion: There is no “menopause belly”, it’s a fat belly whether you are 10 or 50, and it’s not an inevitable part of the menopause journey. It’s caused by improper diet and or lifestyle. By understanding the causes and implementing healthy lifestyle changes, women, and men can effectively manage and reduce belly fat and overall weight gain. Embracing a well-rounded approach that includes a high fat, low or zero carb, meat based diet, regular exercise, stress management, and self care can contribute to overall well-being during menopause and all life stages.
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