During menopause, your hormones are thrown out of whack. Estrogen levels decrease, and body fat that formerly settled around the hips, thighs and butt, now settles in the mid-section.
Progesterone levels also decrease, causing a rise in cortisol levels, which tell the body to hold on to belly fat.
Metabolism slows in middle age and reduced physical activity results in loss of muscle mass, and fatigue or depression.
Why it is important to lose belly fat
Belly fat it is not only unsightly, but unhealthy. The fat around the stomach is called visceral fat which surrounds organs within the abdominal wall. Visceral fat increases risk for heart disease, diabetes and other health problems.
Now that you know that visceral fat matters, let’s have a look at waist circumference.
Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions like an “apple” or a “pear?”
The apple-shaped person is round in the middle while the pear-shaped is rounder around the hips/thighs.
THAT is what we’re talking about here.
Waist to hip ratio is a simple measure used to gauge body composition. Here is how to do it:
- Measure actual waist circumference (place a measuring tape around the waist at the level of your belly button).
- Measure hip circumference (at the widest part of the hip).
- Divide the waist circumference by the hip circumference to get the ratio.
|0.95 and below||0.80 or below||Low risk|
|0.96 to 1.0||0.81 to 0.85||Moderate Risk|
|over 1.0||over 0.85||High risk|
The expression, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is great advice for general health, but the shape associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases) is the apple!
The reason visceral fat can be a health issue is that it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect blood fats, blood sugars and blood pressure.
Apple-shaped people tend to have more visceral fat than pear-shaped people.
The physiological changes associated with menopause have a significant impact on total body fat and adipose tissue distribution. Where fat is stored is more important than weight.
Am I an apple or a pear?
A waist measurement of 35” or more is an indication of “abdominal obesity” and places one in a risk category.
This isn’t a diagnostic tool. There are many risk factors for chronic diseases. Waist circumference is just one. If you have concerns, see a doctor.
Tips for helping reduce belly fat:
Eat more fiber
Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways. It helps you feel full and reduces calorie absorption. Examples of high-fiber foods are Brussel sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado and blackberries.
Add more protein to your day
Protein reduces appetite and makes you feel fuller longer. It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough amino acid building blocks for muscles.
Cut back on the sweet stuff.
Excess sugar is not your friend when it comes to belly fat. Ditch the processed sweetened foods, especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice). Natural sugar found in fruit is much better because it is accompanied by fiber which the body can process more slowly. Spikes caused by artificial sugar are a danger.
Get some aerobic exercise. Lift some weights. Walk and take the stairs. Strengthen your core. It all adds up.
High intensity interval training or HIIT is a great way to burn calories efficiently during menopause because it raises the heart rate and helps burn fat..
Seriously! Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat. Practice deep breathing and meditation at least 15 minutes each day, take long walks in the nature and engage in activities that bring you a sense of calm.
Get 7 – 8 hours of sleep.
Getting less than 7-8 hours of sleep causes imbalances in hunger hormones – ghrelin and leptin – which cause the body to hold on to fat and increase cravings for sugary or salty foods. Try making sleep a priority and see how much better you will feel!
If losing stubborn fat proves impossible, consult with a physician to check thyroid hormone levels.