One of the worst symptom of menopause is the menopause belly. You may not even be gaining weight, but you notice that your pants don’t fit the same way they used to. You are probably wondering what causes that redistribution of body fat and if there is anything you can do about it.
Not only does the menopause belly make you feel old, but it also can be a health risk. If your waist circumference is too high, then you are more at risk for several chronic diseases.
Hormones are partly to blame
Prior to menopause, women have protection from their hormones when it comes to belly fat, but after menopause, you don’t. This is particularly true when it comes to the visceral fat around the organs. Hormones also play havoc in other areas which leads to more belly fat. Hormones like cortisol may be out of balance contributing to excess belly fat.
What can you do: If you are taking hormone replacements, then this will likely help. Physicians are unlikely to prescribe hormone replacement just for weight loss. You can download this free guide: 5 Hormone Balancing Breakfasts for Menopause Weight Loss.
Lower activity levels
Your activity levels are likely to go down as you reach menopause. Sometimes you don’t have the energy to do the activities you used to do. Possibly your friends are not as active anymore. Your children are likely too old to play games with. You or your spouse may be too busy with your career. Women in their 50s are not expected to be active, but activity is even more important as you get older than ever before.
Lower activity means you are burning fewer calories and not maintaining muscle so body fat levels are likely to change.
What can you do: Add some activity to your day, even just a little. Exercise when you have the most energy, possibly early in the day.
Stress levels can be high during menopause. Aside from the changes that menopause brings, we often have other changes in our lives at this time. We are also more likely to suffer from anxiety during this time.
Stress can cause elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels can result in the body maintaining a higher level of belly fat. This does seem to be dependent on how you deal with stress.
Stress can also result in poorer eating habits which leads to excess belly fat.
What can you do: Keep stress levels in check with daily physical activity, mindfulness meditation or drinking less coffee.
Eating too much sugar has been shown to increase belly fat. Too much sugar increases insulin levels which can cause any excess calories to be stored as fat. Sugar also increases inflammation which can lead to excess belly fat.
Foods that are high in sugar may not be as satisfying as healthier foods so you may eat more and eat more quickly.
What can you do: Try to eat more whole and unprocessed foods to limit the amount of sugar that sneaks into your diet.
Sometimes the menopause belly is caused by temporary bloating, which is more common during menopause. Bloating can be caused by several things. Eating meals that are high in salt or simple carbohydrates can you to retain water and feel bloated. Food sensitivities to dairy, wheat or some vegetables can make you feel bloated.
What can you do: Keep a food journal and detail how you feel after eating certain foods. You can also get yourself tested for some sensitivities or go on an elimination diet.
Lack of sleep
Night sweats, anxiety and mood swings can all contribute to sleepless nights during menopause. Unfortunately, lack of sleep is also associated with more belly fat. The fat cells in your body do not respond properly to insulin when we don’t get enough sleep. We also tend to eat more when we don’t get enough sleep.
What you can do: If you have trouble sleeping then try to understand what is causing it. Some things that can help with sleep are sleeping in a cool room, not drinking coffee late in the day, and mindfulness meditation. This article will help you find ways to get a better sleep.
There are several causes for menopause belly fat. Try my Menopause Belly Reset to find simple solutions.