From hot flashes, to night sweats, to mood swings and more, menopause can be an extremely uncomfortable time for women. Add fatigue, sleeplessness, and weight gain, and it can be downright miserable. The good news is that there are things you can do to help prevent and alleviate the symptoms of menopause, and we’re excited to share our best tips to help you get rid of menopause belly fat so you can feel confident in your skin!
Menopause occurs when a woman hasn’t menstruated for 12 consecutive months and can no longer become pregnant. The average age in which women enter menopause is said to be 51, but it is impossible to predict when this will actually occur. Some women begin menopause before the age of 40 (known as premature menopause), and others menstruate until their 60s. Genetics, the health of your ovaries, and your ethnicity can all influence when you will enter menopause.
When a woman has gone through 12 consecutive months without a period, she has officially entered menopause. Signs and symptoms that a woman is beginning the transition to menopause can start up to 10 years before she experiences her last menstrual cycle. This period is known as perimenopause and can cause one or many of the following symptoms:
- Irregular periods*
- Heavier than normal periods**
- Hot flashes
- Irritability and mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
- Low libido
- Difficulty sleeping
- Urine urgency and incontinence
*It’s important to note that even though your body is producing less estrogen and your periods are irregular, you can still get pregnant if you are strill menstruating, so be sure to continue using birth control to prevent an unwanted pregnancy during this time.
What Causes Menopause Belly Fat?
Many women gain weight during the transition to menopause, particularly around their midsection. This can be extremely frustrating, and as your waist circumference increases, so does your risk for developing things like diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. The good news is that weight gain doesn’t need to be an inevitable part of a woman’s post-menopausal life. But before we share our best tips for getting rid of menopause belly fat, let’s take a look at some of the causes of weight gain during and after menopause.
- Low estrogen. Falling estrogen levels can cause insulin sensitivity, which can make your blood sugar levels more prone to spiking and crashing, which in turn causes you to crave high carb, sugary snacks. A decrease in estrogen can also cause fat in your bum, hips, and thighs to be redistributed to your midsection.
- Slower metabolism. Our metabolism slows down as we age, and some research suggests that peri- and post-menopausal women burn up to 300 fewer calories per day compared to when they were in their early 20s.
- Decrease in muscle mass. Our muscle mass also diminishes as we get older, which slows our metabolism and makes it harder to lose weight.
- Genetics. Our genetics can influence how/where we carry weight.
13 Tips to Get Rid of Menopause Belly Fat
1. MAKE SURE YOU’RE SLEEPING ENOUGH
Quality sleep is an essential part of your overall health, both physically and mentally. Ongoing sleep deprivation can lead to issues such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood sugar, anxiety, diabetes, stroke, weight gain, and increased body fat. Not everyone realizes the importance of quality sleep, but it’s just as crucial as exercise and healthy eating. Of course, one of the symptoms of menopause is sleep disturbances, so even if you’re committed to improving the length and quality of your sleep, your body may not cooperate. If this sounds like you, we’ve written an entire post about insomnia with tips for a better night’s rest HERE.
2. CUT BACK ON SUGAR AND REFINED CARBS
If you want to get rid of menopause belly fat, reducing your sugar intake is key. When we eat sugar, opioids and dopamine are released, which make us feel really good and crave it even more. It triggers the pleasure center of our brains, as well as the reward center, which makes it a difficult addiction to crack. Sugar consumption can lead to issues like weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and it can also wreak havoc on your hormones, making you feel tired and sluggish. Beware of ingredients like sucrose, fructose, and pretty much any other words with ‘–ose’ at the end as they contain sugar. Use natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup instead.
Cutting back on refined carbs can also be beneficial with weight loss after menopause. Refined carbs like cookies, cakes, pastries, candies, fast foods, breaded or battered foods, sugary cereals, pastas, bagels, and pizza are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, causing spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, which can perpetuate cravings for high carb, sugary snacks.
3. LOAD UP ON HIGH FIBER FOODS
Consuming adequate fiber is a great way to avoid menopause belly fat. Fiber helps with your digestive health, disease prevention, weight control, and foods high in fiber help you feel full for longer and promote regular bowel movements. You should be eating at least 25 grams of fiber a day to reap the benefits. To increase your fiber, eat foods such as lentils, black beans, peas, broccoli, raspberries, pears and oatmeal.
4. EAT PROTEIN WITH EVERY MEAL
Another easy way to promote weight loss is to ensure you are consuming enough protein. Eggs, lean meats, and tofu help you feel full and satisfied, making you less likely to snack on unhealthy foods between meals. Protein reduces hunger, helps curb cravings, and also protects muscle mass, which is important if you want to boost your metabolism. If fat loss after menopause is your goal, high-protein foods are a must at every meal!
5. DRINK LOTS OF WATER
We all know H2O does the body good. From keeping us hydrated so we feel energized, to flushing out toxins and improving our complexion, to boosting our immune systems, water is where it’s at, but what few people realize is that it’s a fabulous tool for weight loss and belly bloat as well. And it’s free! Keeping your body hydrated can also help ward off hot flashes, so drink up!
6. TRACK CALORIES IN VERSUS CALORIES OUT
The whole ‘calories in versus calories out’ idea is nothing new, but since menopausal women tend to burn fewer calories than they did when they were younger, it’s particularly important part of weight loss in your 40s and beyond. If you’re trying to reduce menopause belly fat, I suggest keeping a food journal for a period of time so you can get a better handle on how much you’re consuming each day. I also highly recommend investing in a fitness tracker so you can determine if you are burning more calories than you are consuming. I have tried several fitness trackers over the years, and the Fitbit Charge 3 is by far my favorite.
7. CONSIDER INTERMITTENT FASTING
Intermittent fasting is a type of eating plan that requires you to cycle between periods of eating and fasting. You consume your calories during a specific window of the day, and don’t eat for a longer period of time. It’s a popular and effective way to improve health and lose weight, and has become one of the trendiest diets in recent years. It improves metabolic health and helps with weight loss since you’re restricting your eating window. It has been shown to improve energy levels, reduce stress and inflammation, decrease insulin resistance, increase lean muscle, reduce belly fat, balance hormones, and also helps alleviate symptoms of menopause like hot flashes and night sweats.
If you are interested in learning more about intermittent fasting after 40 and how it can help ward of menopause belly fat, we’ve written an entire post about it HERE.
8. INCREASE YOUR CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE
While diet is undeniably the most important factor when it comes to preventing menopause belly fat and weight gain, engaging in 30 minutes of cardio three times per week helps you burn fat and calories. It can also help you manage feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, and offers a whole host of other health benefits, making it one of the most effective natural remedies for menopause-related weight gain.
9. LIFT WEIGHTS
Many women believe cardio is the best and only thing she should do to lose weight, but that’s actually not true, especially as women get older. Incorporating regular strength training into your weekly exercise regime will help increase your muscle mass, increase your metabolism, give you more energy, and improve your quality of sleep – all of which can help reduce menopause belly fat!
10. REDUCE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
While a glass (or 2) of wine may help you relax at the end of a tough day, alcohol can actually make the symptoms of menopause worse. Alcohol consumption raises your internal body temperature, and can lead to an increase in hot flashes and night sweats. It can also interfere with sleep, and trigger or worsen feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression, all of which can have a negative impact on your waistline. Most alcoholic beverages are high in calories, and many people find it harder to abstain from mindless snacking and eating after a couple of drinks, which can hinder your weight loss goals as well. If you’re looking for ways to reduce menopause belly fat, try removing alcohol from your diet and see if it makes a difference.
11. STOP DRINKING CAFFEINE
If you’re not sleeping at night due to hot flashes, you’re probably relying on your daily cup of jo more than ever to help you get through the day, but did you know you’re likely just perpetuating the problem? Research shows that sleep deprivation increases our cortisol (stress hormone) and ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels, while also decreasing the amount of leptin in our body, which is the hormone that is responsible for telling us when to stop eating. People who are chronically sleep-deprived tend to eat larger portions and find it harder to stick to their cleaning eating regime. Adequate sleep is essential when it comes to weight loss after menopause, so remove/cut back on your caffeine to ensure you are able to get 7-8 hours of shut eye each night.
12. KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR SODIUM INTAKE
It’s no secret that salt causes bloating, water retention, and puffiness, but we often don’t realize just how much sodium is added to the foods we eat. While we may abstain from adding salt when we cook at home, processed and pre-packaged foods tend to be really high in sodium. Restaurants also add a lot of salt for flavour, so be sure to check your labels and counterbalance your sodium intake with extra water when needed.
It’s important to note that consuming a diet with too little sodium can also cause health challenges, including insulin resistance. Make sure to check with your doctor to confirm how much sodium you should be consuming on a daily basis, and be careful to stick within these parameters.
13. MANAGE STRESS
If you’re looking for natural remedies for weight gain and menopause, stress management is key. Chronic stress can cause high levels of cortisol – the hormone responsible for controlling our blood sugar levels, regulating our metabolism, and reducing inflammation in the body. Also know as the ‘stress hormone’, high levels of cortisol due to chronic feelings of stress can lead to a whole host of issues, including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and weight gain. Yoga, meditation, mindful breathing, regular exercise, and therapy are all great ways to keep your stress, cortisol levels, and weight under control.
CLICK HERE to read more about cortisol, including tips on how to lower cortisol levels naturally.
If you’re looking for tips to help prevent and reduce menopause belly fat, I hope the ideas in this post prove useful to you. Make sure you’re sleeping enough, staying hydrated, and eating a well-balanced diet that consists of lean protein, healthy fats, and whole carbs. Avoid sugar, refined carbs, alcohol, and caffeine, manage your sodium intake, and track the number of calories you are consuming versus how many calories you are burning each day!