Women go through menopause in the late 40s or mid-50s, 45-55 years being the average time frame. In the United States, 51 years is mostly the mean age for a woman to experience menopause. During this time there are umpteen changes a woman’s body goes through mainly because of the reduced levels of estrogen, the main hormone that controls the female reproductive system.
Some of the common symptoms of menopause include vaginal dryness, hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, sleep problems, and so on. There are also prominent physical changes like fullness of breasts, thinning of hair, dryness of skin, etc. With these comes the addition of the extra kilos – weight gain in simple terms.
Most of the weight accumulates in the belly, and belly fat in menopause seems troublesome to most women. Let’s take a look at the reasons for belly fat in menopause and understand the reasons to get rid of the same.
What Are the Reasons Behind Midsection Weight Gain Before, During and After Menopause?
Menopause occurs at the point when you do not have periods for a full year. The time before menopause from which the symptoms start showing up is perimenopause which occurs 8-10 years before menopause. Most women go through the perimenopause stage when they are 40-44 years of age.
Let us look at the different reasons for belly fat in the menopause transition and menopause phase as well. Though the main cause for the same is the changing hormone levels, there are other reasons as well.
Changing Hormone Levels
Estradiol is a form of estrogen that lowers in menopause. This particular hormone manages metabolism and weight. A reduction in its numbers flowers metabolism and increases weight. Menopausal weight gain seems a little different than regular weight gain. Instead of the thighs and hips, the affected area is the belly.
A lot of fat accumulates in the tummy, making it bulge. Besides the abdomen, the fat also accumulates in the surrounding organs and is known as visceral fat. It may have dangerous side effects leading to serious conditions like heart disease, diabetes, some forms of cancer, and stroke. It has been said that most women gain around 4.5 pounds on average during menopause and also in the postmenopause stage.
It has been seen that belly fat accumulates the most in the postmenopause phase and is 15-20% of overall body weight. In the perimenopause phase, however, the belly fat accumulation is comparatively less, 5-8% on average.
A Change in Body Mass
Because of the changing hormone levels, there’s a shift in body mass as well during and after menopause. The fat that was just on your hip or thighs has transitioned to the belly. Your weight may not have changed much but the clothes that fit you perfectly before now seem to look odd, particularly when you have a bulging belly.
When you have your menopause, you have transitioned into mid-life. There are umpteen worries like your kids’ future, your parents, your work, and so on. All these could affect your lifestyle and take a toll on your health.
The Menopausal Symptoms
When you’re constantly bothered by hot flashes and night sweats, your mood and sleep go for a toss. When you’re jittery, you are less inclined to eat healthy and follow an exercise regime. This could be responsible for the additional belly fat and overall weight gain as well.
It is essential to know that the cortisol hormone, which is on the rise during stressful moments, contributes to weight gain as well. Studies have shown that cortisol levels increase by 9 times on average when a person is stressed. So you could well imagine to what extent your weight will get affected when your stress hormones are on the rise.
As a Part of the Aging Process
When you age, there is a decline in muscle mass, which results in a slow metabolism. A woman in her 50s will gain about 1.5 pounds of weight per year. To curb this extra weight gain, you’ve got to take utmost care of your health.
How to Lose Belly Fat During Menopause?
If you had a fabulous body before the menopause transitional phase happened, the extra belly fat must be tormenting for you. That’s why you must toil hard to lessen belly fat, and also make sure that it doesn’t build up in the future. Let’s check out what you must do to get rid of menopause belly.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
The first thing that will always top the list of managing weight is maintaining a healthy diet. When your body is not working the way it should, and your hormones are all over the place, binge eating is the first thing you would want to do. It could give you solace for the time being but will be dangerous for your health.
If you make a quick calculation, you’ll understand that you might need to cut down your calorie intake by 200 calories on average than what you are having at present. You don’t have to starve but must eat healthily.
Cut down on sugar, salt, and fat, and add vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. When choosing dairy products, go for the ones with low-fat content. Other healthy options include fish, nuts, legumes, soy, and so on.
Limit your meat intake, and replace red meat with seafood or fish. Also, vegetable oils and olive oils would be good substitutes for stick margarine and butter. Also, cut down on caffeine and alcohol. Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. If you have an immense fascination with soft drinks, energy drinks, and juices, the time has come to reduce your intake of the same.
With a healthy diet comes a sufficient amount of physical exercise as well. Engage yourself in aerobic exercises which would include activities like swimming, brisk walking, cycling, and running.
If you are seeking something interesting that may keep you healthy as well, then you have options like dance and yoga. You must even include weight training, stretching, and breathing and relaxation exercises to boost your physical and mental health as well.
Adults need around 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week – 30 minutes of workout each day, for five days a week. The remaining two days should be reserved for muscle-strengthening activities. So, make it a point to adhere to this routine.
Keep Yourself Stress-free
A healthy mind leads to a healthy body. If the additional belly fat is stressing you, you must remember that a spike in your anxiety levels will add to the calories all the more. So, forget about what your body was supposed to be like. Set a goal. Work on it. Do things that interest you the most, like gardening, cooking, etc. Also, practice mindfulness and relaxation to soothe yourself.
Increased belly fat puts you at risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, heart problems, and so on. So being healthy and losing weight slowly and gradually is of utmost importance. If you find it difficult to have control over your weight, seek a doctor’s advice.