Often times, it seems like the unwritten agreement of aging is that your waistline expands. Some people maintain their figure into old age, only wavering 10 pounds from their lifetime weight. For women, however, weight gain is especially common during or after menopause. Body fat seems to shift to the abdomen, creating the fabled menopausal muffin top.
If you are a woman in your mid-40s to mid-60s, it’s common to dedicate your time to diet and exercise without experiencing weight loss. The fat seems to cling to your body! Menstrual cycles end around perimenopause and menopause, which causes estrogen levels to drop. Additionally, levels of circulating androgens increase, which contributes to weight gain. The body, then, redistributes fat from the hips, buttocks, and thighs to the abdomen. The hips, buttocks, and thighs commonly have more fat because it is fuel reserve for breastfeeding.
Is There Harm To Menopausal Weight Gain?
Unfortunately, there is a downside to menopausal weight gain that outweighs the self-conscious feelings that come with it. Too much fat around the midsection creates visceral fat, which goes deeper than the abdomen. Visceral fat is toxic fat because it can cause inflammation in the body, which increases the risk for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Additional research found that excess visceral fat increases the risk of premature death, regardless of overall weight. Some studies found that women with normal body mass index (BMI) and a larger waistline had an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Despite the common belief, it is possible to lose weight during menopause. It may take some trial and error to find the right method, but it is possible. Use the following tips to help manage that menopausal muffin top.
The Mediterranean Diet
Proper nutrition plays an integral role in preventing myriad health conditions and weight gain. Not only can a healthy diet improve physical health, but it can also enhance mental health, emotional health, and overall well-being. Several studies examined the efficacy of the Mediterranean diet for weight loss during menopause. Participants in these studies consumed whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, herbs, olive oil, and a low amount of eggs and animal fats. The results indicated that the Mediterranean diet improved metabolic and cardiovascular function. Additionally, women lost some weight, but weight loss differed depending on level of aerobic activity.
Avoid Excess Snack Consumption
Nuts, alcohol, snack foods, and keto treats can increase fat storage in menopausal women. Foods and beverages with little to no nutrition and lots of calories are bad news for women going through menopause. Low-carb keto snacks, nuts, fat bombs, MCT oil, and keto desserts are all rich in fat. They may fill you up and reduce cravings, but they also make it harder to burn the fat and calories you get from consuming them. Try to avoid snacking with these types of foods between meals to keep belly fat at bay.
It’s not all about cardio if your goal is to lose weight during menopause. Resistance training is more important than ever! Use weights or bands to preserve or increase lean muscle mass, which typically declines when the body undergoes big hormonal changes. Focus on more repetitions with lighter weight to reduce abdominal fat. This also encourages healthier muscle and bone function. Make sure to incorporate some aerobic exercise with your resistance workouts to establish a well-rounded approach to weight loss. Bid goodbye to your love handles when you incorporate hiking, interval training, swimming, and even yoga into your routine.
Get Quality Restful Sleep
Menopausal women notoriously experience night sweats, stress, and hot flashes that cause restless nights of sleep. Consecutive nights of poor sleep are just as bad as regularly eating junk food. When the body is sleep-deprived, ghrelin levels increase in the blood. Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone,” which can cause unhealthy cravings, especially midnight snacking. When you experience quality sleep, you experience higher levels of leptin, also known as “the satiety hormone.” If you aren’t sleeping well, weight loss will be incredibly difficult.
When You Can, Stand
Movement means that the body burns more calories. Standing won’t yield the same “drenched in sweat” look that a HIIT workout does, but it does counteract the effects of sitting. Prolonged sitting can lead to higher levels of abdominal fat, and the accumulation of fat around certain organs. If you like to binge-watch TV shows, walk on the treadmill or use an elliptical while you watch. Place a stepper in the living room so you can move while enjoying your favorite show. You can also take a walk during a phone call or park farther away from where you need to go so you can walk more. Little adjustments can make all the difference in your weight loss efforts. Lastly, consider using a standing desk because studies show that standing while working can increase the amount of calories burned per day.