It is well known amongst most women in the menopause years that belly fat starts to creep up on you in a slow and weird way. You can go from a lifetime of having a flat tummy to overnight (or so it seems!) have a pooch. Although this can sometimes be an indication of some shifting of our internal organs – more often than not it is due to hormonal changes.
Your weight is mostly determined by the balance of calories taken in and the amount of energy you burn. You take in more than you burn (i.e.) eat too much – exercise too little, you will gain weight. What changes as we age however is that our muscle mass gradually diminishes and soon fat overtakes muscle mass? Not good. Which is one reason it is so important to keep exercising as we age.
For women in the menopause years, you may notice an increase in belly fat without gaining weight. This gets back to hormones. A decreasing level of estrogen appears to have some influence on how the weight gets distributed. So far there doesn’t seem to be a good explanation as to why this weight ends up as belly fat.
The problem with belly fat (more than cosmetic!)
The big problem with belly fat is that it is not just subcutaneous fat (fat that sits just below the skin – padding!) it is what is known as visceral fat. Even sounds bad! This is the fat that surrounds your internal organs and lies deep inside your abdominal area. This is dangerous and can cause some serious health problems. It can boost estrogen levels (breast cancer danger) increase blood pressure (heart problems) and effect the body’s ability to use insulin (type 2 diabetes risk) and increase cholesterol.
According to the Mayo clinic – recent studies have shown that women with an increase in waist size – even without significant weight gain – are at a greater risk for heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
Needless to say – getting the menopause belly fat under control needs to be of paramount importance to most women. A healthy diet along with regular exercise seems to be the path to success. It takes determination and discipline. But also some small changes in the diet over time can have a profound impact.
Many of us turn towards cardio when it comes to weight loss workouts however cardio is not good for you and it’s supported by lots of research). Strenuous exercise in short bursts followed by rest is how our bodies were meant to work. No long sessions on the treadmill or running miles can make your extra weight disappear. If you look at the way people were before “civilization” as hunter gatherers, we ran in short bursts (chasing food!) with periods of rest in between. Same principle is used in one of the famous weight loss program, PACE by Dr Sears, who advocate that even 20 min. per day is more than enough to lose weight. With some exercise and slowly incorporating the change of eating habits to a more protein based diet, you will see great results.