What Causes an Increase in Abdominal Fat After Menopause?

profile of a woman with belly fat around her waist against a blue background with question marks

It’s a frustrating problem! The jeans you could easily slip into before menopause are now hard to button. You haven’t gained significant weight, but your waistline has thickened. An increase in abdominal fat after menopause is an issue many women face.

What Causes Unwanted Abdominal Fat?

The key to getting rid of unwanted abdominal fat is understanding what causes it. Let’s look at what causes belly fat to become more of a problem after menopause.

1. Hormonal Changes

Once you enter menopause, your ovaries produce less estrogen. This leads to a redistribution of where your body stores fat. You’re less likely to send those extra pounds to your hips and thighs, and more of it ends up around your abdomen and waist. 

Hormonal changes invoking decreased testosterone production also cause a drop in lean body mass and an increase in abdominal fat. As a result, you carry more abdominal fat even if you don’t gain a large amount of weight. A thickening waistline is a marker of too much visceral fat – the type that increases the risk of health problems like cardiovascular disease.

2. Stress

Stress has a major effect on the level of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is a hormone that stores fat around your middle and causes you to crave high-sugar, high-carb versions of comfort foods, such as chocolate cake and french fries.

There are a number of stressors that surround menopause, like hot flashes and problems sleeping, which can contribute to an expanding waistline.

One study discovered that individuals who slept seven hours or less each night tended to have a higher average body mass index and were at a greater risk of developing obesity compared to those who got more sleep. One reason is that lack of sleep causes an increase in ghrelin, which is a hormone that makes you hungry, and a decrease in leptin, a hormone that makes you feel full.

It’s important to have ways to manage stress at every stage in life, and that includes menopause. Some stress reduction tactics that help many people include:

  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Nature walks
  • Writing in a journal
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Prayer

3. A Sedentary Lifestyle

Most people slow down a bit during mid-life. Exercise is one of the best weapons against metabolic syndrome and a sedentary lifestyle. Getting active helps maintain normal blood sugar levels and reduce the production of stress hormones.

The best exercise prescription is a combination that boosts your heart rate and strength training. Higher-intensity exercise has the edge when it comes to reducing belly fat.

4. Poor Dietary Choices

Treating belly fat after menopause requires taking a closer look at what you’re eating. If your diet is mostly processed and includes foods high in sugar, you’re creating an environment that promotes belly fat.

How can you turn your diet around? Start by making small changes:

  • Substitute refined carbohydrates and ultra-processed foods with high-quality sources of protein and more non-starchy vegetables. This helps tame your body’s insulin response so you’ll store less fat around your midline. 
  • Consume more protein to reduce hunger and sugar cravings.
  • Add more fiber to your diet to slow how quickly you absorb carbohydrates. This change reduces the amount of insulin your pancreas must produce. 

It’s Not Impossible to Lose Belly Fat After Menopause!

You can’t control the hormonal changes that cause belly fat but you can make changes to your lifestyle. Implementing habits like managing stress, exercising regularly, and eating a whole-food diet are all beneficial for keeping belly fat in check! If you want to take it one step further, look into Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. It’s your secret weapon against belly fat!

Want to learn more? Join me Live on Facebook every month and check out our YouTube channel for the replays!

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