Hot flashes. Vaginal dryness. Menopause belly. Can’t we get a break? We’ll give you the lowdown on what may be happening with your midsection. Read on.
It’s not just your imagination.
Studies show that regardless of whether the numbers on the scale show, the older we get, the more fat we store.
And it’s often concentrated around our middle.
Menopause belly is real, folks.
So, no, you’re not alone.
In this article: 📝
- Why does menopause give you a belly?
- Bloating and menopause
- Does menopause belly go away?
- How do I get rid of my menopause belly?
Why does menopause give you a belly?
When you hit menopause — usually sometime between the ages of 40 and 58 — your body goes through all sorts of hormonal shifts.
As your body stops producing estrogen, it may cause your belly to store more fat.
The related slowing down of your metabolism means that weight around your midsection might be harder to shift.
These changes can affect our relationships with our bodies, which can be emotionally challenging.
(Psst. If you need support through this, join us on Peanut. We’re having the conversation.)
Excess weight around your belly can also bring with it extra health challenges like higher blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and an increased risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Bloating and menopause
Many women complain of menopause belly bloating, although it’s more typical during the period leading up to it — perimenopause.
During perimenopause, hormonal fluctuations can result in higher estrogen levels which then cause water retention.
If you’re still experiencing a bloated belly in menopause, it may be because of something else, like diet, inactivity, stress, digestive troubles, or smoking.
Does menopause belly go away?
We have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that yes!
Menopausal weight gain doesn’t have to be permanent.
The bad news is, you’ll have to do extra work to shift it.
It’s not likely to disappear on its own.
How do I get rid of my menopause belly?
Here are some changes you can make if you’d rather minimize your menopause belly.
NOTE: Proceed with kindness towards yourself.
There is nothing inherently “wrong” with having a menopause belly, or any belly fat, for that matter.
But if you would prefer to lose some of your weight, here are some tips to lose your menopause belly safely, with your physical and mental wellbeing in mind.
As we get older, many of us also slow down the amount of exercise we do.
This Canadian study showed that 59% of adults aged 55 to 64 were inactive, with that number growing with age.
There are so many reasons for this — from being scared of injuring oneself to having to contend with illness and disability to just not being in an environment that feels supportive of an active lifestyle.
We know it’s not always easy, but experts recommend including aerobic, strength, and balance exercises into your routine for around 150 minutes per week.
This doesn’t mean you have to spend a full two and a half hours in a gym setting in one go.
Break it up into half an hour blocks five days a week — or into some version of that that fits your schedule.
A brisk walk one day, a yoga class another, and an energetic carpet vacuuming all count!
Any adjustments to your physical routine should be based on your personal experience and fitness levels.
Stepping straight into an advanced Cross Fit class if mowing your lawn is the peak of your fitness regime is not advised.
If you find your interest in physical activity waning, it may help to spice things up a bit by trying something new.
Give Zumba a go.
See if water aerobics sparks joy for you.
Dust off those dumbbells acting as door stops.
And there is a lot to suggest that even gentle focussed movement like Tai Chi can help with stubborn belly fat.
Start slowly and work your way up.
Stand rather than sit.
Take the stairs rather than the escalator.
Park a little further from the entrance.
Exercise is about so much more than weight loss.
It’s been proven to have all sorts of benefits on our physical and mental health.
It can help protect against certain health conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, reduce the risks of falls, and have a positive impact on our mental health.
There’s also evidence that it can help our brain health as we age.
Make it fun.
Exercise with a friend or join a class.
It’s easier to keep it up when you are accountable to someone else.
Take it slowly and be kind to yourself along the way.
Women tend to gain somewhere between two and five pounds during menopause.
And while it’s a common belief that it’s tougher to lose that weight as we age, recent research has shown that the picture is a little more nuanced.
This study showed that taking it easy on the carbs might help decrease the risk of menopausal weight gain.
And this study showed that a Mediterranean diet might even have the same weight loss effects whether you’re pre or post-menopause.
So, yep, striking a balance between nutritious and delicious is the idea here.
Make sure to include plenty of fiber, iron, calcium, and fresh veg on your plate.
We’ve put together our recommendations for a helpful menopause diet here.
And as delicious as that cocktail may look, alcohol is not always helpful as boozy beverages tend to contain a bunch of empty calories.
Plus, alcohol may exacerbate other menopause symptoms like hot flashes.
(But the picture is a confusing one. This study showed that light, infrequent alcohol use may actually decrease the risk during peri-menopause. You and your healthcare provider work out what works best for you.)
And there’s a link between alcohol and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
So if this is where you’re at right now, it may be best to go slow.
Part of the fun and games of the hormone changes linked to perimenopause and menopause is sleep challenges.
It’s harder to get up to head out for that walk after a poor night’s sleep.
And we don’t know about you, but a comforting grilled cheese always looks more appetizing than a salad when we lose out on all that shut-eye.
Leptin and ghrelin are the hormones that control hunger and your appetite.
The theory is that they pretty much freak out if you don’t get enough good sleep, and this can lead directly to weight gain.
To help with quality sleep, aim to avoid screens for a good hour before bed and keep your room cool with plenty of fresh air.
There are great free meditation podcasts to help you fall asleep if that is where you struggle.
And if none of that works, talk to your doctor about medications that might be useful for you right now.
More hormone talk here!
Cortisol is the stress hormone.
When you’re stressed, your body sees a rise in cortisol.
And that means your liver works double time to create and release sugar.
All the fats, proteins, and carbs in your body are then turned into energy.
Your body thinks you need this energy as part of the fight or flight response to danger.
Persistently high cortisol levels can result in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Plus, it can even be at the heart of your cravings for sweet, fatty, and salty foods.
We’ve already recommended meditation for sleep, but there are plenty for relaxation, too — some as short as five minutes.
Breathing exercises and spending some time in nature can both really help.
You may also want to seek support from a counselor or therapist.
They can help you navigate the stage of life you’re in and the challenges you experience.
Or come and chat with our menopause community on Peanut.
We know what you’re going through.
And we don’t have to do it alone. ❤️