Abdominal Fat and Menopause
It’s a frustrating problem for so many women that I see! It brings their spirits down as they show me that fat that has accumulated around the waist. An increase in abdominal fat after menopause is an issue that many women face. Even if you the scale only bumps up a few pounds the deposition of fat seems to shift around the waist. A thickening waistline is also a marker of too much visceral fat. Visceral fat increases the risk of health problems like cardiovascular disease and fatty liver. This is actually a very important time to brush up your diet and make sure you are getting good sleep and daily exercise. In my medical weight loss programs, I council a lot of women in the menopausal years through weight loss. It is so rewarding to see the changes.
The key to getting rid of unwanted abdominal fat is understanding what causes it. After menopause, your body fat deposition shifts and you may be more prone to store excess fat around your midsection rather than your hips and thighs. This is partly due to hormone changes, yet, lifestyle also plays a role in the this quality of fat storage at the midline. Let’s look at what causes belly fat to become more of a problem after menopause.
Hormonal Changes and Fat Deposition
Once you enter menopause, your ovaries produce less estrogen, leading to a redistribution of where you store body fat. Hormonal changes also cause a drop in lean body mass and therefore basal metabolic rate and therefore an increase in abdominal fat. Then, you carry more abdominal fat even if you didn’t gain a large amount of weight.
Stress and Fat Deposition
Mid-life is a stressful time for many women, and the stressors that surround menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, low libido, insomnia, brain fog and inflammation may all contribute to an expanding waistline and belly. Stress has a major effect on the level of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is a hormone that brings about insulin which helps us to store fat around the middle. It also causes you to crave high-sugar and high-carb versions of comfort foods.
Struggling to get a good night’s sleep can also cause belly fat. Many published studies have found that people who sleep five hours or less per night have more belly fat than those who sleep seven hours or more per night. 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, which makes you feel full. You are also more prone to making poor food choices if you are tired.
It’s important to have ways to manage stress at every stage in life, and that includes menopause.
A Sedentary Lifestyle Contributes to Fat Storage
Most people slow down a bit during mid-life. Exercise is one of the best weapons against metabolic syndrome and a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise helps maintain normal blood sugar levels and reduce the production of stress hormones, so you can enjoy better health and less belly fat. Get moving and find something you love. Make it a priority every single day.
Poor Dietary Choices are the #1 Reason for Fat Storage
Treating belly fat after menopause requires a shift in lifestyle and diet. If your diet is mostly processed food and higher in sugar then you’re creating an environment that promotes belly fat. Make it a priority to eat a nutrient dense diet full of clean, proteins and lots of low carb veggies as the main portions. This will help to tame your body’s insulin response and overtime, you will store less fat around your midline. Consuming more protein also reduces hunger and sugar cravings.
Start by making small changes. These healthy changes will reduce the amount of insulin your pancreas produces. An elevation of insulin makes it easier to store fat around the midline. Prioritize veggies and protein! One study also found that eating veggies and protein before carbohydrates lowers the blood sugar response to a meal and insulin release.
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