Where the heck did that tire thing come from … and where did my waist go? Most women gain about four-and-a-half pounds in their 40s at the onset of perimenopause, according to one major study. Women continued gaining about a pound and a half per year into their 50s and 60s according to a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. (1) THAT’s where the fat around my middle came from.
Total weight gained after menopause varies for women. An International Journal of Obesity study reported that women gained an average of 12 pounds within eight years of starting perimenopause. Women who maintained the same weight also reported expanding waistlines. (2)
Where does the tire of fat around my middle come from?
A landmark study co-authored by the Mayo Clinic determined the cause of menopause belly fat. Proteins, accelerated by reduced estrogen, causes fat cells to store more fat. The study also found that these cellular changes slow down glycogenolysis—the body’s fat-burning capability. (2)
Why does it just show up?
Women entering perimenopause may not notice significant weight gain. But they do notice that any weight gained accumulates around the abdomen. According to Dr. Deborah Clegg of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, “After menopause, your ovaries stop producing estrogen.” The only place remaining that generates estrogen is your abdominal fat cells. (1)
One woman in the Mayo Clinic study gained 10 pounds soon after entering perimenopause.
“It just happens,” she said. “You just blow up like a balloon.”
Muscle burns more calories than fat. As your metabolism slows down, you put on weight. Beginning at 30, women lose about a half-pound of muscle each year on average. Muscle loss increases to nearly a full pound at 50. (1)
Abdominal fat accumulated during menopause is visceral fat that lies deep within your abdomen surrounding your organs. It causes increased insulin resistance, diabetes, and inflammatory heart disease. Excess abdominal fat also increases the risk of high blood pressure. (4)
What can I do?
There are many ways to cope with increased menopause belly fat to keep away the “fat around my middle”
- Exercise. Include aerobic activities like biking or running in your workout routine. Also, include resistance or strength training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). (3)
The Mayo Clinic reports that muscle burns more calories than fat. Resistance or strength training with weights or resistance bands builds muscle mass. (4)
- Stand more, sit less. Stand for as many activities as you can: talking on the phone, working at your desk, or watching TV. Get a standing desk for your den or office.
- Portion control. Eat less during your meals and try eating your main meal in the middle of the day.
- Eat healthy fats in moderation. Avoid fatty foods in general and eat healthy fats like those found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Watch your caloric intake of these fats to avoid excess consumption.
- Snacks and meal timing. Avoid snacking during meals and try eating on the same schedule every day. This strategy helps avoid eating outside of planned mealtimes.
- Get enough sleep. Maintain a consistent, early bedtime, and begin your bedtime routine on time so you can get to bed on time every night.
- Manage your stress. Adopt new strategies to help cope with stress. Being in nature, meditation, and reducing dependency on drugs or alcohol can help ease your mind and reduce your stress. (3)