Of the more than 1.5 billion people that are overweight, 300 million are women. The number of obese women is greater than the number of obese men, and researchers are quick to point out that while lifestyle factors may have an influence on the incidence of excess pounds, women face an even greater struggle during menopause.
In 2012, the International Menopause Society (IMS) released a statement discussing the increases in abdominal belly fat that occur among women at the onset of menopause. As estrogen levels plummet, the body redistributes primary fat stores, moving them from the hips, buttocks, and thighs to the abdomen.
The shift in fat stores is not only frustrating for aesthetic reasons, but it can be very dangerous to overall health. IMS issued the statement to encourage women to take action against menopausal weight gain, as it can increase the risk of a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, and heart disease, as well as impact multiple factors that influence quality of life.
Fat stored in the abdomen is most often visceral fat, the type of fat that accumulates around the organs, raises levels of inflammation, and is a catalyst for disease. Visceral fat is also very hard to combat. This is the type of belly fat I refer to in all my articles and books. In fact, what many women and even their doctors may not realize is that it takes more than a simple prescription for healthy eating and moderate exercise to effectively eliminate dangerous belly fat and reverse its damaging effects.
Melt Away the ‘Menopausal Muffin Top’
There are a number of reasons that menopausal weight gain can’t be treated with just the basics. Aside from the shift in fat stores, many women will experience a slower metabolic rate and be affected by sleeplessness, which can also contribute to weight gain.
The truth is that although menopause is inevitable, the accompanying distress and its effects on the body, particularly those related to weight gain and metabolism, can be effectively addressed with at-home solutions.
- Start early. According to 2015 guidelines specifically addressing the treatment of menopausal obesity, abdominal weight gain can begin 3 to 4 years before the onset of menopause. Most women experience menopause in their 50s. Women who pursue a comprehensive workout regimen and nutrition plan can reduce or eliminate many of the symptoms and risks associated with menopause, including and especially lowering risk of disease.
- Change your diet. Eating healthy isn’t enough. Women seeking to eliminate belly fat need to be very conscious of foods that can contribute to abdominal fat, these include processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar, and artificial sweeteners. These should be eliminated. A diet that targets belly fat includes a wide variety of fresh vegetables, lean proteins (preferably organic, grass-fed), and low sugar fruits.
- Targeted daily exercise. Belly fat can’t be undone with a walk on the treadmill while watching TV or taking a leisurely jog around the block. Along with a sluggish metabolism, menopausal women also begin to experience losses in muscle. This can be counteracted with weight training. Even as little as three to five pound hand weights paired with cardio and resistance exercises can improve lean muscle mass and, as a bonus, help maintain bone density. To blast belly fat, plan a daily routine that includes high-intensity training and a multifaceted abdominal workout, targeting the upper and lower abdominals, obliques, and those deep inner abdominals.
- Be consistent. It is impossible to achieve and maintain success without consistency. Women should make these changes part of their daily lifestyle, not a short-term quick-fix. A September 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that peri- and postmenopausal women have higher levels of fat around their heart than premenopausal and early perimenopausal women, independent of weight, age, and other cofactors. This means that as menopause progresses, and even after menopause, a woman’s heart is at greater risk of disease—unless she takes measures to combat these risks.
Reduce Belly Fat, Improve Quality of Life
If you think that it sounds like too much effort to make these lifestyle changes, consider this, a study published in the November 2015 issue of Menopause found a link between female sexual function and BMI (body mass index), these results back up the October 2012 findings outlined by the International Menopause Society, meaning that if better health does not inspire you to change, you may want to consider the effects on your quality of life.
In future articles I will go into detail on how to implement real strategies for dealing with these health issues and working to look your best no matter what your age. I work exclusively with middle-age males and females and I’m here to tell you that every one of you are capable of making amazing changes to your body shape and overall health.
There is a logical approach that is part science and part art and it requires experience on the part of the coach to teach you the most effective strategies for achieving your goals. Don’t continue to be overwhelmed and led astray by the media and so-called fitness gurus that hawk their quick-fix remedies and miracle programs. If it was that easy to have a beautiful body with great health we would all look perfect. We need only to take a look around us to know what the real truth is; very few people are really fit and look great.
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Philip J. Hoffman
Certified Sports Nutrition
Certified Fitness Trainer
Expert Fat Loss Coach