The Real Reason Why You Gain Belly Fat During Menopause — According to Science

Menopausal woman holding sign

It might happen, but there is a solution

Belly fat is a massive problem for many women — men included. Hormonal changes brought on by age, and environmental factors play a part in why we somehow manage to gain a spare tire (or two, for that matter). I’m not menopausal, but I will be heading down that pathway before I know it (and possibly you might be heading that way too). Life gets a lot busier, and the months morph into years. Yet, somehow, energy travels ahead of us faster than ever before. The International Menopause Society has developed a state of the art science review on weight gain occurring during menopause. Obesity and excess weight is a huge problem today, and most people worry about them because of the underlying issues it causes. Weight gain is a big worry for women, as we tend to gain about an average of 0.5kg per year. If you add this up, it can cause significant health conditions, like depression, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and of course, the big one — diabetes. On a global scale, around 1.5 billion people are obese or overweight. In addition, about 300 million women are obese. This figure has doubled since 1980! Women are more obese than men due to fluctuations in sex hormones. A review group considered the evidence as to why women gain weight around the time of menopause. Researchers found that weight gain is determined by non-hormonal factors — rather than menopause itself! But, in saying that, the key findings were — fat deposits change due to menopause. Studies indicate that a drop in estrogen levels during menopause, irrespective of whether women do or do not gain weight in midlife — experience a shift in their fat stores around their abdomen. Professor Susan David from the Monash University of Melbourne, Australia, says: “It’s a myth that menopause causes women to gain weight.  It’s just a consequence of environmental factors and ageing.  However, there is no doubt that a spare tire can cause complications for women after menopause, as it may not be the consequence of their actions. Instead, it occurs during a fall in estrogen during menopause — the fat stores transfer from the hips to the abdomen.” That increase or shift in fat doesn’t do us any favours! 

Key takeaways

It’s in all women’s best interests to control their weight before menopause — the earlier, the better, although it’s never too late. If you have already started looking after your body shape and diet, then the transition may not be as rough for you, but we all could use a little bit of tightening up when the time comes. Although I don’t have research backing any of my experimental claims, I would suggest controlling your weight the good old fashioned way with adequate nutrition and proper exercise, including weight training. Try intermittent fasting if you find it hard to get rid of stubborn fat stores. It’s proven time and time again to help regulate fat-burning hormones and increase your metabolism. Perhaps this is the difference that will make the difference for you. In terms of exercise, you cannot surpass the benefits of weight training. It will increase your metabolism and change your shape for the better — it will also help strengthen your bone density. This is an essential step toward combating the debilitating effects of osteoporosis. Start off using these natural sources first, and then if you decide (with your doctor, of course) on HRT, that will help prevent abdominal fat increases after menopause. Although I’m not a big fan of synthetic hormonal use (as I have used many during my endometriosis), do what’s best for your life, health, and well-being. Weigh up the consequences that result in what other side effects you might experience. There is only so much we can to do control our hormones — so start from the bottom and work your way up. It may be a variety of things — but it’s well worth the effort. If you would like to read more, please view this report. 

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