Journal / Weight Gain

Simple Ways on How To Lose Belly Fat

Medically reviewed by Nancy L. Belcher Ph.D, MPA

Written by Winona Editorial Team

Last updated October 14, 2021

Best Way to Lose Belly Fat

Menopausal weight gain, or hormonal weight gain, is a struggle that very few talk about but there are effective ways to get rid of belly fat. While we may not talk about it, belly fat is quite obvious since lower belly fat accumulates, and it’s pretty hard to hide! How to lose belly fat is a concern for women not just because of appearances, but also for health reasons.

Some foods can act as a belly fat burner and help get rid of belly fat, but the best way to lose it is to understand why you are accumulating it in the first place. While you may have never had a ‘muffin top’ before,  many women gain weight at menopause in the lower belly.

Belly Fat Overview

As we age, maintaining our usual bodyweight does indeed become more difficult. The judgment that too many sweets or a decrease in exercise are the culprits is just plain demoralizing. Sure, that may be a part of it, but the drop in hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone at perimenopause and menopause plays the most important role in women’s struggles with weight loss, maintenance, and developing lower belly fat.

Many women notice an increase in belly fat as they approach menopause — even if they aren’t gaining weight on the scale. Women often notice thinner legs or smaller rear and bigger tummy. This is due to a decreasing level of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone at menopause which influence where fat is stored. While the genetic factors related to weight and overall fat distribution can’t be changed, we can look for the best ways to reduce belly fat and control menopausal weight gain. The first step is to reverse the decreasing hormone levels.10

Even if you aren’t experiencing lower belly fat accumulation, menopause creates many other weight and fat deposition concerns. As you age your lean muscle mass decreases while you have more stored fat. This is a natural result of lowered testosterone levels

The symptoms of decreasing hormones can adversely impact your quality of life. Beyond the weight changes, increased fat deposition and changes in your body’s overall shape, decreased hormones at menopause can lower your energy levels, decrease libido through vaginal change,  and initiate mood swings.  All of this added together can cause a storm of problems.

Why is Belly Fat Dangerous and What It Means to Your Health 

Your waistline says something about your health. People often assume that menopausal weight gain is ‘natural,’ and in some ways it is. But “natural” does not necessarily mean it is healthy or desirable. Many women gain weight during and after their menopause transition, especially around their abdomens. But it’s not healthy, and it does NOT have to be inevitable. The health threats posed by lower belly fat can be reduced by using natural hormone replacement therapy which can help you get rid of belly fat.

Abdominal fat isn’t limited to that extra layer you might notice right under your tummy’s skin, it also includes visceral fat that surrounds your internal organs and lies deep inside the abdomen.

What is Visceral Fat? Is It Dangerous?

It is embarrassing sometimes to have that ‘muffin top’ of subcutaneous fat, but it is the visceral fat that is linked to more serious health problems. Visceral fat tends to get worse with depression and stress, poor sleep, smoking, and drinking fructose-sweetened beverages. If that’s not enough, menopausal weight gain increases the risk of:

  • Cardiovascular/heart disease.

  • High blood pressure.

  • Cancer – specifically colon, breast, uterine, esophageal, kidney, and pancreatic.

  • Stroke.

  • Arthritis.

  • Breathing problems.

  • Type 2 diabetes.

  • Abnormal cholesterol.

Research also has found an association between belly fat and increased risk of premature death regardless of a woman’s overall weight. Some studies have found that even when women are considered a normal weight based on standard body mass index (BMI) measurements, a large waistline increases the risk of dying of heart problems or cardiovascular disease.

Causes of Belly Fat and How Much is Too Much Weight?

Most women in peri-  and menopause are struggling with their weight on some level. Too much weight, weight in the wrong places, and can’t seem to exercise enough to keep it off. Even worse, the diets and exercises that once worked so well, or the new ones that claim to be the panacea, are often harsh and can escalate hormonal imbalances.14

Hormones control metabolism, and weight balance. The most effective way to halt the ever-present scale creep and return to a healthy weight is to correct hormonal imbalances with HRT. Once hormones are back in balance, weight loss can begin.  

It’s hard to know how much belly fat is too much but we can measure and get an idea of where we stand. Measure your waist just above your hip bone on a bare tummy. Make sure the tape measure is level and resisting the urge to suck in. A waist measurement of more than 35 inches (89 cm) can be an unhealthy concentration of belly fat and cause a greater risk of health problems including heart problems.

Reduce Belly Fat – What Can I Do?

Menopausal weight gain can be prevented, and reversed, with a proactive approach to adjust your ever-dropping hormone levels. Menopause is the time when you will experience a decrease in the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Of course, paying attention to healthy eating habits and leading an active lifestyle is also important. How to reverse belly weight gain. 

1. Understand What Is Happening

During perimenopause and menopause, it can feel like the cards are stacked against maintaining a trim physique. But for long-term health, it is important to try to keep your body, and waistline, trim. Hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) can help you do just that. 

The hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone work together to increase or decrease appetite and fat storage. If the hormone system doesn’t work properly, you can struggle with weight issues on an ongoing basis. 

An ever-expanding menopausal waistline or added fat to the back is sometimes considered the price of getting older, but we need to change that narrative for improved health. Weight is largely determined by four main factors: 

  • Your age.

  • Hormone levels.

  • How many calories you consume.

  • How many calories you use throughout the day (exercise or activity levels)

2. Fix Your Hormone Decline

Menopausal women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) tend to have less body fat than those who do not take HRT – especially less abdominal fat.3 Simply put, most women are overweight at midlife because their hormones are out of whack, and that type of weight gain is dangerous. The health implications of weight gain at menopause cannot be overstated. 

Menopausal weight gain and your inability to lose weight are based on a litany of factors. The decrease in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone during menopause are the primary factors. The calories in vs. the calories out aren’t the whole story for menopausal women. Yes, calories matter, but in menopause and perimenopause, hormones matter more. Taking HRT can help you to lose belly fat quickly and safely. Maybe you won’t lose all your belly fat in a few days, but you will notice a difference in a few weeks.

3. Stay Strong

As people age, their muscle mass decreases while fat levels increase.2 When muscle mass decreases, so does the metabolism. When metabolism drops, so does the number of calories you need per day. If you continue to eat as you always have and don’t increase your physical activity, weight gain is inevitable. 

When muscle mass decreases, you can burn 500 fewer calories per day. At that rate, you could gain 1 lb per week or 52 pounds in just a year! Starting at age 30, women will naturally lose about 1/2 pound of muscle mass per year. By 50 years of age, that can be 10 lbs of lost muscle, and likely, fat has replaced that lost muscle. So, the result will be a menopausal woman who has more fat, less muscle, and a lower metabolic weight. All of which are due to hormone deficiencies.

4. Stop the Fatigue Due to Night Sweats

Night sweats and insomnia associated with peri- and menopause can create an endless cycle of fatigue. People eat more when they are tired.2 Without enough sleep, people snack more, exercise less, and consume more calories. When they are sleep deprived, women’s levels of appetite hormones also increase and their hunger sensation can become overwhelming.7

Very few people function well on less than 7 hours of sleep per night. Sleeping 7 to 8.5 hours every night is critical to reducing stress. If sleep is regularly disrupted, the stress hormone cortisol increases, and weight gain – especially belly fat – ensues. HRT has been shown to reduce night sweats more effectively than any other treatment. By taking HRT night sweats can be reduced and allow for restful sleep, decreased anxiety, and weight loss.3

5. Switch the Workouts

Unfortunately, the body doesn’t burn as many calories walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes at age 55 as it did at age 35. The same amount of work doesn’t give the same benefit. So, it may be time to change it up. Like a lifelong swimmer who barely breathes hard after a mile-long swim, the efficiency of being good at something is great, but it burns fewer calories. By changing up your activities/workouts – trying new classes or new challenges  – you may help to overcome a workout lull and burn more calories.

6. Tune In to Taste Expectations

There are four basic tastes on the human palate: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. The ability to sense these tastes is influenced by blood hormone levels. Sounds strange, but it is true. Your sensitivity to various tastes changes with menopause. Your ability to taste sweet decreases when estrogen levels drop and your sensitivity to bitter tastes decrease with lowering progesterone.3 Both of these hormones drop precipitously with menopause.

Less taste often leads to eating more to be satisfied. Choosing foods high in butter, salt, fine wines, and expensive cuts of meat will yield more flavor, but they are also filled with more calories.

Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, including juices, energy drinks, flavored waters, and sweetened coffee and tea is a natural remedy for a decreased sense of taste, but those calories can account for nearly 300 calories a day or 31 lbs in a year.

7. Move More

Lack of exercise can certainly contribute to menopausal weight gain. Physical activity, which should include vigorous, aerobic exercise as well as strength training, will help shed excess weight and prevent weight gain. 

Whether menopausal women are moving less due to a lack of energy, embracing a slower pace of life, or not having kids to chase after, many are simply sitting for the majority of the day. This sedentary lifestyle makes losing weight quite difficult. Sitting too much has been called the new ‘smoking’ with regards to its adverse effect on overall health.

8. Eat and Drink Less. 

A woman in her 50’s can expect to burn about 200 fewer calories per day than she did in her 30’s and 40s for all of the reasons we already discussed. This adds up to an easy 20 lb. weight gain per year. Every single year! To reduce calories without skimping on nutrition, choose more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, particularly those that contain more fiber.

Alcoholic beverages add a lot of excess calories, and increase the risk of gaining weight. With menopause, it is also harder to metabolize alcohol. Many women say that drinking makes mood swings, hot flashes, headaches and insomnia worse. Doctors warn that alcohol can be more dangerous to long-term health as women age.24 

Summary

When hormones are in balance, neither too high nor too low, women look and feel their best. But when hormones are imbalanced, a range of symptoms that include fatigue, sugar cravings, weight loss resistance, bloating, belly fat, trouble sleeping, anxiety or irritability, and constant stress are just the beginning.

Yes, belly fat can be embarrassing, but it is the visceral fat that is linked to serious health problems. The best way in how to lose belly fat is to first understand why it is accumulating. Hormone deficiencies. 

Menopausal weight gain and the inability to lose weight, especially lower belly fat,  are based on a litany of factors. Hormone regulation is complicated as the body’s hormones are all interconnected. Peri- and menopause are the phases of a woman’s life when she will experience huge swings in hormone levels. Taking HRT can have powerful effects on preventing weight gain especially around the belly. In conjunction with HRT, tuning into the foods that burn belly fat and exercise that are most effective will help you get rid of belly fat.  

Hormone replacement is a safe and physiologically natural way for a woman to regain her shape, and HRT can restore proper hormone levels using substances that are bioidentical to those produced by your own body.

Winona offers our female patients a unique experience. Winona’s healthcare platform is a place to safely connect with a healthcare provider to receive care and to ask the sometimes difficult questions. 

Winona is proud of our doctors, providers, and scientists who work tirelessly to treat all of the symptoms of menopause in the most effective and scientifically appropriate way. That treatment might be a prescription or it could be one of our over-the-counter treatments, but it will be the treatment that the patient and their doctor devise together. 

“This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.”

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3791351/

  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menopause-weight-gain/art-20046058

  3. https://www.medpagetoday.com/obgyn/hrt/72014

  4. https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/how-does-obesity-cause-cancer.h27Z1591413.html

  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21984197/

  6. https://obgynal.com/hormones-and-weight-gain/

  7. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/90/5/2954/2836983

  8. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/your-hunger-hormones

  9. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321837

  10. https://www.saragottfriedmd.com/why-cant-i-lose-weight-and-keep-it-off-hint-its-not-your-fault/

  11. https://odomhealthandwellness.com/10-reasons-you-cant-lose-weight-in-middle-age/

  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9565832/

  13. http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/changes-at-midlife/changes-in-weight-and-fat-distribution

  14. https://goop.com/wellness/health/why-youre-not-losing-weight/

  15. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jtr/2011/875125/

  16. https://bioadaptivemedicine.com/new-blog/estrogen-progesterone-thryoid-hormones

  17. https://www.hotzehwc.com/2018/04/anxiety-relief-with-bioidentical-progesterone/

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  19. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7663969/

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  22. https://www.biotemedical.com/research/testosterone-insufficiency-and-treatment-in-women-international-expert-consensus-resolutions/

  23. 3. Davison, S.L., et. al, “Androgen Levels in Adult Females: Changes with Age, Menopause, and Oophorectomy.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Vol 90, Issue 7, 2005, 3847-3853

  24. https://www.endocrineweb.com/menopause-alcohol

  25. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/23/well/move/20-second-exercise-fitness-interval-training.html

  26. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/belly-fat/art-20045809