Have you ever heard the saying “A moment on the lips, forever on the hips?” Well apparently that is only true for younger women. For older women, specifically women going through any stage of menopause, including peri and post-menopause, the saying should be “instead of to the hips and butt, it will go directly to your gut!”
Unfortunately, as a woman ages, her estrogen levels decline. One side effect of this change is the way in which her body stores fat. A women who typically stores fat in her hips and thighs (as energy stores for breastfeeding) may find that she is now carrying around some extra belly fat; and may be feeling like a busted can of biscuits as a result. According to WebMD if you have gained more than 2 to 5 pounds of belly fat, it is more likely to go deeper into the abdomen (visceral fat) which puts you at a higher risks for several conditions, including heart disease.
Here are some tips to help you get rid of the belly fat:
1. Eat more fat! Yes, I know, this sounds totally counterproductive, but studies have shown that when you eat GOOD fats this can help you decrease body fat. Examples of good, high quality fats are things like avocado, olives, salmon, olive oil, coconut oil and nuts. You should avoid bad fats like industrial oils (canola, soybean and safflower) because their chemical structure means they are easily damaged and become rancid by coming into contact with light, heat and air. When you ingest these rancid oils it creates inflammation in the body. Inflammation is what we are trying to avoid.
2. Eat more REAL foods, and less processed foods. The quality of your food matters. Processed foods tend to create more blood sugar spikes and crashes which mess with your natural hunger and satiety cues. When you choose more whole veggies, fruits and proteins your body naturally knows what to do with these nutrients. You will be able to trust your body’s hunger cues and will be less likely to go reaching for junk food. Be especially mindful of the choices you make in the afternoon and evening when stress and fatigue may cause you to have more unhealthy cravings.
3. Get moving! You don’t have to join your local Crossfit gym to reap the benefits of exercise. For some, even incorporating something as simple as a daily walk can help. If you are just starting out with exercise, start slow and don’t over do it. Try grabbing a friend or coworker at lunch and going for a stroll, take the stairs instead of the elevator and park in the furthest back parking spot. All of these small changes will add up over time. If walking isn’t your thing, you could try yoga, biking, swimming, snowshoeing or skiing – the message here is that there is not one exercise regimen that will work for everyone. The key is finding something you LIKE doing, that you can fit into your life and that you can stick to. Consistency is key here. Find something that gets your heart rate up a bit and allows you to move those muscles and joints around. Many women also see tremendous results from incorporating weight training into their routines. Your rate of metabolism is connected to how much muscle mass you have, therefore; the more muscle mass you have, the better your metabolism.
4. Get a good night’s sleep. When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you are more likely to hit the snooze button and skip your morning workout. Your hunger and appetite hormones also get out of whack which may cause you to overeat or make poor food choices throughout the day. Experts advise people (especially those in menopause) to keep your bedroom cool to help offset the hot flashes and night sweats. You should also give yourself a bedtime, and stick to it. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep, but this does vary from person to person; so find what works for you and then try to aim to get that many hours of sleep each night. I recently purchased the FitBit Charge which, in addition to counting my daily steps and reminding me to get up and move throughout the day, has a built-in sleep tracker. It has a silent alarm that vibrates on my wrist when it is time for me to get ready for bed. I can log into the app the next morning to see how many hours I slept. It also shows me how many times I was restless or awake during the night.
5. Try to reduce your stress. When you are in a state of constant stress, your cortisol levels increase, which makes it easier for you to deposit fat deep inside the belly. Take some “me” time to relax and decompress. Take a long quiet bath, read a book, get a manicure, go to a yoga class or meditate quietly at home. Whatever your “thing” is, carve out some time to do it. Women (especially mothers) spend so much time taking care of everyone else. It is important to take care of yourself as well.
How do you incorporate “me” time into your daily or weekly routine? Let me know in the comments!
Hungry for more? Check out this recipe for Bacon Sweet Potato Muffins from Robb Wolf. These are great for a grab-and-go breakfast. You can make a batch ahead and they will last a few days in the fridge.
As always, this advice is informational only and not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment from your doctor.