If you are a woman hitting the 40s, this might seem very familiar! Do you feel a wriggly layer of fat developing on your midriff? Do you see a bigger waistline staring you in the mirror? Of late, do you feel bloated and gross, without really eating much more?
This mid life bulge was well-coined as 'menopot' by Dr. Pamela Peeke in her book 'Fight Fat After Forty'. This pot belly develops slowly over the years that often it doesn't even hit you till you find a muffin pot over your jeans or worse still – someone points it out to you. You know it's time you did something about it.
The best place to start is to understand the why and how of belly fat during menopause. Find out how this visceral fat carries a host of health risks. Now there is a one stop destination to help you with your menopot issues, be it diet and lifestyle changes, exercise suggestions and menopause weight loss.
Come aboard. Find answers to your menopause belly queries. Let's beat the mid life bulge ...
Declining estrogen levels associated with approaching menopause is one of the major factors leading to a menopot belly. Instead of depositing fat to the thighs and hips, there is a shift towards the midriff. This abdominal fat puts a woman at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The ratio of lean tissue to fat gets skewed.
There is more fat deposition in the upper body.
Even women who have always been thin notice a bulging abdomen.
Subcutaneous fat is the layer of fat found just beneath the skin layer. Visceral fat is that which lies deep down, padding the space between the abdominal organs. High level of visceral fat is associated with metabolic disturbances and risk for Type 2 diabetes and breast cancer or even dementia. High stress brings about elevated levels of cortisol, which in turn triggers abdominal fat. This might be due to the production of leptin, a hormone released by belly fat. Leptin primarily works on appetite regulation but has a role in learning and memory.
Visceral fat is located close to the portal vein; one that carries blood from the intestine to the liver. This type of fat is associated with higher cholesterol levels on account of the free fatty acids that are released by visceral fat. But the good news is that visceral fat also yields easily to diet and exercise.
Many a menopausal woman suffers from belly bloat or water retention. Here too, the hormones play havoc. True, stress and diet can also tip the scales. With the right diet and food guidelines, you can beat this menopausal gas bloat. Your metabolism starts slowing down by the time you hit your 40s. You will need to cut down your calories to keep your weight down.
Reduce salt intake. You can start adding lesser salt to home cooked meals and stay clear of processed foods.
Avoid foods that are likely to cause gas and abdominal discomfort, from lentils and fizzy drinks to starchy foods and milk.
Apportion your daily eating into smaller meals.
Physical activity controls bloating and weight gain.
Beat the Mid Life Bulge
Trying to beat the menopot belly must be a multi-pronged strategy. It is not possible to spot train your abdomen. Flatten the menopot with core exercises aimed at strengthening the deep abdominal muscles. Yoga can help you keep fit, not just mentally but to bring about calm to a tired and stressed mind.
Cardio Training: Cardiovascular exercises put your heart into the target heart rate zone, getting it revved and pumping. This way you increase your calorie burn. Cardio exercises can be done sans machines and carried out all days of the week, unlike strength training.
Instead of constantly working at steady pace, try interval training. After a warm up, alternate between short bouts of high intensity exercise and then cool down. Repeat this nearly 7-8 times. Be it jogging, walking on the treadmill, bicycling or swimming; shock your muscles into short bursts of high intensity exercising. You will get your metabolic rate ticking fast and keep it raised far longer. Your body's cardiovascular capacity will improve and so will its fat busting ability.
Strength Training: This is that time of your life when you must take up strength training. Lift weights under guidance so as to build muscle. Muscle loses fat faster than loose tissue. Besides it does wonders for your bone mass.
Consider the following tests to measure abdominal fat. Body Mass Index (BMI) is another indicator of obesity. Measure your waist circumference and try to stay within about 34 inches. Waist Hip Ratio above 0.85 is a cause for concern.
Count the calories
Pay attention to your diet. Practice portion control. Do not go in for crash diets. Instead go in for a diet rich in mono-unsaturated fats. Get enough calcium in your food. Pay special attention to your nutrition. It's not enough to merely count the calories; it must be the right kind of calories. Add fiber and fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. Include enough protein.