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How to Lose Menopause Belly Fat – Foods That Beat Hormone Problems

How to Lose Menopause Belly Fat – Foods That Beat Hormone Problems

How to Lose Menopause Belly Fat – Foods That Beat Hormone Problems

Getting rid of menopausal belly fat starts with avoiding the foods that encourage hormonal weight gain and replacing them with the list of belly-fat burning foods.

Post-menopausal belly fat. It’s a problem for many women over 50. If you’ve reached this stage you’ve likely noticed that fat storage isn’t what it used to be.

During and after menopause you’ll find that pounds are more likely to cause a fat tummy and less likely to accumulate on your legs, hips and butt.

[Special Note: Prior to menopause, PCOS is the most common hormonal problem for women. If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, learn how PCOS creates a perfect storm of hormonal issues that encourage belly fat.]

 

What causes belly fat after menopause?

As a woman ages, hormonal imbalances cause a shift in fat distribution. Fat is now easily stored in the belly.

This newly bulging belly comes with a significant health risk. Stomach fat is “metabolically active” which means that it more easily releases fatty acids into the blood stream. This increased blood fat increases the risk of heart disease in women over 50.

Hormones and menopausal weight gain

Estrogen is the hormone that most of us blame for post-menopausal belly fat.

Estrogen is produced by your ovaries and by your fat cells. When menopause puts the brakes on estrogen from your ovaries, your body looks to your fat cells to keep it supplied.

So, after menopause belly fat helps your body make the estrogen it wants.

But…

in the big picture of menopausal weight gain, estrogen is only part of the story.

Your Body Shape and Hormones

The spots on your body where you carry your most stubborn fat are determined by predictable hormonal imbalances.

how to lose menopause belly fat
Are you a natural pear or apple shape?

For natural “pear-shaped” women who gain weight easily in the thighs and hips, fat distribution is ruled by excessively high estrogen levels.

For natural “apple-shaped” women who easily gain stomach fat, another hormone called cortisol may have a strong influence on her shape.

The natural drop in estrogen levels after menopause, cause natural pears to store more fat in the belly area and less in the lower body.

Both pears and apples easily gain stomach fat during and after menopause when high stress, inactivity, and poor eating habits are present.

While you can’t turn back the hands of time on estrogen production, you can control some of the other hormonal imbalances that cause post-menopausal belly fat by reducing stress, getting adequate sleep, exercising, and most importantly changing the foods you eat.

How to Lose Menopausal Belly Fat with Diet

Getting rid of menopausal belly fat and correcting hormone imbalances involves three things: (1) avoiding foods that encourage fat storage, (2) avoiding all-day grazing, and (3) eating foods that encourage fat burning.

Foods to Avoid for Menopausal Belly Fat

1. Packaged Low-Calorie Diet Foods. Foods that are packaged and promoted as “diet foods” are often unhealthy, and rarely a helpful part of a weight loss diet. Diet foods reduce calories by doing one or more of the following:

  • Low in calories due to small portions. Yes, you’re getting fewer calories, but the portion is not satisfying, and could trigger cravings for more.
  • Low in calories due to artificial sweeteners. While there is differing opinions on artificial sweeteners, there is some evidence that they are inflammatory foods, which increases stress on the body. There are also those that theorize that artificial sweeteners boost cortisol levels, which in turn leads to belly fat.
  • Low in calories due to replacing fat with sugar. Fat gives food a satisfying flavor, so when it’s removed from a food, something equally satisfying needs to take its place…enter sugar. Sugar has fewer calories per gram than fat, so it reduces the overall calorie count of the food, but the food is just as fattening…

2. Sugar and Refined Carbs. The refining process removes fiber from food. Without fiber, there is nothing to slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream.

This high blood sugar level must be cleared out quickly, which is why most of it is dumped into fat cells.

Belly Fat & All-Day Grazing

Do you grab snacks all day long to satisfy your hunger? If so, this practice could add belly fat.

A few years ago, many in the diet arena promoted five or six small meals throughout the day to reduce your weight. As it turns out, this advice may promote fat storage, not fat loss.

Think of movement in and out of your fat cells as the tide you observe when you visit the beach. A tide either moves in or moves out, never both at the same time.

The same thing happens in your body. You are either storing fat or removing it. The deciding factor has a lot to do with your eating schedule.

When you eat a meal, sugar enters your blood. That sugar causes insulin to be released. When insulin is high, fat is stored, and not burned (i.e. the tide is moving into your fat cells, not out).

When you fast, your blood sugar level, and therefore your insulin level is low, so fat is able to leave the fat cells. By fasting at night, you can create a 12-hour time-restricted eating pattern that speeds fat loss.

Menopausal Diet Plan

You can actively encourage belly fat burning by selecting better foods.

1. Vegetables. Naturally low in calories and high in nutrients and fiber, vegetables help to stabilize blood sugar levels, which eliminates the high insulin levels that promote fat storage. Foods for Menopausal Belly Fat1

2. Whole food fats. Foods, such as nuts, seeds and avocados block fat storage by providing the right mix of healthy fats, protein and fiber.

3. Chia seeds and flaxseeds. These weight loss foods lower blood sugar and encourage fat burning.

4. Cinnamon. This tasty seasoning improves insulin sensitivity, which lessens the belly fat storage caused by high cortisol levels.

5. Dark Chocolate. To keep your diet interesting, you can choose dark chocolate, which is lower in sugar than regular chocolate and keeps cortisol levels in check making it less likely for fat to build on at your waist.

The key to enjoying chocolate as a healthy treat is to choose the right type and don’t overdo it.

Healthy dark chocolate contains 70% or higher cocao content. Even though dark chocolate has health benefits, too much will ruin weight loss, so stick with a square or two as a small dessert.

6. What about alcohol? According to the North American Menopausal Society, moderate drinking is acceptable.

Midlife and older women who drink moderately have a lower risk of becoming obese than nondrinkers.”

To stay in the moderate range, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) recommends that you drink “no more than seven drinks per week and no more than three drinks on any single day.”

This is how the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) defines one standard drink:

  • 5 fluid ounces (one glass) of wine (about 12% alcohol). Don’t let your wine glass fool you—most hold much more than 5 ounces.
  • 12 fluid ounces (usually one can or bottle) of regular beer (about 5% alcohol)
  • 1.5 fluid ounces (one shot) of 80-proof distilled spirits

When I work with an individual clients one-on-one, I recommend that they abstain from alcohol initially. After a pattern of weight loss is established,  they can experiment with adding alcohol back into their diet. I suggest starting with no more than 3 drinks a week as they monitor their weight to make sure it’s still dropping

Bottom Line…It is possible to lose weight after menopause

If you’re at the age of menopause, and you’re finding it hard to control your growing belly, then you want to get your hormones working for you.

The foods I’ve listed above are a great starting point, but if you’ve struggled with putting a complete plan together to successfully fight menopausal belly fat, then I encourage you to look into my Weight Loss Coaching Program.

The program is ideal for perimenopausal or menopausal women over 40 who want a sane approach for overall weight loss.

More articles on Women and Belly Fat:

 

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18 Comments

  • Ann Kiburz June 14, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Great info, Dr. Becky. I forwarded it to my mom. She’s in her 80’s, and has the skinniest legs and butt in the universe, but a chubby tummy. I think your scholarly instructions will help her whittle it down.
    And it’ll get me ready for that time, which is going to be coming upon me soon.
    You’re the best!

    • Becky Gillaspy Author June 14, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      Great! Thanks for spreading the word!

  • My Shopping Diet June 15, 2016 at 9:34 am

    Great article Dr. Becky, will definitely talk to my Mom.
    A few things I didn’t know before, will look into them, so thank you so much! Signing up for the updates!

    Tanya
    http://www.myshoppingdiet.com/

    • Becky Gillaspy Author June 15, 2016 at 9:48 am

      Great! Thanks Tanya!

  • Jenna Von June 15, 2016 at 10:38 am

    I’m nowhere near the menopause but still find this information interesting and will definitely try to follow it!

    Jenna Von x

    • Becky Gillaspy Author June 15, 2016 at 10:56 am

      Thanks for your comment, Jenna! Yes, this advice can work for any age or gender :).

  • Marilynn July 28, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    I noticed that fruit was not listed in the Menopausal Diet Plan. Is it due to the natural sugar properties of fruit..

    • Becky Gillaspy Author July 28, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      Hi Marilynn,

      That’s a great question. Fruit does have natural sugars, but those sugars are balanced with fiber and nutrients that slow the sugar’s absorption.

      So, you can have fruit on a menopausal weight loss program, but I recommend you stick to about two or three servings per day and try to choose lower sugar fruits: lemons, cantaloupe, strawberries. I have a more complete list of low-sugar fruits on this post: http://www.drbeckyfitness.com/insulin-resistance-weight-gain/

      I hope that helps!
      Becky

  • Tonya Baxter October 12, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Hi, ran across yet another list of ways to help with the menopausal spread in my, seems like, never ending search for SOMETHING that will work for me. I have never had a weight problem, am 5’1″ and 100 pounds my entire adult life. Athlete and cheerleader in HS and college. Taught aerobics for 5 years. Had 2 kids and went back to my same size with no problem. Am 52 now and lead very active lifestyle with a horse farm and all the demanding physical duties it requires. I have never eaten so healthy in my life…chia seeds, flax seeds, salmon 2x week, avocados, cruciferous veggies, etc. Been doing that for a year and I am even bigger now than I ever have been ( 3 sizes) I’m 2 years into menopause and am super frustrated with how I look and feel. Seems like exercise and eating right has not done anything and was considering a supplement of some kind to help with hormone imbalance/cortisol levels, something. IDK. I am not a huge fan of supplements, would rather address issues through proper diet, but that is not working for me. HELP!!

    • Becky Gillaspy Author October 13, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      Hi Tonya,

      It sounds like you are doing many things right. Losing weight after menopause takes a complete strategy, you are eating some great nutrient foods. Sometimes the answer is just reducing the amount of starch you eat during the day or making one other small adjustment. I do a lot of writing and research on menopausal weight loss, and I will try to add a discussion of supplements that could be beneficial for weight loss in a future post.

      Becky

    • theresa collins April 24, 2017 at 7:46 am

      I hear ya, sister! I experienced the same frustration. I have always known that hormonal imbalance is, in great part, responsible for my weight gain after menopause. And menopause also affected other areas, making intimacy with my husband almost impossible. Bio-identical hormone therapy put me into pms episodes so I stopped taking them after several months. I took a trip to Peru last October and discovered a root that is grown at the highest elevation of any root. It is called maca and it is dried and pulverized into a powder. It affects the endocrine system and seems to balance hormones. After taking maca for a month, I lost 7 pounds, and the following month I lost another 8 pounds and by the third month, I had lost an additional 6 pounds, putting me right at the weight I want to be. And my intimacy issues went away and my desire for my husband increased! You can find maca in the supplement aisle of your grocery store of pharmacy. Hope it works for you like it has for me! Good Luck!

      • Linda Jolley August 25, 2017 at 11:28 pm

        How does one take maca or do you make a tea with it?

        • Becky Gillaspy Author August 26, 2017 at 7:02 am

          Hi Linda, Maca powder has a somewhat nutty flavor, so I find it works best when I add it to a smoothie. It could also be added to a soup. You could try dissolving it in tea to see if you like the taste.

  • Julie December 20, 2016 at 10:48 am

    I had a total hysterectomy and went into instant menopause. I’ve gained 25 lbs on my small frame. I was on an estradiol patch along w progesterone cream and it was making me feel horrible so I went off the patch and felt better right away. Now I have horrible hot flashes. I’ve accumulated fat on my belly hips and thighs. Does fat still produce estrogen even with no ovaries? I eat a mostly organic Whole Foods diet, low sugar and grains and I keep gaining.

    • Becky Gillaspy Author December 20, 2016 at 12:29 pm

      Hi Julie,

      It is surprising, but the fat cells become one of the main producers of estrogen after menopause. Having a total hysterectomy removes the ovaries, which are the primary source of estrogen, so it’s easy to see why your body would “prefer” to add fat to compensate for the lost estrogen.

      Hot flashes and weight gain after menopause can be reversed with a high-nutrient diet. Some supplements are also valuable, but vary from person to person depending on the overall symptom profile.

      Becky

  • Laurie June 17, 2017 at 6:59 am

    Dear Dr. Becky,
    do you also have some tips for women before menopause and how to deal with extreme PMS Effects like feeling bloated and heavy, appetite all day long, water rentention in the body, no energy, etc.Is that also linked to false nutrition and eating sugar, flour, etc?

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