If you’re dieting but still saddled with a pot belly – aka fat around the middle or subcutaneous abdominal fat (SAT) as it’s called medically - it may well be linked to menopause. It’s been found that postmenopausal women have an almost 5-fold greater risk of developing abdominal obesity compared to women who haven’t yet gone through menopause. And it is not just unsightly it can also increase your risk of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems. But don’t despair, blame it on your hormones because that’s a likely cause of your meno-pot, and find out what you can do about it.
Find out about the post-menopause diet mistakes you might be making
Even as you go through perimenopause your oestrogen levels are already starting to fall, then after menopause they drop dramatically. At the same time levels of testosterone increase. These changes cause your body to change the way fat is processed and, importantly for your figure, where it gets stored.
To begin with, your metabolism slows. That means that even if you’re sticking rigidly to the diet that used to work a dream, it may not work as well as it did in the past. A slower metabolism means you’ll need to eat even healthier than you used to.
Find out 8 ways to speed up your metabolism
The way your body stores fat has also changed. Rather than sharing out your fat reserves a little more evenly between your breasts, bottom and thighs, those areas start to lose out as your body starts depositing fat around your middle. So unfair, right?
Worse, with more fat there, your internal organs are surrounded by fat – so-called visceral fat- meaning they can’t function as well as previously putting you in turn at more risk of a host of diseases including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
And, if your belly is looking pot-like, it’s likely that you are more at risk. BMI – body mass index – is a notoriously poor way to measure whether you need to lose weight. Instead try the ‘string test’. Measure your height and your waist using a piece of string. If your waist measures more than half your height then you need to shed some pounds.
So, what can you do about it? The magic solution is, once again, all about diet and exercise, as well as other lifestyle factors that can make you put on weight. The good news is that you can lose it! Just follow these rules.
Try these weight loss tips to help you stay on track
Eat after 8pm
Eating at nighttime before sleep gives your body extra calories to play around with as you sleep – unused calories that your body will happily deposit around your midriff. Instead, focus on eating when your body can actually use the calories.
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Don't feast nor famine
Yoyo dieting – that is alternating between restricting calories and eating whatever you want has been linked with abdominal fat. The reasons? Regular feasting overloads your body with so many calories it’ll have no choice but to put them in your ‘stores’ around your abdomen but famine is also a bad idea. Starving, meanwhile, may make you feel good short-term but the problems occur when you try to keep it off in the long term.
Find out how to beat bloating with food swaps
Eat better carbs
Quality makes a huge difference to the success of a diet, by which we mean that you could eat the same quantity of bread each day but depending on whether that bread is a white crusty loaf or a wholegrain sunflower loaf, it’s going to make a big difference to your efforts to stick to your calorie intake. Wholegrains - wholegrain pasta, brown rice and wholewheat bread, which are rich in fibre, are healthier for your gut bacteria and help fill you up better so you are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods between meals.
If you’ve always eaten white carb products it will take a bit of getting used to but it’s worth it to lose the meno-pot!
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Eat more protein
There are some things you need to eat more of as you get older and that can help you control weight too, by helping you feel fuller and less likely to snack on unhealthy foods. And protein is one of them (the others are fruits and vegetables). Include protein at every meal.
For one meal a day, eat only protein and vegetables or fruit. It doesn’t matter which meal. This will instantly cut calories from your diet because you won’t be eating carbohydrates – excess carbs are often a stumbling block to losing weight.
Try a yogurt and fruit, or an egg and tomato ‘sandwich’ (where the sliced tomato is the bread) for breakfast, half an avocado with a slice of cheese or a hardboiled egg, or cheese and grapes or an apple for breakfast.
Then, for lunch or dinner pile your plate with vegetables or salad and a portion of grilled fish, lean chicken or tofu with green beans, and so on.
Change your exercise plan
Forget crunches. (Yippee!) While they are great for working your outer abdominal muscles, you need to focus on your ‘core’ abdominal muscles that are further inside and the lower abs too.
The plank is one of the best exercise moves for targeting these other abdominal muscles – but you must try to hold your belly in as you do it.
Pelvic tilts are also excellent. To do these, lie on your back with your knees bent and pull your tummy in so that the small of your back is touching the floor. Raise your pelvis slightly off the floor (with your lower bottom clenched to tilt your pelvis). Hold for five to 10 seconds. Do this 10-12 times at least three times a week.
Try these 8 ways to reduce stomach fat
Build muscle and get out of breath
We all need to focus on muscle building at this time of life as muscle loss begins to increase as we age but strength building also gives you extra muscles to burn off those pesky calories that would otherwise end up on your tummy.
Increase your strength training (resistance bands, weights, bodyweight exercises) but don’t forget to get the most important muscle of all working too, your heart. A strong healthy cardiovascular system will give you more energy without extra calories and help you feel good too.
Plan, plan, plan
For one week, write out exactly what you will eat each day making sure it’s within the calorie restraints you’re aiming for (this will depend on your height, weight and metabolism). Then stick to it.
Make a note of how hungry you feel and the times of day when you found yourself yearning for more food or ‘bad’ food.
Then make a new plan for the following week to help you overcome those moments. And don’t forget to plan in rewards for yourself – that way you’ll stick to the plan the following week too!
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