How to get rid of a menopause pot belly

13 April 2016

If you’re dieting but still saddled with a pot belly it may well be linked to menopause. Find out how to get rid of it once and for all.

Blame it on your hormones because that’s a likely cause of your meno-pot.

Related: 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. This change causes your body to start changing the way fat is processed and, importantly for your figure, where it gets stored. 

Related: Are your hormones making you fat?

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 won’t work now. A slower metabolism means you’ll need to eat even healthier than you used to.

Related: 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 and can’t function as well. That puts you at more risk of a host of diseases including diabetes and heart disease.

And, if your belly is looking pot-like, it’s likely that you are more at risk. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic in the USA, if your waist size is 35* inches or more, it’s very possible you need to address the situation immediately. (*Bearing in mind that not every woman is the same shape, of course! Some very muscular or large-framed women may be healthy with a larger waist size. See your GP if in doubt.) 

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. 

Related: Weight loss tips to help you stay on track

I will not eat after 8pm

Eating at night before sleep just 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. 

I will not feast nor famine

Regular feasting will just overload 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 may make you feel good in the short-term but it won’t help you lose weight and keep it off in the long term. Instead, you’re likely to simply eat all your calories and more the next time you allow yourself to eat. Instead stick to the next rule. 

Related: Beat bloating with food swaps

I will eat often 

Rather than avoiding food, embrace it! But eat little and often so that while your body always has some calories for energy, but not so much that you’re putting on weight. 

Related: How to choose the healthiest snacks

I will 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.

Eat wholegrain pasta, brown rice and bread, and note the difference it makes in your digestion as well as how quickly you feel full.

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!

Related: What’s your calorie blind spot?

I will eat more protein

There are some things you need to eat more of in order to lose weight and protein is one of them (the others are fruits and vegetables).

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 cheese and grapes or an apple for breakfast.

Then, for lunch or dinner you could have lettuce and cucumber with grilled fish, lean chicken with green beans, and so on. 

Related: Weight loss tips that just might work

I will change my exercise plan

Forget crunches. (Yippee!) While crunches are great for working your outer abdominal muscles, you need to focus on the 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. 

Related: 8 ways to reduce stomach fat

I will build muscle and get out of breath

You need to focus on muscle building anyway at this time of life as muscle loss begins to increase as you 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. 

Related: Pilates exercises you should do every day

I will 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!

Related: Brain tricks for weight loss

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.