If you want to know the best way to get rid of menopausal belly fat then you’re not alone. 25 million American women enter menopause each year (1). Then it’s only a matter of time before the weight gain seemingly starts coming out of nowhere. The minute you enter menopause it can feel like you’re getting fatter by the day. And the most frustrating part of the weight gain is the menopause belly fat.
But menopause really isn’t that bad… said no woman ever! One day you check the scale and you’ll see you gained 25 pounds practically overnight. The troubling thing about this is you could have been underweight all your life until now. This makes it confusing how to even approach how to get rid of this newfound menopause fat gain.
The stubborn menopot (menopause pot belly) can be really difficult to get rid of. You can even lose a lot of weight but still have a stubborn muffin top that won’t go away. As weeks pass it can seem like your midsection is getting wider without any hope in sight. You can get a menopot belly even if you didn’t have to watch what you ate for the majority of your life.
The dreaded menopause donut can be combated and you can get rid of it despite your hormonal changes. The trick with losing your newfound menopause paunch is a lot simpler than you think. But what you used to do to lose weight isn’t going to work since your body has changed with menopause. So if you hate the weight gain that comes with menopause and if you’re tired of feeling bloated and gross then you’re going to want to keep reading to uncover the solution.
What Causes Belly Fat After Menopause?
Many women who have entered menopause are well aware of the “shapeshifting” that happens with the fat in their bodies. In the past when they gained weight it would be in their hips and thighs but now it seems to go straight for the midsection. Belly fat isn’t only unsightly but it’s also worst for your health than thigh fat (2). Women with an apple-shaped body with visceral fat can have higher blood pressure and more at risk for heart disease (3).
The reason this shapeshifting happens is from your hormones changing the way your body distributes fat. It shifts the fat that once was in your hips and thighs directly to your belly (4). Your body then stubbornly wants to hold on to this belly fat to rebalance your estrogen production (5).
When entering perimenopause in your 40s your body starts to gradually decrease estrogen production (6). For many, weight gain is the greatest and muscle loss the worst in their peri-menopausal years (7). By the time you fully hit menopause your body produces the least amount of estrogen ever (8). Your body then develops a hormonal belly as it begins to shift your fat cells from your hips and thighs to your stomach.
Fat cells secrete estrogen so your body wants to keep adding more and more fat cells. It does this to compensate for the declining estrogen levels that come with menopause (9). Your ovaries were once the main producers of estrogen but with menopause, they “retire” and make significantly less of it. Belly fat is linked to having low estrogen levels (10). This may be your body’s way of creating more estrogen.
This is why Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may help with weight loss and losing belly fat (11). Although studies have found women gain the weight back after stopping HRT (12). A meta-analysis study found HRT reduced belly fat and improved insulin resistance in postmenopausal women (13). Estrogen plays a major role in your DNA that’s responsible for weight and fat control.
Women’s metabolism also decreases with menopause causing them to not burn as many calories as before (14). With a slower metabolism comes fat gain. And with menopause, you’re more likely to become fatigued. With chronic fatigue, you’ll be less likely to engage in physical activity and live an active lifestyle (15). This also leads to fat gain.
With menopause your body produces less estrogen and this could also lead to you becoming insulin resistant. This will make it more likely to develop belly fat (16). This can affect your blood sugar levels causing them to go all over the place. Insulin resistance is strongly linked to weight gain and belly fat (17). Studies have found HRT improves insulin sensitivity in menopausal women (18).
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and its level rises in menopausal women (19). Cortisol is well known for promoting the storage of abdominal fat (20). Many women in menopause also have trouble sleeping due to menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. Lack of sleep is also strongly linked to increases in abdominal fat (21).
Menopause Belly Bloat
When going through perimenopause or menopause your body is often going to become bloated. You might not always gain weight but the uncomfortable bloating can happen quite often (22).
Estrogen plays an important role in the balance of water in your body. While going through perimenopause or menopause your body can have erratic levels of estrogen causing you to get a bloated belly (24).
It’s a smart idea to focus on taking care of your gut health while in perimenopause and menopause. Avoiding foods that cause bad gut health is critical. Processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol should be limited and or avoided altogether. Instead focus on taking a probiotic, fiber, and fermented foods.
How to Get Your Waist Back After Menopause
What used to work for you to keep the weight and belly off isn’t going to work anymore. You’re going to have to approach it from a different angle if you want to get results.
Many women who didn’t need to put much effort in before to maintain their weight will need to step up their game. As you get older your body gradually suffers from muscle loss (25). With muscle loss your body fat percentage is also going to go up. And with higher body fat, it’s easy to become “skinny fat.”
You’re going to be much more likely to get a menopausal belly if you’re not strength training. The only way to increase your muscle mass is to work out with weights or bodyweight resistance training (26). As you strength train you’ll build more lean muscle mass that will lower your body fat and then reduce your belly fat.
Your diet is also going to play a big role in getting rid of your menopot belly. If you were able to maintain your weight before menopause without putting much effort into your diet then the bad news is you’re going to have to now. Changes in your hormones will now make it much easier for you to gain weight. So focusing on your diet is going to be a big part of the solution to get rid of it again.
Strength Training in Menopause
As your estrogen levels lower in perimenopause and menopause, your muscle mass is also going to decline. This loss of muscle mass is known as sarcopenia and it’s common in menopausal women (27). With the loss of muscle, your body fat will get higher which will make it more likely you’ll get stubborn belly fat (28).
Starting a weight training routine is going to be of the utmost importance if your goal is to get rid of your menopot belly. Even if you’re dieting you still won’t be able to fully get rid of your belly as long as your muscle mass keeps declining. Aerobic exercise is also important lifting weights with major muscle groups is what you’ll need for muscle gains and fat loss.
Eating a higher amount of protein is going to be key to building more lean muscle. If you have trouble meeting your daily protein requirements try drinking a daily low-carb protein shake.
Getting serious about lifting weights is the best thing you can do to combat the redistribution of fat to your belly. And as your hormones change with menopause it’s going to only become more and more important. This doesn’t mean you have to start a hardcore bodybuilding workout routine but you need to get on a weight training plan fast. Some of my favorite strength training exercises include push-ups, squats, pull-ups, lunges, shoulder presses and step-ups.
I like to use a combination of Metabolic Resistance Training and Afterburn Training. These two when combined together will build lean muscle mass while burning fat off at the same time. Metabolic Resistance Training and Afterburn Training are the best exercises that burn the most belly fat. You can find a complete workout plan using this combination of training methods in my Flat Belly Formula program.
Diet for Menopausal Belly
Since your metabolism decreases with menopause your body isn’t going to be burning as many calories as before. And since it’s not burning as many calories then they’re going to be converted to fat in your belly (29). Metabolic syndrome can increase your risk of insulin resistance and developing type 2 diabetes (30).
So it’s going to make sense to lower your daily caloric amount. I know many women never had to worry about their calories before but a slower metabolism simply means you can’t eat as much as you used to without gaining weight. For many women lowering portion sizes and keeping their calories below 1200 per day seems to work the best (31).
Intermittent Fasting is a great way for weight loss and to lose abdominal fat. You’ll not only be cutting down on calories by skipping meals but you’ll also release fat-burning hormones into your body. Try to skip breakfast and not eat until lunchtime. Studies have found menopausal women lost weight and reduced their waist circumference with intermittent fasting (32).
Going low-carb is going to be critical for weight loss and to getting rid of the menopot belly (33). Cutting out the refined carbs and processed foods will do a lot towards keeping your waistline slim. If you’re eating too many carbs then your body is going to store them as fat. And you won’t be able to burn off your fat stores in your belly if you’re constantly eating carbs and sugar.
Your body in menopause isn’t as efficient with blood sugar and insulin (34). You’ll be much more likely to become insulin resistant during the menopause process. So if your body isn’t able to process carbs and sugars then it makes sense to lower your carb and sugar intake. One study found postmenopausal women on a low carb diet lost 21 pounds and inches off their belly (35).
Here’s a trick I use to lose weight and keep the belly off. While fasting in the morning add a scoop of Keto Elevate into your morning cup of coffee. It provides the same ketones your body produces while on the keto diet that signal to start burning your fat stores for energy. One study of almost 90,000 postmenopausal women found going on a low carb diet led to weight loss (36).
Stress, Menopause & Fat Gain
Keeping your stress levels under control is going to be one of the hidden parts of weight loss and losing your belly fat. When stressed your body releases the hormone cortisol that can cause an increase in belly fat (37).
Women’s ovaries decrease their production of estrogen in the menopausal transition. Then your adrenal glands pick up some of the slack by producing estrogen. But your adrenal glands also produce cortisol.
But if you’ve lived a stressful life and are still living one in menopause then this could affect your adrenals ability to make these hormones. If you’re stressed out then your body will focus on making more cortisol instead of estrogen. This will lead to developing a stress belly.
You’ll also feel more fatigued, suffer from insomnia, and get cravings. All of which will make it harder for weight loss and to get rid of your visceral fat. Physical activity is a lot harder to do when stressed. Finding ways to de-stress in life will be a smart strategy for lowering your cortisol levels. To lose weight it’s important to lower your stress levels.
Meditation, exercise, eating healthy, deep breathing and proper sleep are all great ways to lower your stress. Taking a high-quality CBD oil can also lower your stress levels. Studies have found it to lower anxiety and improve sleep as well (38). With menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats it’ll do a lot for helping you sleep and de-stress.
Does menopause weight gain go away?
The good news is yes! The dreaded menopause weight gain can and will go away. But you’re going to have to develop some healthy lifestyle habits to get results. What worked before isn’t going to work anymore now that your body has changed.
Menopause brings many hormonal changes that can switch a pear-shaped body to an apple-shaped one. You’re going to have to focus on weight training, eating low carb, and lowering stress levels if you want to keep off the hormonal belly fat. And getting rid of your visceral fat in the weight around your belly is important to reduce your risk of heart disease.
The Last Word
It can feel like the belly fat gain just suddenly shows up the minute you enter menopause. You can try every diet under the sun but it still won’t go away. The key is to increase your muscle mass with weight training too. Since aging and low estrogen levels cause the loss of muscle mass you’ll end up having too high a body fat.
The only way to get rid of stubborn fat is to lower your body fat. This can only really be done if you add in weight training. Even if you’ve always been thin before you could have just been skinny fat. Measure your body fat percentage with a smart scale and track your inches with a tape measure to get an accurate picture of your progress. Your weight can be deceiving since you could be gaining muscle but losing fat at the same time.
HRT has been found to be effective for losing the belly fat gain that comes with menopause. This is something you’re going to have to discuss with your doctor though. It’s not for everyone. For medical advice on the health risks be sure to talk to your doctor. But you don’t necessarily need to go on HRT to lose the menopot belly if you’re following the strategies here.
Cellulite is another problem that women can get with menopause. Having too low estrogen can cause your skin to become thinner and less elastic (39). This will cause your fat cells under your skin to poke through. Many women in menopause notice more skin sagging and cellulite on the butt. Taking collagen has been found to be effective in reducing the appearance of cellulite and sagging skin (40). I recommend Ageless Collagen.
Gaining weight and the belly fat that comes with menopause can be frustrating for many women. You could have been thin all your life but once menopause hits it feels like you can’t lose a single pound if your life depended on it. The “middle-age spread” is real but if you’re willing to use the proven strategies here you can fight back and get rid of the menopause belly.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.