Midlife. Midsection. You’re getting older and it’s getting … bigger, softer, flubbier. Why? You think you’re eating right, and you’re just as active as you've been for years. It’s almost seems like there are outside forces conspiring to make your trim waistline a thing of the past. The good news is, nothing’s out to get you. The bad news is, there are multiple internal forces at work that make busting belly fat far more difficult than you’d ever imagined.
Good news and bad news aside, there’s plenty you can do to better understand what’s going on in your body as you approach or enter menopause. Once you do, you’ll be better equipped to battle the extra belly fat that seems so reluctant to leave your side(s).
The Biology of Belly Fat
The number one reason it’s so hard to lose belly fat: hormones. With menopause comes a drop in estrogen; this decrease alters where the body stores fat, making women more prone to gaining visceral belly fat. Other hormonal imbalances during this time can leave the body feeling hungry, even after eating. Sleep disturbances, common in perimenopause and menopause, are associated with decreased levels of leptin (an appetite suppressant) and increased levels of ghrelin (an appetite stimulant).
Additionally, the stresses of life — kids, college tuitions or the mortgage — can lead to an increase in cortisol, the “stress hormone,” which also triggers your body to store fat around the middle.
Why You Should Worry
As if you weren’t already obsessed with not fitting into your favorite jeans, there’s more to be concerned about than aesthetics.
Visceral fat surrounds organs, and excess visceral fat is linked to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. New research has also revealed that belly fat is a risk factor for bone loss; visceral fat adds fat to bone marrow and reduces bone mineral density. To learn how you can preserve your bone health, click here.
Belly Fat Busters
Estrogen, cortisol and all these other hormones are pretty hard to contend with – so doing what you've done in the past is most likely not going to work as well as it once did. You’ve got to change it up, from the way you eat to how you move.
Forget the workouts you’ve tried time and time again – crunches and sit-ups are often ineffective when it comes to trimming away the midlife belly. Consider alternatives, like holding your body in the plank position, or try another yoga-inspired exercise, the cat pose. Directions: Get on all fours. Arch your back like a cat, and work the deep abdominal muscles by inhaling and pulling the stomach back toward the spine. Inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds. For Dr. Oz’s 7-Minute workout, click here.
Foods That Pack on Belly Fat
Packaged foods, partially hydrogenated oils and enriched flours are not your friends. Above all, remember this one word: transfats. Avoid it at all costs. Researchers have found that the transfats found in margarine, packaged cookies, crackers and pasta increase fat in your midsection, and can actually redistribute fat from other parts of the body to the belly. For more flat-belly foods, click here.
Foods that Burn Belly Fat
Eat more monounsaturated fats, easily remembered as MUFAS, found in nuts, olive oil and seeds. Other fat burners include avocados, green tea and whole grains. Put them on your grocery list, and keep your fridge full and your body running on these healthy sources of energy. Your trimmer tummy will thank you.
For an extended belly-busting plan, click here.