How do I lose menopausal belly fat?

One of the most common questions I get asked as a fitness and wellness coach is “How do I get rid of my belly fat”?

This is not just something that happens to menopausal women, it happens to a lot of men and women especially in middle age but as we know, menopause in particular makes women more prone to belly fat. So what can we do to tackle this?

  • The first step is acknowledging there is an issue and that you are ready and willing to do something about it. Once you have done that, you then need to start defining how you are going to go about it.
  • It is important to identify why this is important to you and why it matters so much. Identify your “why” and make sure it really resonates with you. Just wanting to lose your flab is not enough, you must be ready to put in the work and consistency required. This is why having a strong “Why” is important as this is what keeps you going when motivation is low.
  • Exercise is important but surprisingly it is not the most important thing, your diet and nutrition is equally, if not more important. Watch what you eat, Reduce processed foods that are high in sugar and bad fats and also your general food intake should match your body’s needs. Include healthy whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and healthy sources of protein and carbohydrates.
  • Exercise plays an important role but the type of exercise is also important. You need a balance of HIIT, cardio and core, with some resistance training. Perhaps that sounds like a lot but there are many ways to create an exercise regime that includes a bit of everything you need. For e.g. you could make up a crude HIIT workout that encompasses cardio and resistance training e.g. running on the spot and squats. HIIT workouts can also seem challenging but again it is quite easy to devise a basic HIIT session e.g. doing jumping jacks for 30 seconds, 30 second rest, 30 seconds of squats is a basic example. You can repeat this several times for maximum effect and you could also add in some other exercises. The main aim with HIIT is to combine high intensity with low intensity so bear this in mind when creating your workouts.
  • Lifestyle changes are also quite important and there are a number of adjustments that can greatly influence how quickly you see results. E.g. Getting good quality sleep is very important, drinking at least 1 litre of water daily, ideally 2litres and aiming to reduce stress. These elements all affect your hormonal balance, this is of more importance with perimenopausal/menopausal women as our hormones are all over the place, so we must do all we can to keep them in check.

So let’s look at the above points in more detail. What does it mean to identify your “Why”? Knowing why you want to do something and having a strong and convincing reason in your mind is going to be important when the going gets hard. Losing any type of weight takes determination, persistence and patience. If your why is not strong enough you will give up quite easily. A good example of a “why” is to ensure that you do not put yourself at risk for more serious illnesses such as diabetes. This is one example, yours can be anything as long as it is convincing enough to keep you on track

Nutrition is key. Without good nutrition, losing belly fat naturally is impossible. You cannot out train a bad diet is a very popular saying and it is absolutely right. Even if you do everything else right, a bad diet will curtail your attempts and definitely slow you down. You should avoid sugar, fatty and processed foods. Remember there are good fats and bad fats so good fats such as nuts and avocado are good. Avoid fizzy and sugary drinks, pies, cakes and pastries especially if they are not home made. Include more vegetables, fruits and healthy sources of proteins and carbohydrates. I will be covering nutrition in more detail in a separate post so stay tuned!!!!

A good mix of exercise styles as mentioned above is very important to kick start our metabolism which has generally slowed down and to help shift stubborn fat. In particular, HIIT (high interval intensity training) has been shown to burn more calories in a shorter time and even after you stop exercising, you continue burning calories for a short while after. HIIT basically means an intense burst of exercise followed by a short rest and repeated several times. These could be a mix of resistance training and cardiovascular for maximum results e.g run for 1 min rest for 30 seconds then run for 1 min, and repeat several times. This will get your heartrate up and get your body moving. Please remember as with all new exercise regimes to consult your doctor before taking up any form of exercise.

Sleep, good quality sleep is vital. When we sleep, our body rests, repairs and regenerates itself. It is more important to get good quality of sleep even if its not for a long time than to be in bed for a longer length of time with broken sleep. So, 5 hours of deep sleep is better than 8 hours of broken and restless sleep. Water as mentioned is also vital as it helps to regulate and balance your hormones and it improves your circulation, finally avoiding stress is important if we want to keep our hormones level. Stressful situations can cause our bodies to produce a hormone called cortisol which when it is produced at the right time and in the right quantities is actually a very useful and important hormone. However, if we are constantly stressed, our bodies may over produce this hormone and when it is produced excessively and not actually for the right reasons it can actually cause damage to the way our body functions. Cortisol can increase glucose (sugar) in the blood and this can actually cause you to store more fat around the belly area. In addition, it does have a lot of other negative effects on the body when produced in excess.

Finally, there is a common misconception that you can just have exercises that specifically target the stomach such as crunches and this will get rid of belly fat. This is totally untrue. While we do have exercises that are designed to work on the stomach and strengthen the core, these on their own will not get rid of belly fat. Remember belly fat, like any other fat is excess fat which needs to be burned off. You cant tell your body where to burn its fat from so what you essentially have to do is work on generally fat loss and add in the core and stomach exercises and as the fat starts to be burnt off through all your efforts, excess fat from your tummy will be included in that. I hope that makes sense but if you have any questions, feel free to send me an email.

Tackling Weight Gain during Menopause

Weight gain is one of the unfortunate challenges during perimenopause/menopause. It is particularly baffling for women who have been generally fit and exercising when they find they are gaining weight despite keeping up their normal levels of exercise and eating as they have normally done. I was exactly the same. While I didn’t put on a huge amount of weight, I found that I struggled to get into my jeans and regular clothes and yet, I was training as well and as regularly and pretty much eating the same meals I had always eaten.

What I and countless women had not realised that when perimenopause/menopause hits, the fluctuating hormones, bloating and the slowing down of our metabolism can actually cause most women to gain up to a stone over a period of a year perhaps more, what this means literally is a change in dress size for most women and unfortunately for us, the weight is all in the same area, around the belly, around the thighs or on the face and neck.

While weight gain by itself is not the end all or be all, for most women the weight gain coupled with various other symptoms and alien feelings in one’s body can cause one to feel pretty fed up.

So what can we do? How do we beat this and can it be combated with exercise alone?

First of all, let me say we can definitely work with exercise to help us mitigate the weight gain but we also need another weapon in this fight and that is our diet. Without looking at what you eat and how much you are eating, this fight is going to be so much harder. It is hard to put all of the suggestions in one article, so I am going to list a few pointers down below; Remember this is targeted at those who are tackling weight gain, if you just want to maintain or you want to gain then the points listed below won’t be relevant

Remember your body has slowed down its metabolism and therefore you don’t need the same amount of food that you have been eating. So e.g. if you have been taking in 2000 calories as your daily intake, your body probably needs a little less than that now, you can check your current TDEE (your total daily energy expenditure) on a number of online websites ( e.g. bodybuilding.com) but I have to say these numbers are rarely accurate and generally just good as a guideline as the only way we can measure your body’s metabolic needs is on very expensive machines.

I found that my TDEE dropped by about 400 calories, from 2000 to 1600. Now that may not sound a lot but if I am still eating 2000 calories daily as I used to then of course over time, I will put on weight which is exactly what happened. When I adjusted my calories to around 1600 I stopped gaining but to maintain I also still need to exercise regularly.

Exercise will stoke your metabolism so you need to exercise regularly, I try to do 10,000 steps 5 days a week and have 3 hourly sessions of resistance training,

This combination will help to keep your weight in check. There are also some other points to note;

  • Reduce stress
  • Get good quality sleep
  • Drink enough water, at least 2 litres daily
  • Avoid processed foods and trans fats
  • Reduce your sugar intake
  • Eat plenty of and a mixture of fruits and vegetables