If you are frustrated by stubborn belly fat, you're not alone! It's a common aspect of menopause, affecting not only the way we feel and look in clothing, but also our health risk profile. So what is the story: Is there any way we can defeat it?
First, the facts. In 2012 the International Menopause Society conducted a large review of decades of research and concluded that the hormonal shifts of menopause trigger a redistribution of body fat, causing it to accumulate in the abdomen. Last year, researchers at the Mayo Clinic compared fat tissue in pre- and postmenopausal women and found that at the cellular level two enzymes that work to store fat were more active in the postmenopausal women, primarily because of the drop in estrogen.
While it's been documented that women gain an average of ten pounds as the metabolism slows down around the time of menopause, studies also show they can lose weight through diet and exercise. As published in the journal Menopause in 2012, one study randomly assigned 17,000 postmenopausal women to either a control group or one that was put on a healthy diet emphasizing foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. After a year the healthy diet group had fewer hot flashes and was three times as likely to have lost weight.
Another study called the Women's Healthy Lifestyle Project followed 535 premenopausal women as they went through menopause. About half of them were assigned to follow a low-calorie diet and to burn an extra 1000 to 1500 calories a week through physical activity. After five years the women in the diet and exercise group saw greater reductions in their waist lines and were more likely to have remained at or below their starting weight.
So the proof is in the pudding! We can beat belly fat by tightening our belts and increasing our exercise output. Create a lifestyle routine to cut unnecessary calories, make healthy food choices, rev up your cardio in terms of both volume and intensity, and lift weights to boost your metabolism.
(A reported by Anahad O'Connor in the Ask Well column of the NewYork Times, 4/1/14)