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Menopause Causes Belly Fat - And What to Do

woman with belly fat

Going through menopause? Or perimenopause? Gaining weight and body fat around the middle?

Just the other day I got another email from a reader who's concerned about the 25 pound weight gain she's accumulated since she went through menopause. I hear this all the time...and frankly, struggled with this myself.

Weight gain during menopause is quite common.

One study found that a woman's metabolism during this time in her life can decrease by about 300 calories a day! In other words, if you don't make any diet or exercise changes, this decrease can lead to a 30 pound weight gain over a year's time!

Here are the three steps that I advise women to take to treat or prevent belly fat and weight gain.

1. Reset Your Calorie Intake 

As mentioned earlier, weight gain occurs because of the decrease in our metabolism during menopause.
This is not the only time this has happened. My guess is that you had to make dietary changes as you moved from your schooling years when you were very an office job which was mostly sedentary.
For me, this reset seems to happen every 10 years or so. I had to reset again when I turned 30 and 40 and 50. You too? This is no different.
Look at your menopausal years as just another period where we need to make another "reset" of your daily habits.
But, instead of going on a "diet", start becoming more conscious of what you're eating. Simply jot down what you're eating every day, noting the time of the day and the portions.
Then, take a look at the list and see where you can make what I call are some "no big deal" changes. No Big Deal Changes are those that are the easiest to make.
For example, could you cut back on your soda intake? Could you use a lower calorie creamer in your coffee - or cut it out completely? Are you eating too many chips or too many snacks? Are you grazing all day without even realizing what you're eating?
You don't have to even count calories...just the conscious act of writing it down helps us to be more aware of what we're doing.
During this exercise, I usually find one thing that prompts me to say, "Oh, I can do without that...that's 'no big deal'."
What will be YOUR "No Big Deal" change?

2. Intensify Your Aerobic Workouts 

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is the best workout to reduce body fat, especially around your middle.
Here are two simple HIIT workouts that I practice (after a warm-up):
  1. One minute sprints followed by 1 minute of brisk walking. Then repeat 10 times.
  2. One minute of jump roping, followed by a minute of weights. Then repeat for a total of 20 minutes. This is what I call Dr. Jo's One-Minute Workout.  

What I like about HIIT is that you get a harder workout...but in less time. Just 20-30 minutes is often adequate - instead of slugging along for 60.

These workouts actually energize me more than longer, slower workouts. As always, check with your doctor before starting any new workout.

3. Power up Your Weight Workouts 

Muscles burn more calories than body fat. So, the only way to get your metabolism back up, is to increase your muscle mass through resistance workouts.

But don't let that get you down. Realize that the more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism, and the more you can eat. YAY!!

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing two sets of weights with 8-12 reps each for each of the major muscle groups. Reps simply refer to the number of times you do each motion.

Major muscle groups include: hips and legs, quadriceps, hamstring, chest, back, shoulder, bicep, tricep, abs, lower back.

Increasing muscle mass requires heavy weights...for you, that is....a level that you can't really do for more than 12 reps without a rest.

You might want to get a trainer to help you get started (and of course, check with your doctor). Hey, if you're thinking you're too old to start lifting weights...check out this very short video of the World's Oldest Female BodyBuilder!! I want to be just like her when I grow up!

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