Bellying Up to Menopause: Exercise and Diet Changes to Whittle Your Middle

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • One of my least favorite things about midlife is what some call the “menopot” – the excess weight that causes a pot belly in some women as we enter perimenopause and menopause. “With estrogen levels in decline, your body becomes much more likely to store extra fat around the middle,” Cynthia Sass, RD writes in the February 2010 issue of More. The article adds that extra fat that’s stored in the belly increases the risk of heart disease because it can cause the body to increase blood pressure, blood sugar levels, triglycerides and inflammation.

     

    This tendency to store fat in the belly is compounded by the added stress that mid-life situations can bring. In my case, it was caregiving for a mother with Alzheimer’s disease and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as well as working and taking graduate classes. This type of added stress, according to Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz in “You: Staying Young”, may cause us to eat more than we need and store the additional fat in the omentum, an organ located in the belly area. This situation is dangerous because the toxins from the omentum fat are transported directly into the surrounding organs.

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    The More article suggests that regularly eating certain foods can have an impact on how your body distributes weight. The five recommended foods are:


    -    Tomatoes: This fruit is high in a variety of antioxidants (carotenoids, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lycopene). Research has shown that people that eat these particular antioxidants have smaller waists and less visceral and subcutaneous fat. Additionally, heating tomatoes increases the lypocene, making it easier for the body to absorb.


    -    Mushrooms: This fungi is a good source of vitamin D. Preliminary research indicates that not having enough vitamin D in your bloodstream makes it more difficult to lose weight; insufficient levels of this vitamin have been linked with obesity and abdominal fat. Another plus for eating this food is that some producers are exposing the fungi to ultraviolet light, which increases the amount of vitamin D.


    -    Raspberries: Research indicates that the antioxidant, raspberry ketone, prevents an increase in overall body and visceral fat. Also, raspberries’ antioxidant, anthocyanin, as well as its high level of fiber, can help control appetite.

     

    -    Coconut oil: Recent research suggests that this ingredient may help women lose belly fat and overall body weight, increase their “good” cholesterol, and lower the LDL to HDL ratios.


    -    Alaskan Pollock: This fish proved to be a potent inhibitor of visceral fat accumulation in research.


    Additional foods that also may be good in helping you fight the menopot, according to More’s website, include: tart cherries; avocados; egg whites; green tea; whole grains; and vinegar.


    Exercise also is a key factor in reducing belly fat. More pointed to two studies that suggested high-intensity exercise was key in helping reduce this fat. The article by Suzanne Schlosberg encouraged women to incorporate 2-3 sprint interval sessions a week with 2 more leisurely workouts that were longer. In addition, women were encouraged to do abdominal exercises, although sit-ups and crunches are now considered marginally effective in toning the midsection. Instead, women are encouraged to do a mixture of exercises that challenge the different abdominal muscles from multiple angles. These exercises can include the bicycle, the front plank and the ball crunch.


  • Sleep is also important to the fight against belly fat. Poor sleep can increase the hunger hormone ghrelin while limiting the satiety hormone, leptin, the More website noted.

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    Now that I think about it, I’ve noticed that when I do eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and sleep well, my belly tends to be flatter. With the information above, I now know that I need to “tweak” my routine to get the exercise and the nutrition that will make the difference in lowering my belly fat.

Published On: February 01, 2010