Menopause is a natural part of aging. And it's normal for this hormonal transition to lead to weight gain. But if your goal is to lose that weight, knowing how to get rid of menopause belly fat can help.
Menopause begins when your menstrual cycle stops (usually between ages 45 and 55) due to a natural reduction in female reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone, per the National Institute on Aging (NIA). And menopause is called a transition for a reason — the entire process can take seven or more years.
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During menopause, weight gain is common as your body adapts to processing energy differently, according to the NIA. You may also experience other symptoms in addition to weight gain, such as:
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- Pain during sex
- Decreased bone strength
But if you're wondering how to get your waist back after menopause, here are tips for how to get rid of menopausal belly fat.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Strategies to help you lose weight during menopause are much the same as losing weight during other stages of life. And eating a nutritious menopause diet is one important tactic.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you craft the best diet for tackling menopause belly fat.
1. Decrease Your Calories
People experiencing menopause may gain stomach fat as visceral fat, which is fat found within your abdominal wall, according to the Mayo Clinic. This type of fat surrounds your internal organs and is linked to conditions like heart disease.
Fortunately, that visceral fat is among the first fat you'll burn when you start to lose weight, per the Cleveland Clinic. And one way to do that is to create a daily calorie deficit, which is when you eat fewer calories than you burn.
A daily deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories will help you lose weight at the safe and sustainable rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week, according to the Mayo Clinic. To determine how many calories you should eat each day for weight loss, just subtract your ideal deficit from your current daily calorie intake.
What Are Your Baseline Calorie Needs?
According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, this is how many calories people assigned female at birth (AFAB) should eat per day, based on activity level:
- Not physically active: 1,600 calories
- Moderately active: 1,800 calories
- Active: 2,000 to 2,200 calories
2. Get Enough Protein
You start to lose muscle as you age, per the Mayo Clinic. But eating plenty of protein can help offset that muscle loss. As a bonus, it can also help fuel your activity throughout the day, including another key component of any weight-loss endeavor — exercise.
Solid sources of protein include:
- Lean meats like chicken and turkey
- Fish like salmon and tuna
- Soy products like tofu or tempeh
- Nuts and seeds
- Protein-rich grains like quinoa
- Dairy products like yogurt or cottage cheese
People AFAB who are ages 50 and older should eat 5 to 6 ounce equivalents of protein a day, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. An ounce equivalent is the amount of protein that "counts" as an ounce, such as an egg, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a quart cup of cooked beans and a half ounce of nuts, per the USDA.
3. Fill Up on Fiber
Fiber is another important nutrient when it comes to feeling your best and losing weight. It supports good digestion, normalizes bowel movements and helps stabilize blood sugar levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Fiber may also help support weight loss because its filling, meaning you'll feel satisfied for longer and may not eat excess calories.
Fiber-rich foods to include in your diet for menopause and belly fat include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains like oatmeal and spelt
4. Limit or Avoid Processed Foods
High-calorie processed foods may contribute to weight gain without supplying you any additional nutrients, per the Mayo Clinic. It's best to limit or avoid foods such as:
- Refined carbs like white bread
- Foods with added sugars, like soda or condiments
- Fried foods
- Baked goods
Avoid eating fewer than 1,200 calories a day (unless under your doctor's supervision), because it can deprive you of essential nutrients, per Harvard Health Publishing.
Frequent exercise is another crucial part of how to get rid of menopause belly fat. Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Try Cardio
Increasing your activity level means you'll burn more calories each day, which can contribute to your daily calorie deficit. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week (or 75 minutes of intense cardio).
That doesn't mean you need to spend hours on the elliptical or treadmill — a brisk walk around your neighborhood counts as moderate-intensity exercise. Other cardio activities include:
- Water aerobics
- Gardening and other yard work
Try low-impact cardio activities like water walking or swimming to have fun and burn calories without all the stress on your joints that comes with higher-impact workouts like running.
2. Don't Forget Strength Training
As you get older, your muscle mass and bones begin to deteriorate, per the Mayo Clinic. Besides eating plenty of protein, strength training is a key way to preserve muscle and bone strength, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults do two strength-training sessions per week.
Not sure where to begin? Work with a fitness professional to design a safe and effective strength-building program customized to your mobility, flexibility, balance and goals. Here are some common types of strength training you may want to try:
- Weight lifting
- Circuit training
- Isometric training
Weight loss doesn't have to be your motivation when it comes to workouts — the mental health benefits of exercise are important, too. Activity can help lift your mood, reduce depression and ease stress, per a January 2013 study in the Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, all of which are important for your wellbeing during menopause and beyond.
- National Institute on Aging: "What Is Menopause?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- Mayo Clinic: "3 diet changes women over 50 should make right now"
- USDA: "What counts as an ounce in the Protein Foods Group?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Q&A: The Truth About That Beer Belly"
- Mayo Clinic: "Belly fat in women: Taking — and keeping — it off"
- Mayo Clinic: "Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"
- Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health: "Exercise and Physical Activity in Mental Disorders: Clinical and Experimental Evidence"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.