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Nine tips to minimise excess belly fat gain during menopause
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Nine tips to minimise excess belly fat gain during menopause

Menopause triggers weight gain, especially around the abdomen. However, this can be managed with healthy lifestyle habits

Menopause triggers weight gain, especially around the abdomen, which could be managed with healthy lifestyle

Menopause is a natural biological phase in a woman’s life marking the end of her menstrual cycles. This often comes with significant changes and unwelcome complications, such as weight gain. Dr Sudeep P Manohar, consultant, endocrinology, Apollo Specialty Hospital, Bangalore, explains, “As women age, estrogen and progesterone levels decline, affecting the metabolism and leading to a redistribution of fat, often accumulating around the abdomen.” And while weight gain during perimenopause and menopause is common, it can be minimized by following a healthy lifestyle.

Why menopause causes weight gain

Aging, lifestyle and genetics are the major factors contributing to weight gain. Dr Krutika Ramdin, consultant, obstetrics and gynecology, SRV Hospitals, Goregaon, Mumbai, adds, “During menopause, hormonal fluctuations can cause an increase in appetite and lead to cravings for high-calorie foods.” Changes in lifestyle and physical activity levels during this phase may also contribute to weight gain.

Dr Manohar also explains that since menopause usually occurs in women around the age of 40–50 years, and muscle loss is common as one ages, the metabolism slows down. Dr Asha Dalal, Director, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Well Woman Centre, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai, adds that during menopause, the caloric requirement decreases while dietary habits often remain unchanged. “Lifestyle factors, like lack of exercise, also cause weight gain,” she adds.

Lifestyle tips to lose weight during menopause

Hormonal fluctuations during menopause can lead to symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings and sleep disturbances, which can make it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Dr Manohar says that while hormonal fluctuations are natural and can lead to weight gain, you can control this. Further, adding simple practices to your daily routine can help with weight loss. These include:

1. Get adequate sleep

“It is essential to sleep for seven to nine hours, as insufficient sleep can impact hormones related to hunger and stress, potentially hindering weight loss efforts,” says Dr Ramdin. Following sleep hygiene practices also helps improve sleep quality.

2. Manage stress

It is important to try and manage stress, as it can increase menopausal symptoms and lead to weight gain. “Adopt stress management techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises,” says Dr Ramdin. This can further support hormonal balance.

3. Manage hot flashes

“Strategies such as dressing in layers, staying hydrated, and avoiding triggers like spicy foods or caffeine help manage hot flashes,” says Dr Ramdin. Managing this symptom can make it easier to lead a healthy lifestyle and help in avoiding weight gain.

4. Exercise regularly

Regular exercising is essential to lose weight during menopause. “Engaging in strength training during menopause can improve body composition, increase strength and replace fat with lean muscles,” says Dr Ramdin. She adds that preserving lean muscle mass is important for metabolism. As a part of a healthy lifestyle, women can make weekly fitness plans that include walking briskly for at least 150–200 minutes or practicing vigorous aerobic activity like jogging for 75 minutes. Further, strength training exercises are recommended at least twice a week.

Experts explain that low-impact options like walking, swimming and yoga are gentler on the body. Moreover, opting for shorter and more frequent sessions may be more feasible than longer workouts.

5. Eat healthy

Dr Thejaswini J, consultant, obstetrician and gynecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Bangalore, explains that it is important to avoid processed food and sugar and maintain a healthy diet to lose weight during menopause. Instead, one should include fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants essential for overall health. Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole wheat bread provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals, while lean protein like poultry, fish, tofu, legumes, and lean cuts of meat supply essential amino acids crucial for muscle health. Healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil are beneficial for heart health, while dairy or its alternatives are a rich source of calcium and vitamin D.

Dr Manohar explains that in India, where the carbohydrate intake is very high, a low-carb diet could help menopausal women. “Incorporating phytoestrogen-containing foods such as chickpeas, peanuts, berries and barley can aid weight loss,” adds Dr Ramdin.

6. Stay hydrated

Water plays a vital role in digestion, nutrient absorption and maintaining various bodily functions. Dr Ramdin stresses, “Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay well-hydrated. Sometimes, the body can mistake thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated can help control unnecessary snacking.”

7. Eat mindfully

“Avoid excess snacking even if you are munching on healthier options like nuts, as this leads to the consumption of extra calories,” says Dr Manohar. Experts advise time-restricted eating to avoid gaining weight during menopause. People can also finish their dinner early as the prolonged fasting period also resets the metabolism.

Apart from having a balanced diet, one should pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. Dr Ramdin says, “You can be more aware of portion sizes by avoiding distractions while eating. Moreover, managing portion sizes and being mindful of calorie intake helps manage one’s weight.” Focusing on nutrient-dense whole foods and incorporating smaller but more frequent meals can help navigate changes in appetite as one tries to avoid menopausal weight gain.

8. Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation

Experts point out that excess alcohol consumption could lead to fat deposition in the abdominal cavity, which could lead to numerous health complications including excess abdominal fat and an even higher risk of liver disease. By cutting back on alcohol or avoiding it altogether, one can lose weight during menopause.

9. Regular health checkups

“For women facing severe hot flushes and low mood, menopausal hormonal therapy may be recommended by healthcare professionals to provide targeted relief and support,” says Dr Ramdin. Dr Dalal adds that if one has any hormonal complications like thyroid, their doctors can recommend the right medication to manage the condition. Dr Thejaswini adds that in case of any complications, doctors can recommend supplements and alternative medicines, which can also help them focus on losing weight during menopause.

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