You may have noticed that as you reach your 40s and 50s, your waistline starts expanding even though you’re not eating any extra food and you haven’t reduced your activity level.
This is due to the hormones in your body changing, for example reducing levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. I noticed weight gain once I got into my 40s and after years of having a tiny waist I started develop fat around my belly.
At the time I believed it was the result of having children, which could have played a part, but it was also due to being peri-menopausal.
There are some strategies that you can use to reduce your expanding waistline, but you have to understand that when you are in your 40s and 50s you are going to have to work harder at getting in shape, than you did in your 20s and 30s.
Not only are your hormones potentially wreaking havoc on your weight, but you will no doubt like me, be experiencing hot flushes, night sweats, sleeplessness and fatigue which all in themselves can play a part in your body’s efficiency at burning fat.
Here are my top tips for burning menopause belly fat:
- Cut out foods with refined sugar. I know that if you’re like me and you have a sweet tooth, this is going to seem really hard, but if I can do it, you can too. Once you stop eating sugary foods like sweets, chocolate, cakes and sugary drinks you will reduce your sugar cravings and won’t really miss it. When you were younger you could get away with a few sugary treats but for most older women that is no longer an option. Ideally, cut out sugar altogether and if you need to eat something sweet, reach for fresh or dried fruit. There are also some sugar substitutes like honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and dates, but keep the amounts quite low as they are still high in (albeit) natural sugars and therefore calories. Instead you should opt for Stevia, Xylitol or Erythritol. Please note that alcohol is also a sugar so you should cut down to the occasional drink or ideally don’t drink alcohol at all.
- Stick to a natural, whole food diet and cut out all process foods and refined carbohydrates. So anything that you haven’t made yourself from scratch is generally a processed food. Now I am not suggesting that you make your own bread, but try to opt for the best quality wholemeal bread. Do you get where I’m going? So you shouldn’t be eating food like sausages, chicken nuggets, pizzas etc. For example your breakfast would be oats or eggs and wholemeal toast. Lunch a piece of chicken, fish or tofu with fresh veggies, good carbohydrates like a wholemeal tortilla or rice with healthy fats like nuts, olive oil or avocado. You can even have butter. I will write more about the best diet for older women in a separate blog.
- Reduce your stress levels. Too much stress can increase your cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone and plays a significant part in weight gain. If you are, for example, not sleeping and you are experiencing high levels of stress, you are going to experience weight gain. Look at relaxation techniques like mindfulness, yoga is great or even just sitting and reading a book or watching a movie. Whatever works for you and helps you relax then do it. My other passion (other than fitness!) is music and dancing. This helps me unwind and relax, so it’s whatever works for you – try to incorporate it into your life.
- Focus on weight lifting and high intensity interval training (HIIT) as your exercise. Are you doing hours and hours of cardio like running or the cross trainer at the gym and not seeing results? As you get older you are going to reap less benefit from lots of cardio. Your body is losing muscle as you get older so you need to get into the weights area in the gym and start putting the muscle back on. You will not get bulky! I have become leaner and reduced my scale weight and dress size since lifting weights. You will achieve a much more ‘toned’ look which includes a smaller waist and tightening those saggy areas. You can read more about the benefits of weight lifting for women here. Add in HIIT cardio, which is much more effective at burning fat than low intensity steady state cardio. An example of this would be running flat out for 30 seconds on the treadmill then one minute walking and repeating this for 10 -15 minutes. You can do this on any machine in the gym, like the bike, rower or cross trainer or do sprint intervals outside. You can read more about the benefits of HIIT workouts here.
SIDE NOTE: If you can’t or really don’t want to do HIIT training (but I would highly recommend that you do) then by all means walk, swim, do a spin class or whatever works for you. I am not staying stop doing other forms of activity that you enjoy, but make weights and HIIT your main focus.
If you would like to find out more about how to get rid of belly fat you can ready my bog here: How to burn belly fat and get abs