Lose the Belly Fat After Menopause: 6 Ways to Stay Trim

By any name – muffin top, roll-over, kugel or roll—many women struggle with losing belly fat after menopause. But it doesn't have to be that way!
Group of senior adults doing yoga exercise in community center club

Can’t close your favorite pants? Struggling to zip up your special skirt? Hope is not lost. You’re about to discover 6 simple "secrets" that may provide the motivation you need in order to lose post-menopause belly fat.

What’s the True Cause?

Why do women's middles become so thick with age? During fertile years, estrogen prevents fat from depositing around the belly; ensuring organs have space available for pregnancy. But when estrogen levels drop, the hormonal protection is lost. Many women experience weight gain during menopause due to the decrease in estrogen levels. Estrogen is a hormone that helps to regulate metabolism and appetite, so when it decreases, you may find yourself craving high-fat and sugary foods. You may also find it harder to lose weight, even if you are eating and exercising the same as you always have.

Suddenly it seems like someone else's belly has been pasted onto the torso. To make matters worse, a slowing metabolism makes weight loss seem impossible. This means that we burn fewer calories and tend to store more fat. The tactics that worked in youth might not help now. But there are ways to fight back.

Here's what the latest science tells us about losing belly fat after menopause.

Secret 1: Strength Training

As we get older, we lose muscle mass in our bodies. That's a problem for weight loss and for fat build up. Muscle burns more calories than fat. Losing muscle tissue slows our metabolism down around the clock.

What can you do? Build muscle mass by weightlifting. Do resistance training with the weight of your body - such as yoga. As you build more muscle, your metabolism will speed up. You’ll burn more calories from the exercise, as well as while resting.

In a 2016 study cited by Menopause Review, women in their 50s and 60s who did two hours a week of strength training were able to reduce their body fat significantly. As a bonus, they reported less pain and a better sense of well-being.

Secret 2: Eat a Low-Fat Diet

Low-fat diets may have gotten a bad rap lately. The current trend is to focus on reducing carbs. But different diets work for different bodies at different times of life.

For post-menopausal women, low-fat may still be the best option. One study followed 17,000 women, all past menopause. The study found that they were three times more likely to lose fat post-menopause by following a low-fat diet. Impressive, right? If you’re inspired to get results, aim for keeping your fat intake at 20 percent of your calories or below.

Don’t forget to be mindful of the kinds of food you eat as well. Aim for ones with “healthy fats” such as avocadoes or fatty fish and stay away from foods that seniors should avoid like trans fats.

Secret 3: Step Up Your Workouts

Focused older woman in plank position on top of a mat in a gym room

Obviously, staying young and energetic should help you lose belly fast after menopause, but what exactly should you do? If you're already walking, swimming, or doing some other cardio exercise regularly, you may need to increase your intensity to see results. Adding high-intensity intervals to your workout can make a difference.

A University of Scranton study on postmenopausal women confirmed the impact. That study found that the women who did just 10 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) five times a week lost double the weight of women who were following a more low-key exercise routine.

To get the benefits of HIIT, do 20-60 second bursts of high-intensity activity with 2 minutes of lower-intensity activity in between. What's high-intensity? It means you can breathe comfortably (not gasping for air), but you'd rather not try to talk or sing. Start with 20-second bursts and work up to 60-second ones.

Secret 4: Eat Starches Last

According to a study published in the Diabetes Care Journal, it's a good idea to start each meal with protein and vegetables. Defer eating any starches, like potatoes or rice, to the end of the meal.

Eating this way keeps your blood sugar and insulin levels down, which will help keep you fuller longer.

You may already be familiar with this. Eating a vegetable soup or salad is a simple way to start heading in this direction.

Secret 5: Try Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting and meal planning concept with alarm clock sitting atop empty plate

This trendy diet term simply means that you go for long enough periods without eating. This method provides a time gap for your body to burn fat for fuel. You don’t change the content of ‘what’ you’re eating, just the timing.

There are a variety of ‘fasting’ alternatives.

Some of the more intense approaches call for whole days where you eat very little, alternating with regular eating days. A gentler approach is to limit all your eating to an 8-12 hour period each day. If you have breakfast at 8 am, make sure your last meal happens between 4 pm and 8 pm and shut down the kitchen after that.

Bonus: Evening snackers often find that this "cold-turkey" approach is easier for them than trying to manage portion sizes and willpower after dinner.

Secret 6: Get Enough Rest

Hot flashes and other menopause symptoms can wreak havoc on your sleep patterns, and that lack of sleep prevents weight loss.

The best way to improve your sleep pattern is to put yourself on a regular schedule, give up "screen time" an hour before bedtime, and reduce stressful news or input before bed. You may want to try meditation techniques to help you learn how to quiet your mind so you can rest. If none of that is working for you, be sure to talk to your doctor to explore options.

Assistance Club Summary

Losing belly fat after menopause can be challenging. But with these 6 secrets, you’ve got the tools you need to change the course. These 6 methods are proven to help you make progress in your weight loss journey.

For more ways for seniors to stay healthy, make sure to check out the other articles on Senior Assistance Club!