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Does anyone else feel the same?
This question came from a member of my Peri/Menopause Trim Healthy Mama Community.
No, I'm not going to tell you to start running, and I'm not going to encourage you to exercise more. Or eat less.
But there are multiple things that contribute to that spare tire/muffin top you are seeing. And a lot of it has to do with your age and your hormones.
Extra fat is frustrating and a health risk for women, especially in midlife.
The fat you see around your middle is most likely visceral fat, and it is dangerous because it wraps around our organs, putting us at a higher risk for heart disease. It’s time to quit working against your body with too much exercise and not enough calories.
So, relax; I won't tell you to start running. And I won't ask you to exercise more and eat less. But what I do want to help you understand is that cortisol plus insulin equals belly fat.
Fat is not just a frustrating thing you have on your body that you don't like.
It is a health risk for women, especially in midlife.
The type of fat that we have in midlife is called visceral fat. And that's different from subcutaneous (under the skin) fat. Visceral fat is dangerous fat that's wrapped around our organs. And it puts us at risk for heart disease.
Your hormones play a massive role in how your fat is being stored and used. And in midlife, certain hormones, like estrogen, are declining. This causes a problem with your waistline because estrogen opposes cortisol.
When cortisol levels are slightly higher because estrogen is lower and we have extra stressors in life, it will cause belly fat. Your cortisol levels increase, as well as insulin, and this causes your body to store fat.
But when we're talking about fat storage, here are some things that can contribute to higher cortisol levels that you want to observe and take action on.
The list can be long, but let's start breaking down how you can support your body to stop storing fat and start burning it.
While taking a pill and seeing the fat melt off would be nice, that isn't a realistic or holistic way to treat your body.
Choose to see your body needing your loving attention, not your punishment and berating.
Now that we've established lifestyle changes you can make to melt belly fat let's look at how to eat for better fat loss.
Are you getting enough E (Trim Healthy Mama Energizing Meals) meals?
These meals bless your body with healthy carbohydrates, protein, and a little fat. I always love to add fiber to that meal as well.
E meals are going to help your thyroid, and they're going to support your adrenals. Healthy Carbs work to increase your energy and give your body the glucose it needs. Low-glycemic carbs like those in our Trim Healthy meals help turn on fat burning.
Having carbohydrates in the morning can help reduce cortisol levels. And the good carbohydrates to focus on are the ones that are slow-burning complex carbohydrates, such as oats or quinoa, lentils, sweet potatoes, and potatoes; yes, you can actually have those for breakfast too.
Carbs in the morning with 20 to 30 grams of protein is a great way to start your day.
Slow-burning THM-friendly carbs help regulate your blood sugar for the rest of the day. These carbs nourish your hormones and thyroid and give you energy.
Your body needs protein and will start talking to you if insufficient.
Keeping your blood sugar balanced is critical to supporting your hormones, reducing cortisol, and enabling your body to shed extra weight.
Eating foods with white sugar and white flour and drinking excess alcohol or caffeine will spike blood sugar, which can be stressful and raise cortisol levels.
I mentioned earlier that over-exercising can be just as detrimental to your body as not exercising.
So in looking at belly fat, strength training will be beneficial, not necessarily to reduce cortisol levels, but to increase muscle mass so that you burn more calories at rest.
In midlife, you replace muscle with fat if you're not doing something about it.
And the only way that you can build muscle and turn your body into a fat-burning machine is heavy lifting; that's weight training.
Start with bodyweight exercises to get your form set well, and then move to dumbbells. You want to lift heavy enough weight to overload the muscle and bring it to fatigue.
Are you in adrenal fatigue? Are you tired? Is your thyroid messed up or sluggish? Have you been overdoing exercise?
If any of these are true, restoring and recovering must be your focus.
Take weightlifting and cardio off the table. This is a time to choose restorative movements to enable your body to lower cortisol levels and heal.
Choose restorative exercises like Pilates, Yoga, or the Trim Healthy Workins. You want to keep things less intense and allow your body to recover.
Your body is less resilient in midlife and needs more recovery time.
Supporting your hormones and losing unwanted belly fat is more about listening to your body and your needs than pushing through to do "hard" things.
Be mindful because you're working with shifting cortisol levels as estrogen decreases.
Moving through menopause and midlife is the perfect time to choose care for your body over complacency or condemnation.
Listen to what your body needs you to do and go through everything I've mentioned above to see what you can do to shift. You can avoid the menopause belly and lose it, but it does take time and patience. It does take focusing and being intentional about it. But you can. Start now.