Certified Personal Trainer, Karen Marcouiller specializes in working with men and women who are 50 and older. She stopped by to talk about all things menopause in Today’s Be Well with TCL.
Why do we gain it and what role does menopause play?
As women reach menopause both our estrogen and metabolism decline. The two are connected. Estrogen contributes to metabolism slow down. When estrogen levels drop after menopause, we tend to gain visceral fat in our abdominal area. Visceral fat is deep down, out of reach and pads in between our abdominal organs. It is responsible for a variety of health problems, (much more so than subcutaneous fat, which is the kind you can grasp with your hand) – cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes.
Declining estrogen levels also affect our ability to sleep. Studies link sleeping less than five hours a night to abdominal weight gain. Sleep also increases the stress hormone, cortisol, which also increases the tendency to store fat in the abdominal area. Lack of sleep also impacts our hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, increased appetite, craving unhealthy foods (high calorie and high fat) and the tendency to overeat.
Loss of estrogen has also been linked to us becoming more sedentary. We all know that moving less increases the risk of weight gain, especially if we don’t adjust our food choices and portion sizes.
What can we, as women, do about it?
- Be aware of portion sizes and make sure they’re reasonable and compatible with your metabolism and activity level. Make sure you’re getting enough fiber to help you feel full and stay feeling full.
- Be conscious of mindless eating. When people start paying attention, they are sometimes amazed at how many calories they consume with snacks and beverages.
- Make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep.
- Turn the temperature down, make sure the room is dark and sound free, and try not to eat within a few hours before bedtime, so your body is not working to digest food when it’s supposed to be at rest.
Though there’s no way to “spot reduce” our belly fat, (when we lose fat is comes off our body evenly), there are some exercises that will help tone up the tummy area.
- Half seated reverse crunch: Lean back on elbows, bring knees in
- Leg in and out – seated: Hands facing forward on mat – bring knees and body together
- Mountain climbers
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