I don’t remember when or where I heard the term “meno potbelly,” but I immediately recognized the brilliance of the term, and now I share it frequently with patients and friends. One day, I looked in the mirror and was horrified to see that I, too, had developed the dreaded abdominal bulge. Here are some strategies I use myself and recommend to my patients to keep that Homer Simpson-like paunch at bay.
How Did This Happen?
Here’s how I explain the Meno Potbelly to my patients:
- As we age we naturally lose lean muscle mass. Pound for pound lean muscle burns more calories for fuel than other tissue.
- The same number of calories taken in will now produce a little extra fat, which doesn’t weigh as much as muscle or water.
- Women can eat the same number of calories, be losing muscle mass and replacing it with fat, so the scale doesn’t change – yet we see more fat.
- Around menopause, some of the excess fat deposited around the body decides to have a big family reunion at the waist. So seemingly overnight, women wake up to Meno Potbelly.
- The more fat in the midsection the more likely your body isn’t metabolizing carbohydrates as efficiently, which can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
- And, to make things worse, that fat sends out more of the hormone ghrelin to the brain, which acts to increase appetite.
When we look at what we eat, we also have to pay attention to how our bodies use the calories and nutrients from carbohydrates for fuel or for storage. Some carbs are more likely to lead to fat deposits, and some are used more quickly for energy with little leftover to be converted to fat.
You Can Lose the Meno Potbelly!
So, losing weight around menopause requires a combination of three things. Ready for the secrets?
First, eliminate emotional eating by increasing awareness of what and why you eat. Second, build up more lean muscle mass with resistance and weight training. Third, eat smaller portions throughout the day for fuel and reduce your carbohydrate intake. The trick is to figure out how to have your favorite foods, enjoy and savor them, consciously deciding when the taste and the amount you have consumed has satisfied your physical hunger.
I am inviting you to look back on the last 24 hours and ask yourself what you ate and what was going on when you made the choices you made. Were you physically hungry? Did you eat just enough or a bit too much? Did it taste so great you wanted more? Could you have been physically satisfied with half or one-third the amount?
Many women who walk regularly, bike, or even take an aerobics class wonder why this doesn’t seem to be enough. It is difficult to build up lean muscle mass from just aerobic activity. What’s necessary is to use weights and resistance training when working out to build muscle. Yes, it means getting weights and resistant bands to use at home, learning how to use the machines at the gym, finding a strength training class, or a weights + cardio combo. Start light and slow and emphasize good body mechanics. Do take advantage of trainers and gym staff for advice and guidance.
It’s never too late to get healthier. You will not only look and feel better with less belly fat, but you’ll also be at less risk for diabetes and heart disease. It’s not going to happen overnight, but with more mindful eating, fewer carbs, and more weight training, and patience–you can absolutely be trimmer, leaner, and stronger.
You can find more details on the science behind the Meno Potbelly as well as healthy diet plans and success stories in my book, The Hot Guide to a Cool, Sexy Menopause.