Weight and body fat redistribution in menopause
Whose belly is this?
This was never how my body looked or felt.
And you’re right, of course. The body you had, knew, loved, and lived in is changing and behaving in a new way due to the change in hormone levels. In this life, so far, you’ve never yet been this age and your body is going through a significant change… sometimes referred to as “THE Change.”
The Big M and Body Fat Redistribution
During and after menopause, weight redistribution, mostly fat redistribution, occurs in the belly area, rather than the thighs or rear. So whether you’re just entering perimenopause, or you’ve been on the path for a while, a change in hormone levels means change throughout your body: mood, skin, sex drive, body composition, the works.
What’s actually happening with weight redistribution?
The estrogen hormone levels are decreasing in your body. If you’ve experienced premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, you know mood can change when hormones do. Plus, water retention, migraines or headaches, and cramps.
Similar in that we’re still talking about hormones (estrogen, specifically), but different in that your body’s estrogen flow is decreasing over time, you may experience a whole new lineup of symptoms. Yeah, sorry about that.
Scientists are still learning about how estrogen affects the body, but allow us to clarify that estrogen is indeed a powerhouse. It’s the hormone that has a lot to do with texture and moisture in your skin; changes in your weight, and indeed, in how and where fat deposits “land” on your body. Hips and thighs pre-menopause; post-menopause, most likely, your belly.
The main health issue for this annoying, yet common, the phenomenon is in how much weight is now part of your new middle. More fat deposits in your belly area may present an increased risk for heart disease in women and metabolic syndrome.
Weight redistribution can be alarming and stressful. A flood of emotions may swell in like frustration, anger (okay, rage), resentment, even grief, and sadness. Some of this change does indeed constitute a loss. The body you had is not the body you are living in now.
Working with, instead of railing against
Though we have no actual say or control over how the body acclimates to the new levels of estrogen, we can, however, embrace and support our bodies with the information we do have and by taking good care of our mental, emotional, and physical health day-to-day.
We get a lot done in a day as mothers, daughters, caregivers, sisters, leaders, partners or spouses, business owners, workers, and the list go on and on. Our bodies take us through incredibly busy days and have specific needs in order to maintain excellent (or even good) health: drinking clean water; regular movement and stretching; good, nutritious food at regular intervals; and relaxation and downtime.
As busy as we are, it’s a real struggle for many of us to prioritize what we need for self-care. Even taking a few deep breaths seems easily forgettable, though really helpful, in the face of other stresses and tasks. There are small things we can do that will lead to motivation for more self-care. What are they?
Let’s start with one of those deeeeep breaths and look at an opportunity that can present itself in many places: taking a few stairs. Maybe not even a whole case, but a few.
Self-care inspires more self-care
You may not feel inclined, inspired, or motivated to exercise or build muscle strength. It’s understandable, especially if you’re also navigating your busy life with other new symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia, or anxiety.
Multiple symptoms can be exhausting. But did you know that a little self-care, including a good stretch, and a few exercises can really help you shift a lot of the negative or tired feelings toward more positive feelings?
Good feelings will beget more willingness and momentum… and more self-care.
Even if you don’t feel like taking the stairs, you may consider taking them on anyway. Why?
Even this small bit of effort can give you new energy, spark some self-esteem, and give you some inspiration to take even better care of yourself. If you’re winded at the top of the stairs, well, you’re already breathing deeper and taking in more oxygen. You’ve asked more of your muscles (which may be burning). You may also be inspired to take a long drink of water before (or instead of) an afternoon coffee or soda. As the day goes on, the good feelings from that single trip up a few of those stairs could inspire you to roast up and eat some extra veggies at dinner.
Who and what
Your physical body is changing, true. And how about taking a look at what else may support you physically as well as emotionally, mentally, and for some, spiritually as well.
Who might you find?
- Friends on their own meno-path: you’ll be able to share, vent, gripe, ask, and commiserate together.
- Post-menopausal women: friends, relatives, and even those in a community you haven’t met in person: wisdom around what comes next can give some real hope for hanging in there at this time. Also to hear that what you are experiencing is normal.
- Coaching or therapeutic support: depression and anxiety are real symptoms of menopause and help from a trusted coach, counselor, or therapist may help you to move through these changes with more ease, clarity, and support.
- Your doctor, or ours: check-in for tests, recommendations, and options that may ease your symptoms.
What could you do to build up your inner support system?
Identify a few activities you can accomplish each day that may help build momentum for more self-care:
- Take a few stairs when you find them
- Stretch your legs, arms, middle, and back while you’re waiting for your morning beverage to brew
- Get a few extra sips of water into your beautiful body
- Develop a gratitude practice and take a few moments to enjoy it
Infuse energy into your body and mind:
- Lift something heavy, and do it safely. Some women put a kettlebell near their front door and do a few lifts going in or out when they don’t have anything in their hands. Dance break! Even 30 seconds can feel fun and silly, but that can translate to energy.
- Got a favorite song? Sing the chorus out loud. Yes, really loud! Take some space, fill it with your voice… you'll feel more energy too.
- Make time for meditation or say your mantras for support and affirmation
If you make it a game and stay curious about what else you can do in these small ways, you'll always win. And you'll feel better.
So look for opportunities to keep all forms of your health in good order with tasks along the way. You don’t need an hour for each thing… just a moment in some cases. Celebrate your whole glorious self, menopause belly and all. You are so much more than the changes you are experiencing.
What do you do to make yourself feel glorious? Because belly fat or no, you are glorious! We'd love to hear more about how you're supporting yourself through this time of change. Please join the Gennev community forums and share!
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