Whether you’re in perimenopause (the 2-10 years leading up to menopause) or you’re in the throes of menopause itself, you may notice an increased weight gain—, particularly around your middle.
The menopause belly even has some cute names for the not-so-cute tummy situation you might find yourself in: menopause apron, menopause apron belly, the menopause hanging pouch, and the pendulous abdomen.
If you can relate, don’t be concerned. Many women gain a “menopause belly” in their 40s and 50s. We know it can be extremely frustrating to try and work it off.
Here’s the deal: in order to lose belly fat in menopause, you have to take other factors into consideration aside from daily exercise.
Are you eating the right foods? Are you doing things to keep your hormones in balance? Don’t feel powerless in menopause! It’s important to keep a positive mindset during this change. Now let’s explore nine natural things you can do to diminish that pesky menopausal belly fat.
You might also like these workouts: The Best At-Home Workouts For Women
Why Many Women Gain Belly Fat In Menopause
Hormones and Body Fat
During menopause, your hormones get thrown out of whack. Your estrogen levels plummet, and body fat that used to settle around the hips, thighs, or butt now tends to settle around your middle.
In menopause, your progesterone also decreases, which contributes to elevated cortisol levels in the body. Elevated cortisol can cause you to gain that so-called menopause belly. (As if hot flashes weren’t enough, right?)
Weight Gain and Metabolism
You may have unknowingly become a bit more sedentary as you’ve aged into your 40s and 50s as well, making weight gain all the more common. Your metabolism slows down as you lose muscle, and aches and pains or a busy schedule may keep you from exercising as frequently.
All of these factors can contribute to an increase in abdominal fat during your menopausal years.
Subcutaneous vs. Visceral Fat in Menopause
Belly fat isn’t just annoying, it can be linked to poor health factors. The fat you can pinch is called subcutaneous fat. But the fat that appears around your stomach is often visceral fat, which is fat that surrounds your organs within your abdominal wall.
This type of fat puts you at an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems. High levels of visceral fat can result in increased insulin resistance, which may lead to glucose intolerance and even type 2 diabetes.
You might also be interested in:
Embracing A Positive Mindset During Menopause
Best Strength Training for Women Over 50: 11 Moves
The Best Core Exercises for Seniors
You want to minimize your belly fat not just to look and feel your best but to stay healthy for years to come.
How to Get Rid of Menopausal Belly Fat
Here are nine tips to help you get rid of your menopausal belly:
1. Start Your Day With ACV or Lemon Water
Kick-start your body’s natural detoxification process first thing in the morning by drinking a glass of water with lemon or apple cider vinegar in it.
The acetic acid in the vinegar helps your body burn fat and rids your body of toxins. It also gives you a little energy boost to start your day.
The benefits of apple cider vinegar or lemon in your water are endless! Just add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar, or slice a lemon and squeeze it into your water.
2. Add Strength Training To Your Workouts
According to the CDC, you need 150 minutes of cardio each week to stay healthy. Many women get the cardio part right but don’t add the strength training part to their routine.
If you don’t add strength training into your life, your metabolism won’t work as effectively as it could. The more muscle you have on your body, the faster your metabolism works, making weight loss easier (nice!)
And after the age of 30, you start to lose muscle mass if you’re not actively replacing it. Do your part to keep your body strong and your metabolism revved by strength training at least three times per week!
You can use your own body weight with moves like push-ups, lunges, and squats or use dumbbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands. Try the below exercises for menopause belly and overall strength!
Related: Beginner’s Guide To Strength Training
3. Cut Back On Sweets
Excess sugar is not your friend – especially if you want to get rid of menopause belly fat. Eating too much refined, added sugar is not only unhealthy but can cause you to cling to stubborn belly fat.
Start by eliminating any sugary beverages or sodas—then focus on reserving your intake of sugary foods like cakes, cookies, or ice cream for special occasions.
Natural sugar, like the kind found in fruit, is not an issue because it’s accompanied by fiber—and when you eat fiber with natural sugar, your body can process it more slowly.
It’s those spikes and crashes from artificial sugar that is harder on your body—they cause an insulin rise, and too much insulin can cause excess blood sugar to be stored as belly fat.
So in short, keep eating fruit and skip all the processed, added sugars.
4. Eat Smaller Meals More Often
Another way to manage your blood sugar and belly fat? Eat smaller meals more frequently.
When you overeat, you’re putting too much stress on your body, and you’re spiking your insulin and blood sugar. Conversely, when you wait too long between meals, your blood sugar crashes. This is hard on your metabolism and can make losing that excess belly fat even harder.
Help your metabolism out by eating smaller meals more frequently instead of two or three large meals per day.
5. Strengthen Your Core
It’s impossible to spot-reduce body fat—you need to lose it all over first through cardio, strength, and clean eating. But once you start to shed body fat, you can target your belly by using ab-strengthening moves like these:
You can use this workout in a few different ways:
- A Stand-Alone 10-Minute Workout – Great for the days when you only have a quick 10-minutes to get a workout in!
- An Add It On Workout – Looking for a little extra burn post a strength or cardio workout? Add this 10-minute workout onto the end to feel your core burn!
Workout Equipment: no equipment necessary, bodyweight workout!
The above 10-minute ab workout is done in a timed interval format:
- 45 seconds per exercise, followed by 15 seconds rest
- Repeat all six ab exercises x 2 sets for a 10-minute ab-workout. Take each exercise at your own pace and try to get as many reps in as possible in the 45-second working interval.
6. Minimize Stress
Since you already know that too much cortisol (the stress hormone) can cause you to cling to belly fat, work on minimizing stress as much as possible. Practice deep breathing and meditation for at least 15 minutes each day. Journal. Take long walks in nature. Do yoga.
Whatever brings you a sense of calm, spend more time doing it. It’s not just good for your mind, but your body (and belly fat!) too.
7. Keep Emotional Eating In Check
It’s tempting to want to deal with changing hormones through emotional eating. Fluctuating emotions make that late-night nosedive into the ice cream even more appealing than normal.
Trying to shed extra weight in menopause doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of everything, but you should monitor when you get the urge to binge on junk food and try to regulate your emotions in healthier ways.
Distract yourself, practice self-care, and become aware of whether or not your body is actually hungry.
8. Get 7-8 Hours Of Sleep Per Night
Similar to the “minimize stress” advice, this one is something you probably already know: you should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Getting too little sleep can throw two of your body’s hunger hormones out of whack—leptin and ghrelin—which can cause you to hold onto more fat and crave sugary, salty foods more frequently.
Prioritize sleep, like stress management, for your mental well-being, as well as your weight!
And if you are having trouble falling asleep, try taking magnesium or melatonin and reducing or eliminating screen time before bed.
Check out some of our other tips for a better night’s sleep.
9. Do HIIT Exercises
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a great way to burn more calories in less time—as are circuit and interval workouts!
Interval workouts require you to do short bursts of all-out effort followed by brief periods of rest, while circuits are one exercise after the next without rest until the whole circuit is over.
Both of these methods are different than steady-state cardio workouts like walking, jogging, or the elliptical because they get your heart rate up and help your body burn fat better.
Psst! Want me to lead you in HIIT and circuit-style workouts from the comfort of your own home? Check out our HIIT workouts and circuit workouts on Get Healthy U TV!
If losing that menopause belly proves difficult, and you’re also overweight, you may want to talk to your doctor. You can have your hormone levels checked—some women have thyroid issues that can make weight loss harder than it needs to be.
However, small tweaks to your daily habits can create some amazing results in reducing belly fat. It won’t always be easy, but it is doable. The key is to be consistent!
Alma Dance on October 20, 2022 at 4:21 PM
I have a routine every day since I started my menopause the beginning of this year. I have always been active. Running, exercise, being on my feet 10-16 hours a day with my job. But all of a sudden when menopause struck, I started gaining weight, especially around my belly. No matter what I do, how I eat, drinking nothing but water, working out during my lunch breaks (1 hour) everyday, limiting my intake on sweets and getting 8 hours of sleep every day. My belly fat WILL NOT go away, and I haven't lost any of the menopause weight that I've gained. And this has been going on for about 7 months now. What could I do differently to get rid of this belly fat that just lingers around?
Chris Freytag, CPT on December 27, 2022 at 1:13 PM
Hi there - it is hard to say without knowing you personally but here are some hopefully helpful tips for you. Considering it looks like you stay active an are on your feet a lot, the key factors to menopause and keeping some of the belly area fat off is going to be nutrition and hormones. I am not a doctor but I would say or ask have you gotten your hormone levels checked by your doctor? Sometimes knowing where your hormones lie may help you determine how your body is responding to menopause. The second thing would be nutrition. From what you've stated it looks like you limit sweets, but really looking into your food - are you eating real food (plants, vegetables, fruit and protein sources). Are you making sure you're limiting the amount of excess sugar in your diet? What you eat and the quantity you eat is super important during the menopause years. Hopefully these two things help you find some answers and really check into yourself internally. We have to dig deep internally to find the answers.
Joanna Weis on October 6, 2022 at 6:26 PM
Is there a more optimal time to exercise? Morning vs early evening? I am 48 almost 49. I am not a super morning person. But, I am having a hard time getting off some of that menopause weight/belly that is happening. And if morning is a more optimal time, I could try it out :) So, wondering what your take is on that? Thank you in advance! Cheers!
Chris Freytag, CPT on October 7, 2022 at 1:53 PM
Hi Joanna - what a great question! So there isn't a "more optimal" time to workout. The most optimal time is when it fits into your schedule and when you feel best doing it. So if you are not a morning person and you would prefer to workout at night, DO IT! It doesn't matter whether it's early or late as long as you are moving your body and getting it done!
Jennifer on September 9, 2022 at 11:52 AM
I am allergic to fruit! What can I eat to substitute that natural sugar?
Chris Freytag, CPT on September 11, 2022 at 10:44 PM
Well that is a bummer. Well it sounds like you can eat vegetables? carrots have a lot of natural sugar and sometimes can satisfy a sweet tooth… But if you can’t eat fruit, you don’t necessarily need to substitute the natural sugar. Hopefully you can eat all the other food groups and yummy things like nuts, seeds, holograms, veggies etc.
Laurie Monks on July 31, 2022 at 12:35 PM
I am post menopause, obese by 25 lbs, most of my weight is in the menobelly. I also have terrible bloating and water retention looking quite pregnant. Chronic constipation since Feb 2022. Colonoscopy normal. I need help. Long term sleep deprivation on work days for 2 years but my diet is better than it used to be and I exercise 4-6 days a week for 30-90 minutes. My stress is high due to financial situation and the stress of daily life.
Chris Freytag, CPT on September 12, 2022 at 12:04 PM
Well - you are not alone. But relieving stress is important - you can't remove it but learn to handle it differently - maybe some breathing techniques - yoga etc. EATING is the big key to menopausal weight loss. You say you are eating better but make sure to avoid all processed foods in your situation. You need lots of really veggies, fruit, healthy protein and lots of GOOD fiber from REAL food to help with the constipation!!
Deborah Lora on July 20, 2022 at 12:46 PM
Hi Chris, A few have said that HIIT training should be avoided because it increases cortisol levels. I like HIIT...what are your thoughts on this topic?
Chris Freytag, CPT on July 29, 2022 at 8:58 AM
I would not worry about that –While exercise does cause your blood cortisol levels to rise in the short term, exercising will also help to reduce your cortisol levels at night — helping you to sleep better. Exercise reduces stress levels which helps to reduce cortisol… I would put that thought aside and enjoy your HIIT workout!
Wilhelmina on June 25, 2022 at 5:57 AM
I have been looking at the core strengthening exercises, but my core is so weak I can't do over half of them. Isn't there something for the really beginners?
Chris Freytag, CPT on June 27, 2022 at 9:20 AM
Hi there - absolutely. I would try out our Beginners Guide to Pilates blog. Pilates is where you want to start with beginner core exercises: https://gethealthyu.com/pilates-workout-beginners/ Check it out and start with activating the core with pilates!
Naz on June 5, 2022 at 1:02 AM
Hi there, I am 50 an quite short an never had tummy weight gain so it's a real bummer but I have alot of pain from my arthritis in my entire body an take anti inflammatory and prednisone X 2 every day to manage the pain as my work is quite strenuous driving around all day visiting clients. Also getting extremely fatigued and trying to balance hormones naturally as breast cancer very high in my family so cannot do HRTs. Just need a good eating and exercise plan to manage the belly fat as i am quite lean all over other parts of my body, but my belly fat is making me very uncomfortable as i have never had it....please help.
Chris Freytag, CPT on July 29, 2022 at 9:00 AM
Well – inflammation is one of the main causes of joint pain. And poor eating habits cause inflammation. PLUS – poor eating habits cause belly fat in menopausal years. SO – make sure your diet is CLEAN – eat lots of real food – fruits, veggies, meat or seafood. Avoid processed grains, food coloring, chemicals, etc…. they will really screw with you in menopause. Your estrogen is fluctuating so you need to keep inflammation down. Read this articl for some more advice!! https://gethealthyu.com/lose-menopausal-belly-fat/
Debbie on February 17, 2022 at 10:49 AM
Any thoughts on Intermittent Fasting? I am seeing so much information on it and how it could help with menopausal weight gain. I have done in the past and found it helpful but it is challenging to do sometimes.
Chris Freytag, CPT on March 3, 2022 at 1:47 PM
So intermittent fasting can work for some! I don't personally do intermittent fasting because it doesn't work for me. But again every body is different. What intermittent fasting is, is a "smart" way to eat. Eating between a certain amount of time and then forcing yourself to stop. So technically I guess I could say I do do intermittent fasting in a way because I eat my breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks between 10 AM and 7 PM. I always like to stop myself from eating at around 7/7:30 every day. I typically eat my breakfast in the morning sometime after my morning workout. If it works for you, go ahead and do it. But what I always challenge people to do is do what works best for your lifestyle and your schedule. If it doesn't work with your schedule, then don't do it.
Angela on February 14, 2022 at 2:21 PM
I am right there with all these comments. Menopause seems to be just another hit us women take while men appear to get off pretty easy. I take unisom every night for sleep. Not habit forming and doctor recommended it. I was doing so well with dropping some weight and keeping it off until my 29 yr old daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer and I just quit tracking my food intake and had so much other stuff to deal with. Now, I’ve gained 7 lbs since last November and am just disgusted and frustrated with myself. I’m determined my weight is one part of my laugh menopause is not going to wreck for me. I plan to eat better and step it up to just be more active and take better care of me. Good luck all. If you can find a group that suffers through this and you can network with each other, I find that really helps.
Ann on January 19, 2022 at 10:50 AM
Saying these things is all very well but my whole body hurts since menopause my pain in my hips back neck knees and even wrists make doing a lot of exercise difficult . Add to that the bad sleeping due to hot sweats which I have because of my HRT actually when I don't take the hot I don't have as bad sweats but then my body hurts so much all my joints just crumble so its a catch 22 then there's the fatigue and slight fuzziness . All my life I was a slim size 10 now I HAVE A BELLY THAT MAKES ME LOOK PREGNANT like seriously people get up and offer em their seats , because my chest was always quite large and now with a belly I really look pregnant . There must surely be some easily way to stop this happening I'm now verging on a size 14
Chris Freytag, CPT on January 21, 2022 at 1:26 PM
Ann, I'm so sorry you're having such a hard time! It's not fair! I have a lot of tips and tools to try in my free mini-course and longer 7-week course. But honestly, you might want to also try seeing a chiropractor for getting your hormones balanced. It seems like there might be more going on and once you balance your hormones and get on the right supplements, you might start feeling a whole lot better!!