The truth is that the reason women gain fat during menopause is due to lack of estrogen from the ovaries. But fear not! There is one other organ that can produce estrogen. Fat! Fat cells can actually produce estrogen. So can your adrenal glands, which are walnut-sized glands that sit on top of the kidney.
Did you know that where you store your body fat is actually indicative of your hormonal profile? And your hormonal profile is really what dictates how you should eat, exercise and supplement. We see cases like these all the time in our personal training practice, so let’s explore what you should do to get rid of belly fat.
The worst type of exercise you can do for belly fat is long-duration cardio. It doesn’t matter whether you’re jogging, swimming, cycling or rowing, it’s all the same to the body. Different types of training cause different hormonal responses. Long-duration cardio causes cortisol to rise. Cortisol is the stress hormone responsible for your belly fat. Do long-duration cardio, and you’re making the problem worse.
So what should you opt for? Opt for weight training that uses moderate weights and low repetitions. Alternately, you can take up tai chi, qi gong, or even dancing (provided they are not intense). Any activity that is light will help you get rid of belly fat.
Resistance training should be done in conjunction with whatever other activity you choose. There is one simple reason for that. Nothing improves your muscle strength and bone strength like weight training.
When a client going through menopause comes to our company seeking to get rid of weight, we mandate that she perform at least two weight training workouts. They don’t have to be extremely difficult, but they do have to be done.
Nutrition is such a tricky topic because “one man’s food is another man’s poison.” We know the basics of good nutrition:
• Don’t eat refined foods
• Drink minimal amounts of alcohol
• Eat some source of protein (ideally meat, fish or seafood) with every meal.
• Take in some healthy fats (like olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, etc.)
• Eat an abundance of veggies every day.
• Don’t drive yourself nuts. If you’re craving a “bad” food, just eat it, and get back on track. Worrying about having that food is probably worse than having that food.
Beyond the basics, listen to your body. Pay attention to what you eat, and how your body responds to it. This isn’t perfect, but it’ll get you pretty far. Here is what you’re looking for:
• Changes in energy levels
• Changes in ability to concentrate
• Changes in bowel movements
• Changes in sleep patterns
• Changes in skin quality
If you notice any changes for the worse, you may have eaten a food (or drank something) that doesn’t agree with you.
There are also more complex (and more accurate) methods that you can use to determine what to eat and what to avoid. The current gold standard is something called an MRT (mediator release test). This is a laboratory test that is run by select naturopathic doctors that tells you which foods you are reactive to.
I believe that just about everyone can benefit from supplementation. Whenever a new study comes out looking at whether a certain group of people is getting enough of a certain nutrient, the result always comes back short. Most people are deficient in most nutrients.
People under stress are particularly deficient in vitamin B5, vitamin C and tyrosine (an amino acid). These nutrients provide nourishment for your poor adrenal glands which are working overtime. Before menopause, all they had to worry about was producing stress hormones, and hormones that regulate water/blood pressure. During menopause, they have to do all that, and produce estrogen. More work requires more nutrients.
Remember, different areas of body fat deposition indicate different hormonal profiles. In our personal training practice, after measuring dozens of menopausal women, we know that certain supplements (and exercise protocols) work better for belly fat than others. Other supplements work better for love handles. And yet other supplements work well for flabby arms.
Believe it or not, the thoughts you think and the feelings you feel have an impact on your body fat.
Whether it’s new-agey or not, I don’t care. I care about one thing and that’s results. I can tell you definitively that after tracking the body fat of dozens of people over years, I’ve had the opportunity to see how thoughts and feelings affect body fat.
Here is an interesting experiment that I ran: I had one client employ a number of different stress-management strategies in her life. I purposely told her not to change anything else (not her nutrition, not her exercise patterns, not her supplements, nothing). Sure enough, after we measured her body fat 4 weeks later, it was lower. Did it get her the dream body? No, of course not. But it sure did have an impact. This is just one case of many where I tried to replicate this experiment, and in the majority of people who did it, they noticed the same results. Body fat decreased as a result of “thinking better.”
My instructions to clients are very simple:
1. When something is stressing you out, always ask yourself “what can I do about it?” and write down a quick plan.
2. Before you go to bed, write down 10 things you were grateful for during that day. It didn’t have to be anything major. Little things count; something as small as “I’m glad that gentleman held the door open for me as I was entering the grocery store.”
3. Before you go to bed, write down 10 things that you are looking forward to the following day. Again, it doesn’t have to be anything major.
You now have some incredibly powerful information on how to deal with belly fat. Synergy is when 1+1+1+1 doesn’t equal 4, but equals 10. When you combine targeted training, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle modifications, you have something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
So take this advice, and watch the belly fat melt!
Igor Klibanov is a personal trainer and fitness expert at Fitness Solutions. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.