The Meno-Pot Belly
If ever there was a more brilliant and yet horrifying term to describe what happens overnight to our bodies at midlife and menopause it has to be the Meno-Pot Belly.
This is not your imagination, it’s not your lack of willpower or a few days without exercise! It’s Biology!
One evening you go to bed with the body you’ve been used to for a few years and the next morning you wake up with someone else’s body! Someone who left behind a thicker, squishy cushion of fat chunked right around your waist. As you try to zip up your pants, you wonder, “Is this bloating? Did I have too much salt last night?”
The Biology of Weight Gain at Midlife
Blame it on declining estrogen levels, which cause our bodies to redistribute fat from our arms, legs, and hips and plunk it down at our waists. There are a few more things that declining estrogen does to increase weight, including:
- Increasing our body’s production of Leptin, which slows down our metabolism.
- Increasing our insulin resistance, which means carbohydrates get turned into fat faster.
- Increasing our appetite. When more fat is deposited at our waists, our body increases Ghrelin, the hormone that regulates appetite.
There are a few factors that are related to age:
- We lose muscle mass as we age, which impacts our ability to burn calories.
- At midlife, we tend to be more tired and are less active, which impacts how many calories we burn each day.
- There’s also more research into how our Gut Biome, the universe of individual microbes that live in our Gastrointestinal system, decides whether to rev up metabolism or slow it down! Here’s a hint: A plant-based diet with more beans increases metabolism.
Don’t despair, there are options that work
Before you get your jaw wired shut or chain yourself to a Peloton or elliptical machine, here are some things you can do. First, don’t get discouraged or give up and next, do find a healthy nutritious routine that you can stay with for the long term. Gone are the days, where you could eat nothing but grapefruit for 2 weeks, drop 10 pounds, fit into your skinny jeans and then revert back to old, unhealthy habits with the weight returning.
- Keep a food diary
- Join a group, like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig for accountability
- See a nutritionist
- Use intermittent fasting
- Try a low carb or keto diet
- Incorporate more plant-based meals and food plans
- Limit your “land-based protein” to 2-3 times/week
- Consider a weight loss app that helps you track your intake, exercise, and feelings
- Use an HMR – Health Management Resources meal replacement program of which there are variations where you choose your foods and others where there is a prescribed meal plan.
Food Diary: A Way to Increase Awareness
You’ve probably noticed that I’m not talking about the actual food, or calories, or a specific way of eating. That’s because one size never fits all, but what does work in the long run is to start developing an awareness of:
- What we eat
- When we eat
- Why we eat
- What are we really hungry for
Keep a food diary and research shows that writing it down on paper is more effective than logging it into an app. Write down times, what you’re eating and drinking. It doesn’t have to be exact, and you can count calories or portions or both if you want.
You do not need to show anyone your food diary. In fact, you’ll be more honest with yourself if this is private. Keeping a food diary is not another way to beat yourself up or feel guilty about choices.
It’s just about taking stock of patterns, habits, and routines. Do not under any circumstance label the choices as good or bad. They are just choices and you’re learning more about yourself. Remember, food tastes great, it’s not inherently good or bad, and it’s normal and natural to want to eat more of a good thing. Keeping a food diary is a way to help you figure out if the choices you’re making about food are helping you achieve your goals.
A very important part of a food diary is making note of the emotions and feelings that are tied to the what, when, and why for making choices about what to eat or drink. It means being mindful, stopping, taking a few breaths to pause, and asking yourself what’s going on right now?
What am I really hungry for right now?
Am I bored, angry, trying to numb my difficult feelings? Do I need to be nurtured, recognized, or want to celebrate or escape into my favorite show?
It helps to keep a food diary for 1-2 weeks and to look it over.
- What most people find is that after a few days of keeping track, and not showing anyone else, they start seeing on paper what the issues are, how to make different choices, and are being accountable to themselves. How cool is that?