This month we explore… the fat around the middle!

Jane Midwinter is the founder of HotWomenAtMenopause, an associate trainer with Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace and is a menopause coach. She also writes articles on menopause for women and their employers.

Jane’s monthly column, specially written for Hastings in Focus, offers accurate information and support for women and a better understanding of menopause for all.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

During menopause, many women experience weight gain or changes to their body shape. Is this a symptom of menopause? If you want to find out more, then read on…

Six facts about menopause and weight gain:

  • Muscle mass can reduce significantly during menopause, leading to less calories burned and more weight gained.
  • The metabolism slows down as we age, reducing the rate at which calories are burnt off.
  • Joints can ache and stiffen up, making it harder to move and exercise.
  • Bladder leakage can put women off exercising.
  • Stress levels can lead to fat being stored around the middle.
  • The fat we carry around our middle can lead to increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.


The fat around the middle – is this due to menopause?

As we grow older our bodies change; but it’s not all horror stories!  Menopause is not the only reason for weight gain or changes to body shape, and neither is ageing; there is a lot more at play here and thankfully there are solutions too!  

Less muscle, more fat.  Why is that?

Testosterone is the hormone that supports our muscle and bone strength as well as contributing to many other functions. As testosterone gradually declines during the menopause years and as we grow older, we lose muscle mass. In fact, muscle loss begins at around the age of 30! Muscle burns more energy than fat, so with less muscle comes more fat. Resistance exercise; cycling, running, or even walking, will strengthen and tone muscle and reduce fat.

Can weight loss dieting do more harm than good?

Unfortunately, most weight-loss diets are difficult to sustain, and some just aren’t good for us. Jackie Lynch, Nutrition Therapist and author of The Happy Menopause advocates using our own fists to determine portion sizes: one fist for protein, one for carbs and two for vegetables and/or fruit when planning a meal. She also challenges us to eat 40 different vegetables and fruits in seven days – let me know how you get on if you try this one!

Can stress cause weight gain?

Our bodies cannot determine different types of stress, so when we might be feeling stressed about work, our body will still produce enough energy needed to fight a tiger or run for our lives!  The problem arises when there’s no tiger! All that energy is then retained and laid down as fat, stored close to our liver so it can be converted quickly back to energy, just in case that tiger returns! To manage my stress levels this month, I’m following Adriene Mishler’s yoga challenge Breath on YouTube.  My daughter and I practise at the same time online, which is very motivating and good fun!

How can I exercise with a leaky bladder?

Exercise will build muscle, strengthen bones, improve heart and brain health and make you feel good! What’s not to like? Well – a leaky bladder I guess, as this can make things very uncomfortable! Stress incontinence – when you leak urine when you exercise, cough or sneeze, is common for women at menopause. However, it can be managed. The NHS app Squeezy is good for pelvic floor exercises, but it’s worth talking to a clinician about vaginal oestrogen or other treatments if it persists.

I wake up aching all over. Won’t exercise make it worse?

Fifty per cent of women suffer with joint pain and stiffness during menopause. Carrying extra weight may put additional strain on joints resulting in joint pain. While sitting still will only pile on the weight and create more problems, moving and stretching will combat this. Try some gentle stretching to start with and build it up gradually. 

Why do I crave sugary foods?

It’s common to crave energy when we’re tired. Sugary foods are a quick fix, but they are shortly followed by crash and burn. They also throw hormones out of balance, so have a piece of fruit or vegetable, a couple of oatcakes with tahini or peanut butter, or a handful of sunflower seeds instead.  

And finally … 

Menopause gives us the opportunity to reflect on lifestyle choices. Making just one or two small changes can make a big difference. 

First, find a way to reduce stress levels and with exercise and a good diet, you’ll soon have chased away that fat around the middle.

Jane’s Black Bean and Lentil Burgers

For the recipe follow this link:

Helpful links and information sources:

As always, speak to your GP if symptoms persist.

Listen to Jane in conversation

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.

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