Dr. Grindel: If you’re feeling down about your body shape despite eating a healthy diet and exercising, you should be compassionate.
A woman’s body is witnessing an amazing change in the menopause period in the late fourth decade, as fat begins to accumulate around the waist area, so is it possible to get rid of it through diet or exercise? This is what the writer Alice Callan is trying to answer in a report published by the American newspaper “New York Times”.
The author quotes Victoria Vieira Potter, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, as saying that “the accumulation of fat around the abdomen in middle-aged women is a physiological change that almost all women experience with age,” adding that the level of hormones such as estrogen changes. In the years before menopause.
Research indicates that these shifts likely lead to changes in body shape, along with hot flashes, mood swings, irregular periods and difficulty sleeping. This menopausal transition, which typically begins in women between the ages of 45 and 55 and lasts for 7 years, officially ends one year after the last menstrual period. At this point, women are said to be of safe age.
The pear and the apple.. what’s the difference?
Prior to this transitional phase, women’s body tends to store more fat around the thighs and hips area to be “pear-shaped”, as Viera Potter puts it, while men accumulate fat around the abdomen, where the body is “apple-like”.
During menopause, a woman’s body experiences an amazing change, as fat begins to accumulate around the waist, explains Dr. Jill Grindel, associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. In a study published in 2021, Grendel and her colleagues tracked changes in the body of 380 middle-aged women from Boston and Los Angeles over a 12-year period, before, during, and after menopause.
Although their findings varied by race and ethnicity, they generally show that during menopause, a woman’s body begins to store less fat around the thighs and hips, and more around the waist.
It’s also common for men to accumulate more fat around the waist and abdomen as they age, but this change is slower and more steady.
According to Dr. Grindel, researchers don’t know exactly why these shifts occur in the way fat is distributed. Although it is a natural process, it must be monitored, as excess belly fat is linked to some health risks such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
This fat, which can increase not only as a result of menopause, but also with stress, lack of exercise, poor diet and other factors, is “problematic fat,” Grindel adds.
In contrast, fat stored in the thighs and hips, which gives the body the “pear shape”, appears to protect against diabetes and heart disease.
Abdominal fat accumulation
Dr. Grendel stresses that despite the proliferation of Internet advertisements claiming to reduce belly fat, experts do not really know how to treat the accumulation of fat around the waist associated with menopause.
The author stated that moderate physical activity at least 2.5 to 5 hours per week helps prevent heart disease and diabetes, both of which are linked to increased belly fat.
Eating a healthy diet—which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and prioritizes fish, legumes, nuts, low-fat dairy, and lean meats as sources of protein—can help protect against these conditions, too.
Dr. Potter stresses that physical activity helps maintain muscle and bone mass, and improves insulin performance. Exercise is also helpful in combating some of the mood swings that come with menopause.
Grindel recommends that if you’re still feeling down about your body shape despite eating a healthy diet and exercising, you should be self-compassionate.