6 Factors That Cause Menopause Belly & Why You Should Finally Embrace It

Menopause is a huge milestone in a woman’s life journey. This is a time when women are bidding adieu to their last menstrual cycle, no longer under the chains of PMS and menstrual migraines, and saving tons of money that would have otherwise gone to tampons and sanitary pads. At the same time, a lot of life changes are happening at home. Children are likely going off to school or leaving the nest to start their own careers, leaving more opportunities to focus on yourself. You’re also wiser and more experienced from the trials and tribulations of life. All in all, who says your best years are behind you?

“The most confident, and the most sexually free and liberated I’ve seen women be is in mid-life,” says Leigh Ann Dooley, MD, MPH, a behavioral health medical director at Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “This is a time when women know who they are and are coming into their own.”

Of course, when you’re talking about menopause, you can’t ignore the elephant in the room. Menopause can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, brain fog, and irritability. People may experience these symptoms sooner when they go through perimenopause. “Many women are experiencing symptoms younger than 40 and that’s a specific premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency, but the average woman starts having symptoms in their mid-to-late forties into their early to mid-50s,” says Risa Kagan, MD, an OBGYN and expert in menopausal care at Sutter Health.

Unlike other symptoms, there is one that’s pretty hard to conceal: menopot. Women often gain weight in their stomach, especially below the belly button. “On average, women gain 5 to 8 percent of their baseline body weight during this time,” says Susan Reed, MD, an OBGYN and vice chair for research at the University of Washington. This can typically look like 1.5 pounds per year between the ages of 45 to 55.

It’s normal to feel self-conscious about how you look, especially when there are so many products and workout “hacks” geared toward losing weight as fast as possible. But remember, there’s nothing wrong with your body and these changes — it’s all biology. Instead of focusing on the negatives, our experts say it’s a great opportunity to get reconnected with your changing body.

The sudden weight gain comes from changes in hormone levels. Estrogen and progesterone levels decline during perimenopause and menopause, explains Michele Griffith, MD, an internist at 21stMD Direct Primary Care. The drop in estrogen slows down your metabolism, making it harder to burn calories. Beyond hormones, there are five other factors that may add a few inches to the waistline as you get older.

Muscle loss

People naturally lose muscle mass as they age. By age 30, you are losing 3 to 8 percent of muscle and the loss of estrogen accelerates the process. Muscles use up a lot of energy, so when you lose muscles your body stores the excess calories into fat.


Despite exercise counteracting a lot of menopausal symptoms, a third of women are less physically active in the years leading up to the event. With a slower metabolism, sitting for too long makes it more difficult to burn off calories.

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